The Distillery

Born a girl, a daughter, a sister and granddaughter.
A Bengali.

A child of middle class parents and a home where we had enough but not too much. An army officer’s daughter. A commanding officer’s daughter. A child of a separated family when baba was posted in conflict-ridden non-family stations.

An English-speaking ‘unfortunately’ dark-skinned, short-haired ‘parkati’ ( the bird without wings), a misfit in the Hindi heartland that was Kanpur. A teacher’s daughter. A dancer. A debater. A sexual assault survivor. An accidental gun violence survivor. ( I took a bullet on my chest. It’s a good story)

And then later, a humanities student. An English Major. A friend to many. A best friend to one.

With a foot into adulthood, a communications professional, the nameless Nike PR girl, until I became a wife, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, the Bengali wife of a Punjabi man, and then, the NRI.

Conversely in foreign lands, the foreigner. The one with the ‘beautifully tanned’ skin. At work in Chicago, the exotica, as the only non-white person in an office of forty.

Then, a mother, a working mother who flew her 2-month old baby and her mother along with her from Melbourne to Sydney for one important work presentation, and nursed Ishaan in the other conference room between presentations.

In Singapore – the dependent pass holder, the stay-at home-mother, and then, the entrepreneur, the employer, as uncomfortably as that sat on me, and then the permanent resident of this beautiful city state, while I am still hesitant to give up my Indian Passport and apply for citizenship, for reasons I cannot explain with any coherence .

Still later, the mother of two children, the involved parent, the maker of play dates and schedules. The homemaker, the menu planner, the grocery shopper, the cook.

And somewhere in the middle of all of this, the writer, the poet.  

As the writing and the poetry came forth, an identity coalesced perhaps only within myself, in the form of a seeker who went back in time to re-examine the identities that perhaps seemed so natural, that I didn’t even see them. A Hindu, a Savarna, an English speaker in India, an army officer’s daughter, all of these meant I was and continue to be a person of privilege in many ways.

And equally, I was a girl child and woman who lived in a deeply patriarchal society, a dark-skinned child in a society that placed a premium of fair skin, a survivor of violence, both sexual and otherwise, a serious humanities student in a world where clever people only studied science or commerce.

Today from where I stand, every identity seems as true as it feels incomplete. The edges have blurred and one has smudged into another. Today I understand the contradictions better than I did before, I examine them with far greater curiosity than I did before, I question them more than I did before.

Placed against larger existential questions about the nature of the universe, the nature of consciousness, the ideas of oneness, the illusion of separateness - held up against these, ideas – my individual identities seem to dissipate and another, identity, still veiled in many ways, seems to expand limitlessly.

The wise tell us all of manifested reality is really consciousness experiencing itself. This is hard to imagine while there are to-do lists to get through, and people to meet and deadlines to chase. As much as the minutiae of life pulls me one way and my deepest needs for knowing in another, all of my identities are merely milestones in my journey, perhaps to sit on and rest a while, or to know, in that moment, where the closest town is, but the identities are not the road, for the road is in itself the journey, a journey perhaps into the whorls within.