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Irony Of Our Identity

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 19.00.10We are born, and then we die, and whatever we make of ourselves between these two points is what our identity should ideally be. Minus our deeds, other identity we have is our name, rather it’s the bigger one between the two. Simply put, not everyone would know of our deeds but would definitely know our name to create a recall. And isn’t it how we introduce ourselves to someone? It’s such an important entity. So much so that many decide their kids’ names even before coming to the age of parenthood. I’m no different. I know what my babies will be called and that itself is quite a motivation to bring new soul(s) into existence. And on the flip side, at the end of it all, after we leave this materialistic world it’s our name that’ll draw a picture of ours, even for those who didn’t know us. Not our face, not our second name, not even our successes and failure in our careers, but our name, the first one. And I find it ironic that we have no contribution towards picking it in the first place. It’s the amiability of our beloved parents to pick our names and they may often be awful at it. What’s further disturbing is that usually they won’t even put much thought in naming their newborns, especially if it’s not the first one in the family. I find it quite unpalatable and disturbing at various levels.

It all starts from a simple question – WHY? Not WHAT are we named, or HOW did our parents conclude to that particular one – which usually is followed by an uninspiring and unintelligent response ‘just because we liked it’ – it’s always the WHY that defines the real purpose. Why that particular word, sound, or expression? Not what it means or the story behind it. Many live our lives even without having the mere thought of questioning the reasonings of our names. Let alone filling up attributes into it and actually creating its value, which thus feels really hollow and meaningless. For me it all started by asking about the reason behind my name. I’m not fond of it and thus had the curious question – why am I called ‘Gagan’? And unsurprisingly my mother had a different explanation than my elder brother. Let me confess, even after hearing two completely different tales, I’m still not sure why am I named Gagan!!

I ask this question often to people I meet and it’s funnily uncomfortable for most to conjure a story to narrate. Again, they know the meaning of their names but not the why. It’s worse when you ask your parents. We aren’t taught to form logical & chronological progressions of understanding by asking questions and demanding explanations, rather are expected to Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 18.53.27be complacent and simply follow what’s been dealt to us by our elders/seniors. We go on living our lives even without trying to find the true reasons behind them. And hence when a query is raised and an explanation is to be presented, we concoct a response which may not always be true. Even the strategy is flawed. Our parents/elders/seniors are thus brilliant at lying, all thanks to their ancestors doing exactly the same with them, and theirs to them, creating a ripple indeed, rendering them to be great actors too. There’s such beauty in lying. Let me elaborate. You ask them about something and they will firstly cook up a story in their heads, then they’ll convince themselves that it’s actually sellable. Then frills are added and confidence is gathered for narration. And once all that is done, then they orate it with generous dosage of drama. And with their little cooked-up story they then not only try to convince us about it being the truth but also try and induce confidence in us that this is the truest truth ever told. And all this happens over nanoseconds!! Much to our conditioning, we accept all this at face value without questioning anything, and get much inspired to narrate this exact story with the exact emotion to convince others.

Now, I might not be connecting the right dots here but in a desperate attempt of simply surviving a moment of possible embarrassment for them our elders lay down the false foundation on which we build the belief of our identity. I’m sure it is questionable at least, about both, their ways of creating and telling and our way of accepting things.

I recall when I was knucklehead my father told me that his biggest dream was to be a Grandfather, sit his grandson on his shoulders and go for a walk in the park every morning with a pumped up chest. The day he was told that he will be a grandfather soon, later that week he was diagnosed with cancer, and within a month he passed away. On his deathbed my brother enquired if there was a name he had in mind for the expected kid and he christened him ‘Armaan’. Now that is a Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 19.07.04solid why. However, my sister’s kiddo girl, named ‘Mishika’, who was born six days before Armaan, has this same concern with her identity and her mother has the same response that 99.9% parents would have – ‘just because…’.

It may be petite for a few but I consider it important enough to be mulled over intensely. I understand no parent is expansively experienced in deciding names and with the birth of their kids comes this new learning, but this is one of those rare areas where we must not surrender to this millennial way of attaining short term gratification by quick-fixing everything and moving on. It will be someone’s identity and they will carry it forever, and even after. The least it deserves is due attention and careful thinking to result in something which is thought-provoking, inspiring, and humbling at once. The only thing you give to your child before its birth is a name and you have a lifetime prior to that to think about it. It’s not your life’s purpose to name them but their name can become their purpose of life. This is that one hand of cards we’re dealt with that we can’t change or undo. We have to pick them up, wear a smile, and live with. Give someone a purpose but don’t impose your thoughts over it. It can be a fine line but this one we must walk.

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