Words, they say, free you from boxes. Words, he felt, created boxes. Boxes are crowded and claustrophobic. For a while now, he had been battling putting himself in boxes with labels. Everyone around seemed to be able to label themselves proudly. They strutted around town flaunting it; writer or painter or smart ass, they claimed. He found all labels restricting. Even a number of them together. His fluid mind wished to flow freely from one stream to the next. Often, he was told he was lost and ‘couldn’t make up his mind’. Observers felt, this resulted in no active goals in life. He, on the other hand, felt that no direction was all the direction he needed.
But sometimes, he couldn’t convince himself of the truth in such statements. The voices from outside overpowered him into picking a few identities. Even then, he could never answer the question, “Who are you?” The uni-dimensional “man” would escape his lips.
He couldn’t answer it with any more honesty. Nobody ever seemed satisfied with “I don’t know”. The pressure to always know, to understand oneself, to dream big, to think ahead was all too intricate for him. He shrugged his shoulders and let the matter slide.
When alone, he was haunted by these very thoughts. He tried on some of the labels that were obvious: Man, adult, literate, upper-class, brahmin, city-dweller, car owner. The boxes were chilling and unnerving. He needed to embrace them to understand the privilege that came with them. He needed to study them to accept the authority it gave him. He no longer could wander, pretending these labels didn’t matter to him or to his personality. Unless he truly accepted them, he couldn’t comprehend their power.
He paused to ponder, do the labels seek to liberate the souls or further restrict them? He was yet to find some answers.