PS Malik speaks on: WHO AM I?

Who am I?

The question "Who are you?" is one of those fundamental questions that is intimidating and almost unanswerable. It can mean so many different things, depending upon the desire of the person asking. Thus the questioner might be asking:

Please place yourself in the structured schema that I use to describe society and the world around me. In other words, give me a series of tags that I can use to categorize you.

 The answer to such a demand needs must depend upon the categories and tags that the questioner recognizes. Fortunately there are a large series of such tags that are commonly and conventionally recognized. Thus the categories of nationality, ethnic origin, gender, occupation, income, place of residence, marital status, hobbies and interests, religion, and political affiliation.

An answer in terms of these tags often suffices to satisfy the questioner because we all of us carry with mental schemas, lists of default assumptions about persons bearing said tags. This is a practical necessity – we cannot know everyone in intimate detail. These assumptions are only defaults; each individual holds its individuality. He is unique.

This form of the question is more of a "What are you?" than a "Who are you?" – that is, it reduces the person to a list of attributes.



There is another meaning that the question might take. It may be asked

… "Who are you?"

You are likely to utter, “I am Ramesh from London.”

"And if you weren’t not of London, would you still be Ramesh?" may be the next question.

“Of course…  I …" Ramesh might have replied.

"And if you were not Ramesh?" the question is likely to be continued "Would you still be you? If you were crippled, or old – if you became a leper, or lost your manhood – who would you be then?"

"I don’t know -"

"You know."

An irony in this passage is that Ramesh, at that point, is traveling under a false identity.

The questionnaire presumes one of the great answers to the question of identity, which is that we have an inner essence which defines our self, the various attributes being trappings like the clothes we wear.


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PS Malik speaks on: WHO AM I?

Shreyas Malik

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