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Who am I? A mistaken I-dentity that we don’t own

Imagine what would happen as a baby you were mistakenly changed with another one, both on the same day, at around the same time? Would your identity still be the same? When I speak about an identity, I refer to those bits that we usually receive from our closest ecosystem – parents, relatives, neighbours, community et al.

I remember a story narrated by Sunny Gavaskar about how his family had lost him at the hospital where the nurse mistakenly placed him at the side of a fisherwoman, who had also delivered at the same time. It was left to an observant uncle who realised the change and corrected it – all because of a small mark of some sort near Sunny’s ear. It is highly unlikely that the little boy would’ve become a world-beating cricketer living in a shanty.

So, what is this identity that we speak about? Our name? Our surname? The community that such a name suggests? Maybe, the caste that it associates to indirectly. How tough is to realise that each of the above is given to us. We do not own it. And yet, within a few years we forget where these identities came from and begin to own it – that too with a ferocity that a predator feels when someone seeks to steal its dinner.

In fact, not only do we fiercely guard the above identities, we soon become so obsessed with a few of them to think it is our bounden duty to line up in battle to save / protect it. Look at the symbols in the image above. None of it would mean anything to a child, a hungry human and possibly those that are just about to draw in their final breath.

And once we believe this first lie of our conscious life, we can consciously all other lies that are thrown at us by the outside world. It could relate to one’s gender, colour of skin, how much we weigh, our attire and just about anything else that another person can use to differentiate us from them. The us and them, of course, keep changing based on what it is that either of them wants to use to drive home the differentiation.

All because we swallowed the ‘I’ identity that was provided to us by our parents as an act of love. Ironically, the very same I today holds us back from forming associations with others. In case you doubt this, just consider this. And if you can, try experimenting with it…

A child smiles at everyone and anyone. Till, we recognise our parents. Once we do so, the smiles reduce and altogether stop when we identify more of our own. Today, we hardly smile or even acknowledge another’s presence. Maybe, the next time you’re with someone you don’t know, just smile.

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