Reclaiming Identity by the Water's Edge

>> Sunday, June 14, 2015

A.S. Pradhan | June 14, 2015

I'm going today to the water's edge
To a secluded spot behind the hedge
To meet with someone I haven't seen
Since when I was barely a teen

The rat race has kept him busy
Finding time has never been easy
With goals set high wherever he went
Working hard but rarely content

One dream achieved, another arrived
The daily grind, no pleasure derived
Morning, noon and night ended
With heart's desire unattended

Now we only care for things blue chip
Always on the go for one-upmanship
We've become strangers with little time
Yet embrace strangers if they have dime

I wonder if he'll today recognize me
If he'll remember the Mahua tree
Where as little boys we played and rested
Those little pleasures have now been bested

We've come far from years ago
Can't get those years back, we all know
Years ago I was him and he was me
Inseparable, we let the world just be

People now look at me like a big shot
But my identity has vanished in a melting pot
So today I reached the water's edge
Just to be reminded of my youthful days

He was already there, sitting under a tree
It looked like he was eager and free
Upon hearing me arrive, when he turned to me
I was staring at the stranger that was me

So, by the water's edge today
In the banks of English Bay
I talked with a stranger that once was me
And I reclaimed my identity

Have you ever lost your identity? Have you seen it vanish in the melting pot? Then go to the water's edge, have a little conversation with yourself, and reclaim it and find yourself again.


Anonymous September 17, 2015 at 8:11 AM  

Identity is an illusion. Unburden yourself of this useless talisman. You will become supple and open to all people.

Why restrict yourself to a temporal sense of continuity. Forwards or backwards, there is nothing to reclaim. Tomorrow you could be anyone and experience the world in a completely different way; That is, if you are capable of leaving the past behind and not identifying with your previous experiences.

Pride, nationalism, arrogance, judgement of the other - all of these toxic concepts exist relative to the viewer's conception of himself.

It is a trip when you have no identity, or have been denied one by ambiguity. At first I sought one out, but eventually I realized that the individual transcends the categorical nature of language and thought. Now it seems increasingly absurd when I see the people moving their avatars across the board of life.

They treat it as a zero sum game in many cases. 'Us' vs. 'Them', like little pieces moving across a chess board. They feel confused, alienated, or even offended if you do not participate in their farce.

What are you? Where are you from? and your political ideology? Why should it be relevant? Is it truly required for me to be pigeon-holed before another can share a moment with me? The most base examples of this will ask your monthly salary. I can not blame anyone, I can only ask politely: Why is it so important what happened under that tree so many years ago?

Then there are the sentimentalists, seeking to recapture something. Your poem exhibits this tendency to telescope into the past, to magnify and distort through the lens of memory. To attach yourself to those images is a step beyond the absurd. It is fine to observe and it is fine to remember, but remember that your memories are only memories of memories. A hall of mirrors, distorting your self conceived image into something else, more of an image of yourself.

The photographer spends so much time with his contraption that he misses the profound events happening in front of his nose. The sentimentalist telescoping in on his oh so monumental memorials misses the present.

Take a word of caution from my own experience and know that I have no ill intentions; Don't limit yourself. Here is now, and what's next could be anything.

ASP September 20, 2015 at 12:49 PM  

Hello Anonymous,

Thank you for taking the time to write what I consider is a very meaningful and well-considered comment. Your comment has made me wonder if I, with my all human foibles and occasional tendency to tread down the sentimental memory lane, should make a clean break with my past and simply live for today. But then I am confronted with the questions: Aren't we all who we are today partly because of our experiences? Can we deny that by ignoring our past? Will acknowledging the past limit ourselves?

I know you have no ill intentions. I like your comment. Thank you. I only wish you were not anonymous.

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