Saturday, May 27, 2017

Essay: Who Am I?

[Essay written for admission to a writing course]

Who am I? Yes, I am asking this question to my inner self. Instead of giving an answer, it questions me back. “Have not you been asking this same question over the ages?” I agree and I do remember those interactions.

The first instance was when I was too young. I was told by my elder sister that I am Anand. That was what my parents had named me. But why “Anand”? I had probed. And my sister had told me smilingly “When you were in mother’s womb, Appa and Amma had gone to watch a Kannada movie starring Rajkumar and Julie Lakshmi. They had liked the movie and they took a decision that if the new born is a boy, the name will be that of hero’s character in the movie. If girl, then it would be of Heroin’s”. So I came to know how I became Anand.

The next was during school going days. Then routine was simple and it repeated year after year. Get up and get ready. Reach school in time. Come back in the evening, play with neighborhood kids until it gets dark. Do the homework and sleep with books next to my pillow. My school teachers had liked my promptness and consistency in completing the assignments. They told everyone that I am a good student. And I believed in that. Even my parents never missed to tell those visiting our home that I am good at school. Now you know how I, Anand, got to be known and identified as a good student.

Then teenage came, I left home to study at college. I had become more independent. For the first time I tasted Tea at a hotel outside of home though I was a regular tea-drinker at home. I began to develop awareness of my looks and also started to notice how the world judged people by their dressing and outlook. I was not a complete rebel but yet refused getting a short hair-cut which was the norm until then. I demanded additional pocket money to buy a nice pair of shoes. Yeah, I was thinking for myself and decided what was good for me. What a phenomenal change! For others, I was a son of so and so parents and came from the place which is bigger than a village but smaller than a town. But I knew those were just external identities and I knew for sure I had a mind of my own and that was my true self.

Education was over and I started job hunting. During the interviews, the first question asked was “Tell about yourself”. I would narrate them how Anand, a good student, now is in search of a job and a steady income. They believed my story and I got a job with some disposable income. That was when the sub-conscious person in me went on a high and soon I was riding a bike, bought out of my own earnings and of course with few EMI’s to pay. Who was I then? I was a person who saw the world full of opportunities and trying to make the best out of it. Then I begin to see the inner selves of other people too, beginning with my parents. They wanted to own a house and they saw me as the vehicle to reach their desire. A part of my inner self was a part of theirs too. I was just an extension of my parent’s souls.

It was time to marry. My soul mate had chosen me for the reasons unclear to me yet. Happy times followed and the children too. I became a complete family man. Who do not like their young kids? The answer to “Who am I?” got changed again. I was observing the transformation of my soul with the changing life phases but yet simple things like career, money and indulgences in keeping the physical senses happy were ruling my soul.

I was nearing my fortieth birthday and one day I was not able to read the newspapers and magazines with the same ease I was doing before. My wife suggested to see a doctor, so I went to one. After making the checks, the doctor asked “Are you 40?” I was surprised how she knew my exact age. I got my reading glasses and I began to carry them wherever I went out apart from two cell phones in two different pockets.

It was not just my vision which was blurred but the soul too had become dim. I had realized that it does not matter who I am but what matters is why I am here and one has to know the purpose of life. My friends and colleagues shrugged it off saying it is mid-life crisis. Had they gone through the same thing I was going through? I was not convinced. I googled it which led me to spirituality. I found that Adi Shankara and Swami Vivekananda who took the spiritual path had found their answers quite early in their lives and they did not live to forty. I realized I was slow and thought of attempting to trace the routes one of them had traveled. I could form a small group of friends to reach the Himalayas. During Adi Shankara’s time, it took many months to get there from south India but for me it took just three days. After taking a dip in the holy Ganga, I went on to meet a hundred year old yogi. He was a renounced man but still a man. The concept of God became clearer to me. There is no God and God is everywhere. Hope you do not see any contradiction in it else you are not yet ready for it.

Now the question ‘Who am I’ does not bother me anymore. Bhagavad-Gita says I was here before and I would come here again. Not the time to discuss if Mahabharata had really happened but the philosophical take away is, it does not matter who I am but what matters is what I do.