Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tarl of no city

In the fictional planet of Gor, created by John Norman in his books, a
person is known not only by their name but also the name of their city,
like "Tarl Cabot of Ko-ro-ba". Gor has a primitive culture, despite a
few very useful technological advances. Compared to them our modern
world is very advanced and evolved.

But is it really? Don't we still go for all kinds of data we can
associate with - city, country, race, color, langauge, religion, caste,
we seem to have so many criteria to decide whom we want to talk to,
befriend or fight for. Divide and subdivide? Why?

Now, I have a funny last name - Goswami. It's funny because in India
Goswami's reside in a variety of locations, sometimes the last name is
varied a little but still quite recognizable. For example, in
Maharashtra (Pune), everyone kept saying Gosavi and I had to spell it
for them a lot.

On top of that I seem to have a face that fits everywhere, no, that's
not just face, but personality. Because I speak a lot more words of Urdu
than a typical Hindu, I get asked a lot if I am Muslim. Because I speak
better English than a typical North Indian I get asked a lot if I am
South Indian. Bengal, Assam, Gujrat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Bihar, I have
been asked about all those and some more states if I belong to that.
Sometimes this attempt to classify me irritates me at other times just
amuses me. Depending on my mood, I say yes or no, with no care to the
accuracy of the information.

If someone asks me if I am a Hindu or if I am a "pundit" I am always
careful to add "by birth" to my affirmative reply. My own effort to
identify myself is inherent in the phrase "Ramte jogi, behta paani...".
I want to be free as the flowing water that makes its own unobtrusive
way, without caring much for the obstructions in its path.

When you meet someone from your own country in a foreign land, you feel
very nice, but does it apply to everybody? I met a person in US who was
Indian and who bothered me (and some others) a lot, for a
multi-level-marketing thing. I finally had to start screening my calls
in order to avoid him. I can mention a lot of people who would be from
my country, city, race, caste, color, religion and language and yet, I
would go to considerable lengths to avoid their company. Conversely, I
can also mention some peole who have none of these in common with me and
yet, if I could, I would love to keep them by my side.

Thinking about it, I would rather be a person that anyone would want to
talk to, hang out with, come to help for, rather than a person who looks
for his own flock anywhere he goes.

Kya bed-baas poochho ho poorab ke dosto,
hamko gareeb jaan ke has has pukar ke,

Dilli jo ek shehar tha, aalam mein int_khaab,
Ham rehne waale haiN usi ujade dayaar ke.

A city gives you your identity, but make you sure are not confined to
that. The fragrance has to leave the flower in order to please
others...be the fragrance not the thorn.

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