this is what i am
i have a confession to make. this is something that i have struggled with, both consciously and unconsciously, for a large part of my life. when i was younger, and uneducated in the ways of life and the world, i suppressed this problem, believing it to be a part of my own teenage angst. as i grew older, into the person that i am today, wiser than i was then, i have come to realise that my problem is one faced by many. it is not unique to me, rather it is common to almost everyone, but often, it escapes notice, simply because we are too busy to even consider the existence of such a problem. so here it is, my problem, my confession: i do not know who i am.
i am a different person everyday, i change roles like i change clothes. i am a different person with my friends, with my family, with my other friends, with my girlfriend, with myself. this is not a conscious decision on my part. it is not my desire to present different faces to different people. i do not choose the mask i wear, only it chooses me.
identity is not static. i am not one thing, no one is. each person changes with time, with place, with people. it is as natural as the changing of the seasons, as the passing of day into night. when i say i am pranaya rana, i do not know what that means.
consider this exchange from week end, a godard film:
“what is your name?”
“no, that is your husband’s name, what is your name?”
“no, that is your father’s name. you do not even have a name.”
identity is tied to markers like language, societal roles and appearance. i am a son, a brother, a student, a man, a boy, a rana, a pranaya, a nepali. but even these are inadequate. even together, they cannot touch the essence of what i am. i am like that swirling vortex where everything is everything else and nothing is static. to name me is to name another, to see me is to see another. when i think, i think of something else, when i speak, i speak of something else. it is like that raymond carver story “what we talk about when we talk about love.” it is only a signifier, a marker that holds a place where something metaphysical, something elusive and ephemeral stands.
for most people, this problem of identity is not a major one. like most philosophical problems, it is dismissed as something inconsequential and not “real.” people are dying, there is no food, there is no money, who cares if you don’t know who you are? but deep down inside, i feel we all do. we struggle with it in obscure, oblique ways. on gray tuesdays, we sit by windows and reflect, deep down, what is in there? what makes me who i am? who am i? what am i?
maybe i will have an answer on my death bed.