To the Sage
Whose idea gave this post:
Who is he?
Is he a Banarsi, or a Bihari or a Bengali?
Are these markers of identity mutually exclusive?
How can one tell one from the other?
I have known a person, let’s call him Triple B for reasons you’ll understand shortly, for a long time. He was born and brought up in Kasi. That earned him the status of Banarsi. I have some reservations about this, because men aren’t mangoes, so they should get the Banarsi status only when they show the traits of a Banarsi. He is Bengali on his mother’s side. To rephrase it: he is an honorary, half-Bengali. He is a Bihari too (although even his father was born and brought up in Kasi) on his father’s side. Now, this Triple B of ours has the protean power of changing identities as and when he wishes.
I must insert something on reader response before we proceed. The Diesel King is a very perceptive, selectively acerbic, and entirely inactive kind of critic. We had made a pact many years ago in which he was to write and me to criticise and thus create and establish his identity as a writer. Indolence: the longest lasting trait of his, reversed the position. According to the commitment made he had to deliver it all in writing, which he naturally couldn’t. So, I, the greedy and sharp writer, thought of a more convenient way of getting critical feedback: calling him up and getting it straight from the dog’s mouth (combining the components of the horse’s mouth and the every dog etc.). After this BBB idea I called him up and got a very funny, Banarsi feedback. Those who know the swearing Banarsi will be able to get to the first B instantly. So, after this kind of disturbing reader response to the name of the central character, I should have changed the name, at least converted it to something more respectable like Proteus. I didn’t, as I still think that Triple B suits the purpose. Moreover, the accidental response added the much needed element of irreverence to this protagonist’s (no hero, this one too) identity.
In the beginning, Triple B wasn’t aware of the acquisition of the three identities of his: all by birth. Objective and externally assigned identities marked him deeply and permanently; made him what he was. Removing any of his identities from the whole whose parts they are will alter the whole beyond recognition. He was not consciously aware of any of his B-nesses since his childhood. It took time for him to understand the real nature of his multiple identities – his whole early adulthood.
He used to study in my school, in the same class and section too. But that will not be anything new for the readers of this post, as 1008, Bruce II and my uncles had all been from that school. His first relationships had developed with his family members and school friends. Then he got attached to his muhalla of birth and to many of his neighbours, Gangaji and the ghatscape of Kasi. Later on his deep links were established with his university: the physical structures (the Central Library, Amphitheatre Ground, Shivaji Hall) and the environment and feel. To report it more accurately, he got all these things into his system.
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