Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Past, Present, and Future

Who am I? I am a representative. I represent some others of a generation. I represent and yet I am different. My difference is still defined by my culture, society... my politics of location. I feel like talking about me, as a representative of a generation.
I always knew that I did not know much about anything. But I was prompted to look again at my past and my present. This makes me think about what I want in my future. What prompted me to look again was the talk I attended by Asra Nomani on her struggles with religion. She was brought up in a certain religion with its twists of an impact of the American culture. The life she lived created for her a path to take within her religion that saved it for her and also was lost in part. It made me think about what religion meant to me. It reminded me of a generation. A generation I represent. Are you a part of this generation I speak of?

The Past
In India I was brought up in a house with two parents from two different religions. I would call myself Jain since my dad was a Jain and the children are thus automatically labeled with the father's religion. My father and his family were no practitioners of their religion and so as a child nor was I. My mother was a practitioner of her religion, Vaishnav. But since she was married into my father's non-religious family she let a lot of her religion go. My entire schooling was in a Convent of Jesus and Mary school. My main input of religion was Christianity. I was born in Jamshedpur (east India), lived all my life in Pune (west India) and my native place is in Gujarat (another state in west India). I know three Indian languages, English, and very little German.
This is the background which merely helps me understand how I know nothing well enough. I know a little about a mixed up version of Christianity. I hardly know enough about Jainism. Almost nothing about Vaishnav. My background knowledge of Indian culture is greatly affected by a huge input of western culture. I do not know the ancient stories well, nor the characters. The Gita is just a name of a book to me. Of all the languages I speak, I know English the best. And yet spoken English is often my weakness. None of the other Indians will say that I speak Hindi, Gujarati or Marathi well. In fact I sound like a foreigner when I speak any Indian language.
I am not rooted anywhere fully. Neither religion nor culture. I am Indian. When I say that, I mean, I lived in India. I have lived in India and seen the beggars, the dirty streets, the excessive honking in urban cities. My view of religion consists of riots and violence. Religious fundamentalism, blind beliefs, and rituals. Swinging from a belief in god to atheism to vedanta. I would hold on to Philosophy instead. Religion is corrupted. Something I do not even want to deal with. Talk about religion and you've lost me.

The Present
I study in the US. The only international student in a department of philosophy. I am supposed to know about my culture, my country, my history, my religion. I know nothing. My knowledge of India is challenged. It is abrupt, unfinished, and distorted. All I have with me is old and half-baked analytic philosophy. My beliefs seem small compared to the unknown philosophies I encounter. I am challenged to look again at my beliefs. I know more about the US than I know about India. I am concerned with the health care reform. Obama, and the Daily Show. I know the names of more people in the US government than in the Indian government. I am bombarded with new information and ways of thought and action that I have encountered before only in a dream in my own head. I am confused, challenged, and thrilled in cyclical succession.

The Future
I acknowledge that I only know something about somethings. I am seeking knowledge now about the culture I lived in. I am concerned about the farmers in India. I am concerned about the extremes. I am ready to appreciate and criticize. I am ready to immerse myself in India and the world. I want to know where I came from so I can know where I want to go. I long to be a global citizen. I speak to all who can identify with me.

Am I your reflection in rippling waters?

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