12 September 2006

Identity: views from my childhood

I had always considered my identity as something I always had. Like an inheritance. By virtue of being born and raised in a country called India, geo-politically, I had a nationality. I was an Indian. By virtue of my parents being from West Bengal (a state in Eastern India with a distinct history and culture), I was born and raised in a Bengali family, thereby, adopting Bengali as my language, and Bengali customs and traditions as standard practices of a life well-lived. Since my parents followed the principles of The Brahmo Samaj (as laid down by Raja Rammohan Roy some 150 years ago), I had a religious identity as well… right from birth. All these facets of my existence were inherited. They were my possessions, my identity.

Growing up in Australia I learnt that the colour of my skin was also my identity. Along with my ethnic features which identified me as an obvious Asian. So was the accent with which I spoke English. However, upon my return to India five years later, the process of forming a pseudo-Australian identity was reversed. The accent with which I spoke Bengali as well as English identified me as ‘foreign-returned’ and, therefore, not 100% Bengali or Indian. By virtue of an Australian orientation during my formative years, some of my Indian uniqueness had been replaced by a preference for westernised clothes, food, books, films, music, habits, lifestyle, the friends I chose to hang out with, and even my ideology (to an extent). These changes added a new dimension to my life and defined my identity in a whole new manner. The difference was, these facets of my existence were acquired; not inherited.

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