Saturday, 24 October 2015

Thoughts About Identity

I came across this picture on Facebook today and it made me think about my consciousness of my own identity.

Sami Ahmad Khan has stated poetically what I have unconsciously felt for a long time. 

Right from my childhood, I have at various times been conscious of being a Tamilian in Karnataka, a brahmin in Tamil Nadu, a South Indian in Bombay, Ahmedabad and Kanpur, as well as a Hindu and an Indian in the UAE and Australia. Throughout my life, I have always had the slightly uncomfortable sense of belonging to a minority and of having to keep my head down to avoid drawing attention to my minority identity. On occasion, in each of these environments, I have had to endure my community being slandered in my presence while feeling powerless to speak up.
I have also briefly been in a place where "my kind" was in the majority (CMC Ltd, Madras), and I hated it. The conformity that was implicitly demanded offended my sensibilities. In my own mind, I have a complex and hybrid identity that refuses to be slotted into any box.
I therefore believe that Utopia is a place where *everyone* is in a minority. This isn't unachievable. My first place of work (CMC Ltd, Bombay) was almost exactly such a place. No linguistic/regional group dominated, not even Maharashtrians. There were almost as many women as men in all roles including management (My first two bosses were women). And while it was majority Hindu, there were quite a few Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jains and Sikhs in the office to prevent that from becoming a stifling cultural presence.
Hopefully, sharing my background will allow people to understand where I come from whenever I wade into the culture wars as a "liberal".

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