My Identity.

I try not to take myself too seriously and am usually quite successful.

Recently, two instances highlighted two different types of people with who one has to interact. I am sure that most of my readers will agree that these two types are about all that you come across though there could be the odd different type here and there too!

Since both had to do with my identity, let me share what happened with you.

When Phil was here, my father gathered from him that he was on his way to Ahmednagar, a town that is about 125 Kms away from where we live. The name Ahmednagar triggered some old forgotten names for my father and he quizzed whether Phil knew them. On being told that he did not, my father gave me the task of locating the names and whether they were still there. With much difficulty, I found that the generation that my father knew had passed on but their son was a practicing physician there. Again with some difficulty, I was able to get the phone number and spoke to the son and so did my father.

This physician got immediately quite interested in meeting us as my father knew so much about his parents and said that he would call on us on his next visit to Pune. He spoke to me and took clear directions so that he could easily reach our home and promised that in the next few days he would call me and come over. End of story.

My father knew another family in Pune where we live, and had last met them in 1992. Subsequently, his friend a fairly well known lawyer had passed away and I had conveyed the obituary information to my father many years ago. My father being the kind of man that he is, insisted on trying to locate the family and I started to run into blocks everywhere. With much difficulty I located their telephone number. They had shifted residences a couple of times in the meanwhile, and Pune had undergone a great deal of demolishing and rebuilding and this was the reason for the difficulty.

In the event, telephone contact was established and here again the son, undertook to bring his mother and his own family to meet my father and me and took directions to reach our home. Unlike the earlier instance however, he wanted to know more about me and the first question that he asked me was “What do you do?” I answered ” Pithah, Pathni and Puthra Seva”, which translated from Sanskrit to English would mean Service to father, wife and son. This is the truth but most Indians think that it is funny! I answer thus primarily to lighten the situation, and to emphasise that it is not important what I do, but it is important who I am. I often reply that I am a retired hippy, or a domesticated son in law, a retired salesman or some such equally hilarious reply just to indicate and emphasize that I do not wish to be categorized.

The son would not let it go and insisted on finding out how old I was, why I am in retirement, what I did before I retired etc. I had to answer as vaguely as possible, as I think that these questions were asked to slot me in some cubby-hole to pre-judge me, and I dislike obliging.

Why is it necessary to categorize people that you wish to get to know? Here was a situation where an old man was trying to reach out to his old friends and I was just an enabler. Why was it necessary for that son of my father’s friend to categorize me? So that he could categorize my father too?

I think that the answer to that question is that, society today has become so status conscious that one would not like to associate with anyone who can be perceived as being from a lower status. I consider such a value system snobbish and subhuman.

What do you think? Do you have such experiences? How do you react?

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