The individual

It is 9:30 in the night. I sit in front of the laptop wondering what to write. It has been more than a month since I wrote something. Things happened. Stuff got in the way. Cleaning, cooking, eating, more cleaning.

Am a person who gets up early, gets ready, has breakfast and heads to work; then works in an office, comes back home in the evening, cooks, eats, reads a book and goes to sleep. Only a lungi and banian are missing. Stand in a terrace, start smoking and complete the picture.

Every time I read about someone wanting to be something when he grew up, I wonder what I wanted to become when I grew up. Of course, there were those little things like being a bus conductor, because you know, you made a lot of money, which you collected in the leather bag and took home at the end of the day. The driver always had the tougher job, but then I guess you probably split some part of the money with him. But then what did I see myself growing up into?

I dig deep and can barely come up with the memory that I wanted to teach. The same class that I was in, and all my classmates were my students. I saw myself walking the streets of Chamarajpet, with a student you bumped into in tow, teaching and then heading home to spend the evening in a lungi and a banian. That was the adult thing to do.

But that was when I was in high school. There’s nothing I can remember wanting to be when I was 12 or before that. When I was 11, I just wanted to be 12. Because, when you turned a year in March, your exams would be finishing and two months of bliss awaited you. Maybe, in the pre-software era, you were just aware that at the end of your degree in Science or Maths – no Arts please – you found employment. You found an office to go to, to work there from morning till evening and then came back home. To be in a lungi and a banian. You repeated that ad nauseum for 35 odd years. During that time, you’d be married, had kids who’d be put through school and college. You also acquired enough gravitas to be able to shout at people so that you could get things done. You then retired, and having graduated to white veshti and banian now, would sit at home reading the newspaper.

 What is you then. You are just a template, a pattern, a cycle, that repeats, generation after generation. With minor variations. Throw off the lungi, get shorts over which your tummy hangs out. Get horizontal striped tee-shirts in matching colours. Those Ray-ban sunglasses. Those vacations in Europe or fancy places in India with family. Kids whom you talk to only in English, until they grow up and start correcting your grammar and pronunciations. Kids who grow up and head out to the US, after struggling to fit in your country. Where is the individuality? That thing that defines each person. There are only patterns, cycles and clichés. 

Or is it that that’s how we are, that’s how we are wired to be? Is it even right to be seeking individuality in all this? We look for patterns around us – the gestures, the practices, the rituals, the conversations, that define our generation and try to adhere to them. Life becomes an endless attempt to fit in, to keep jumping from one bracket to the other, one rung in the ladder to the other. Those who miss a rung, fall by the wayside, and have their own patterns, their own cycles, gestures, practices, conversations, that define them. And you try to adhere to those.

Maybe that’s where the comfort lies. Maybe that’s how we are wired. To seek solace in others, in just being like others. Maybe it’s all an endless stream of epiphanies as we see ourselves from outside and see if we are fitting into a clique. But then, how would you deal with a person who doesn’t behave like you do? Who’s gestures are different, who speaks differently from you, who’s face contorts in ways different from yours when expressing emotions. You’d call him insane? Maybe that’s the whole point of being a species. Surely, all elephants have the same patterns in life and speak the same language with each other. Surely, all lions have the same template laid out for them; all dolphins and whales, the same pattern of migration over the millennia of their existence.

Oh well, individuality is way overrated.

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4 thoughts on “The individual

    1. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel all this effort to be different from everyone else is some kind of intellectual snobbery.

      But then, you see how all this is putting us on the brink, and how all of it has to come at a lot of cost. You just need to scratch the surface to know how bad things are. But then, it also gives me a lot of hope. If we are so herd-minded, maybe it is just a matter of someone setting the right template and people will follow.

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