Negotiating Plural Identities

The term ‘plural identity was popularized by the great public intellectual Amartya Sen, in his book ‘Identity and Violence’. We have various shades to ourselves. We can be various manifestations of ourselves, and still be us and be nothing at the same time. The human mind has a predetermined inclination to nomenclature everything. I can be a South Asian, a Bengali, a Christian by Faith and a  Muslim by Culture and still have the ethos of the ‘Sanatan Dharma’ in me and still speak Arabic, Malay and Marathi equally at ease. I am still myself, irrespective of these shades and hues, and still be nothing at the same time. Arjun Appadurai in the book ‘Fear of Small Numbers’ elucidates the notion that minorities are manufactured as a totem for the majority community to feel good. Ethnocides are not organic, they are engineered.  A Hutu vs Tutsi Battle in Rwanda or a conflict in the Balkans are a classic example. People are not straight laced to be reduced to mere terms for analysts to play with.

The idea of India is a nationalization of a cultural ethos. In this age of globalization, we have fluid identities- every place that we live in, contributes a spec in to our soul and we transmit a vector of our emotions in to the place as well. A solid identity gives us emotional security, a sense of grounding where we have come from, a heritage to cherish and a compass to measure our lives. The ‘family name’ concept is the foundation of identity. It means not a lot to me frankly as I have been a professional migrant all my self and intend to be so. Diaspora kids like me, have a hard time to negotiate, analyse and place where and what we are actually. I would suggest, that just be what you are and do not bother if you are the right candidate for an arranged marriage match. Good things happen in their own time.

Identities are the foundation of civilizations; nation states derive legitimacy from that. In fact electoral politics has its edifice in the business of identity. We are all tributaries of water joining the Ganga or the Tigris or the Danube, whichever water body, the reader wishes to ‘identify’ my oneself with.


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