At some point of time in life or other, we all wished that we would run away from our home, or our boring life, or our tragic little heart breaks and start anew. Well, I did too. I tried to run away from home when I was 12 because of a stupid fight with my dad. And I tried again when I was 16, but I changed my mind mid way and came back home, again when I was 21, because I was going through a customary heart break which is very natural at that age, as I look back now. But I finally managed to get out of my hometown when I was 22, but not as a run away kid; this time I was sent to study in another university, because the university in my city sucked. Well, all universities suck more or less, unless you are in the top universities around the world. And believe me or not, for the first time I faced identity crisis and that in a funny way.
I grew up in Kolkata, 22 years in one city, unless of course you take away roughly 1 month from 22 years which amounts up to roughly 2 years, which my family spent travelling here and there. Because come on, you are not a bengali, or as the trendsetters call them – ‘bong’, unless you have traveled with your family to distant and remote places. And for the record, one of my friend recently went to a pretty hard trip, (considering our shared habit of smoking) and believe me or not he spotted a bengali family there, clicking photos (FYI he is a bong too).
So when I came down to south India as a Masters student, and started looking for apartments or paying guest options after spending a year in college hostel the whole comedy started. The very first question I was asked was about my religion, but I have none. I don’t follow any religion for last 10 year or so, but who will convince the land lords and the land ladies? Because if you don’t have a religion you are as faithless as a man can be, and you are a potential terrorist/rapist/pedophile/and all the other bad things (but funny enough more religious you are, the more bad tendencies you tend to develop in the name of God). So even if I managed to convince them that I don’t have any religion to follow, but I still can be nice person, the very next question was about my regional identity. And that’s exactly where, it took even more funny turn.
For some, I am Malayali dude from Kerala, so I can’t cook beef in their houses, for some I’m Tamilian, so they would let me stay because I am apparently herbivorous (But I’m carnivorous). For some I’m a dude from Hariyana or UP, and I won’t be allowed a place because north Indians are apparently not good human beings. And I finally ended up living in an apartment owned by an Indian muslim uncle while my room mate was hard core christian from Nigeria; you know, the kind of christian who believe that God’s word has so many versions like Old Testament, New Testament, king James etc etc.
The next funny thing was, when he found out my lack of interest in religion. He instantly took me as a faithless lost soul, who needs some kind of direction in his life, though I won’t deny the assumption, but definitely I didn’t need any religious direction. But any way he tried to coerce me into joining him at church during his Sunday prayers. I can’t say I didn’t like the idea, because he told me earlier that there were many pretty ladies in the church, but that is not good enough reason for me to go there. And he only gave up when I said I can go to church but if my name is asked, I would say “Lucifer Morningstar” and that one, erm, two word was enough to calm him down (though I plan to do this sometime in near future, just for the fun’s sake).
And this comedy of identity crisis still goes on. Like my office people believe I have some sort of a south Indian root. I’m still mistaken as Malayali dude, and often hear people suddenly start speaking in malayalam, specially in local bakeries, only to cut them mid way by saying “Malayalam ari illa, cheta” (don’t know malayalam, brother) or the barber who suddenly thinks of me as tamilian while cutting my hair, “Are you from Tamilnadu?” “No dude, why?” “You look like one” “Nyah. I am not from Tamilnadu” or a random guy in bus stand who suddenly says “Bhaisaab aap Punjab se ho kya?” (brotherman, are you from Punjab?) but I don’t blame the last guy much, because I was sporting a right hand bangle like people from Punjab and sporting a handle bar ‘stache which is a common thing in Punjab. Or the auto drivers, who often become my test subject for trying my broken Kannada, because after staying in Bangalore for a long time, I manage to understand what they are saying, not totally but yeah, can make some meaning out of it. And oh, how can I forget the Pune trip, where I, being high on my own over-smartness, asked a local guy, “Kaka, toilet kute ahe?” (Uncle, where is the toilet?) and he started in pure Marathi about the direction so I had to cut him mid way and confess my limited vocabulary and he then speaks in Hindi. And when I was in Delhi, again with my right hand bangle, I was not conned by the auto drivers and local sellers as I was taken as their own.
During all this identity crisis, no matter how much I laugh, there always was one question that kept popping in my head. I can pick up regional accents and words just by seeing people talking, and I mimic that in order to hide my true identity. But who am I truly? Because this is the thing I always wanted as a kid, to be somewhere, where people won’t know about my past or anything for that matter, they will know as much as I tell them, they will believe whatever story I sell them. But who am I anyway ? Well, I’m still working on that. But during all these incidents, I realized one thing, I have a very generic Indian face, a skin tone that is very common in Indian household, and that makes me the everywhere man. And there’s a very big advantage to this, you can reach out to people even to strangers easily. You can interact with them much more freely, because they will take you as one of their own. And that my dear friend, is an amazing feeling. And till I find who I’m really, I’m happy being everywhere man who can interact with almost any person.
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