Feb 16, 2007

Differentiating Difference.

This morning, was a sleepy one. Reluctant to let go of the last shreds of my morning nap in the bus, I stepped out dreary and bleary. My senses were rudely shaken by the chitter-chatter amongst the fellow commuters, eager and enthusiastic to start a new day. In my meta-state, I imbibed all the words that be-fell my ear, like a sponge. After, a considerable phase lag, I could make out at least five different languages being spoken. I was pleasantly amused at the diversity that I encounter day in and day out, without realizing it. This led to the train of thought that follows.

The school that I studied in was owned and run by members of a certain caste-based group. The quality of education, I must say, was above average and the school produced many an achiever. However, the culture that it professed was largely tuned to suit that particular community, and presence of others, was largely ignored. I was almost a frog in the well, not knowing how to interact comfortably with people beyond that community, with no inkling of the world that functions outside it. Amongst the students, at least in the years I spent there, a vague sense of caste linked differences prevailed, although nothing was explicit.

Once I passed out of school, and pursued my collegiate studies, the afore mentioned community's presence was reduced to a minimum, and those members that were, seemed to have much more open mind. People from all over the state, with different backgrounds, economical and familial mingled, and differences relating to caste gradually blurred. There still remained a certain criteria for affinity, that of belonging to the same district or region of the state. But this was amongst some members of the staff, and fewer of the hostellers.

It so happened, that I had to shift to another city that being a supra-cosmopolitan one, for work. People from all over the country swarmed in, and a mini-India was constituited. Here, caste, creed and region lost their significance. One had to be from your home-state, speaking your mother tongue, and the ice would thaw faster.

In all the above situations, I followed the norm, rather than dare an exception. I don’t see any anamoly in this, as it is but human nature, if not anything else. I have not ventured beyond the shores of India, perhaps when I do, I might find the state-based differences evanscent, giving place to nationality, and race based ones. Extrapolating, if men were to begin a space colony, even these would disapper, replaced by planetary differences. On the highest rung of this collectivistic ladder, maybe, all men are one, so to say, before the Supreme, a tenet shared by the ruling religions of the world.

I have not discussed religious differences yet, because it is one that transcends all levels and is omnipresent. The irony of it is, faith and religion are things which should, by principle be agnostic to such disparities.

Men cannot exist without differences. Each human is unique in his or her own way. But to be straddled with qualities which you were born into, and do not have the option to alter, can be extremely stifling. Some people fight throughout their lifetimes to free themseleves of such tags. Some others condition themselves to identify with these qualities, and start believeing that these are things that define their personalities. Pride and shame in things where one can’t place a righful claim on are nothing short of a sham.

There is a thin line between pride and prejudice. Pride that stems from one’s achivements is an exhilarating feeling. Whereas, pride that one cannot own deforms into prejudice. Shame in one’s attributes that one cannot control is a delusive emotion. Shame, on any other account, is guilt. Guilt again is a consequence of one not being able to relate or identify with oneself.

There has been no plan or purpose in what I have written till now. But it has been a subject that has intrigued me for several years, both on a conscious and an unconsious level. To understand the philosophy behind the differences which exist amidst the unity, is a quest that I can neither give up, nor end in fruitition. I know that there is much to unravel, and in the process I might end up contradicting myself. There are so many perspectives of the same picture, and each one is as illusionary and veracious as the other.


EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Reacting to the earlier part, i used to think about this a lot, particularly when I'm on travel; I have concluded, its a human paradox - for us to search for that tenuous link familiarity *and* uniqueness in an alien condition...

The Soliloquist said...

@G: The tendency could be a paradox. But that just describes the question. Doesnt answer it. Besides, there is more to it, than just the tendency. The tendency is just a fallout.

Nero said...


The Soliloquist said...

@nero :the one near yours... :-)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

sol: here i'd think the question *is* teh answer... because the human strenght and frailities span the spectrum of grey with no black or white at either end; and our yearning to be identified with something familiar - culture, language, likes, dislikes etc are few of those anchors, i guess, depending on where the grey-marker is for that person.

musafir said...

Sometimes, what unites, also divides. What makes us like someone also makes us dislike somebody else, even though we would like to be politically correct.

Pertinent point you make about the school you studied in. I've seen guys bond together because the only thing they had in common was their caste. But then, to make matters interesting, what is wrong with that? If I like someone because he/she has read a book or seen a movie that I have and shares similar opinions and sentiments, I'm looking for some common ground. How can you differentiate between that and someone looking favourably upon someone else just because the latter is from the same caste? Why is caste not an acceptable common ground? Is that because it is so illogical? Which is to argue that in the case of caste, the people involved didn't have a choice in it and that there is not much thought involved, but in the case of books/movies, we do. Which begs the question, do we really have free will? Are we not a product of our society and our genes and the chemicals inside our heads? Is intelligence the new upper caste? Are books and movies and music the new religions?

I guess we are what our differences are, like you said. They are what give substance to our identities. The choices as I see them are either bond, identify yourself, and hence by default be called parochial, or be identity-less and miserable. So, the question ultimately is, do you want an identity or is it possible for one to go through life without weighing anchor in any port?

That's why "musafir" holds a lot of appeal.

The Soliloquist said...

What is strange today could be familiar tommorrow.. What is familiar today can be alien later..
It all depends on the capacity of the mind to let in and let go... This whole idea of identity finally boils down to a motley collection of individual choices... conscious and unconscious...
@musafir :
But the reason for you like someone sometimes becomes the cause for dislike, in a different premise though. Things like caste, religion, language , and others where we dont have control over, are nothing but premises.

Liking someone because of their caste, would not be wrong, if consciously done.. If things that define the caste appeal to one... If one possesses sufficient knowledge and understanding of the premise (caste,religion, etc) and opts to subject his choices to the premise...But in most cases, when such a level of understanding is achieved, one tends to let the premise blend with the background..

Books, movies,music... are intrests... but a good rapport can built on people with differing tastes in these.. and acrid relationships can exist between people of like interests...Sometimes one can find people who wouldnt mingle otherwise holding tight cos of their common intrests... When tea-party discussions tend to rule people... these are yet again a bubble.. Although deceptively draped in tawdry fabrics of free will and choice...Sometimes people devolop tastes, without knowing why...
While on the subject of choices and free will... it again depends on how one wants to define freedom.. is it doing what one feels is right ? Things that one doesnt have to swallow an inedible bolus to do?
Or as you said, to let go of the society and the chemicals that govern our thought process ?? To let go, to drift, to be free..

I feel thats what makes "musafir" attractive to people beyond a certain point of anchorage..