Ever since he could remember, he used to read books. In his adolescence, once he stumbled upon a new author, he read every book of the author’s he could find. The books kept him company and allowed him to remain free.
A man is always a prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself of them, he thought. Is that why he refused to even voice some of his thoughts out loud? He scribbled violently into his notebook. Several hours later he thought, Tomorrow will be a truthful day.
His class solemnly walked in the next day, as per usual. He told them there would be an assignment for the hour and read from his book, Who are you? Where did you come from? What is a childhood habit you cannot forget? What do you want to become? Who do you want to be like? What do you believe you deserve in life? On the contrary, what do you take for granted in this life? What moves you? What reminds you deeply of your identity?
These questions, he continued, will hold answers that you must not be scared to admit. Search your soul, dig deep, take your time, write down the most truthful answers, he said.
In the wee hours of the previous night, he had felt that the simplest questions had the most difficult answers. The response to who are you could no longer be a mere ‘man’. It required acknowledging the invisible characters that in turn shaped this male identity. The ease with which he had been taught to segregate the black and the white with logic increasingly made him uneasy; the greys that existed needed to be admitted as well. Asking a room full of teenagers these questions might not generate the expected response. But the questions, he posed, were to just get them started.
Feeling a compulsive need to shy away from his brahmin identity had forced him to believe he was casteless. He had only just begun to see the ways in which this layer of his identity had shaped his thinking or even life at large.
He sat on his chair and observed the class deep in thought. He wouldn’t collect the sheets they wrote on. He didn’t want their answers. He simply wanted to urge them to question the birth of their multi-layered identities. He hoped, unlike him, they wouldn’t lie to comfort themselves for a majority of their lives.