Of identity, belonging and other things…

The weekend has been relaxing. But it’s also been a time for introspection and reflection. I’ve been meaning to put my thoughts down in words for two days and failed: partially because I haven’t had the time. But mostly because I’ve struggled to articulate these feelings like never before.

We drove from Chennai to Coonoor via GST Road. And back from Coimbatore to Chennai via the Bangalore highway. And I was struck by how wonderfully connected the state is. I’ve been speaking to someone who works in the remotest parts of the country and on topics like education and health. When he speaks of how remote these places are, how it’s difficult to find transport, communication connectivity or even proper roads, I can’t help but wonder how we fare. This drive through the small towns of Tamil Nadu assures me that we’re definitely better off. Almost 100% mobile connectivity, decent (sometimes excellent) roads, roadside eateries, highway rest areas: everything speaks of levels of development that are impressive. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure that the state’s human development indicators are among the best in the country. I even recall seeing government schools with boards speaking of technology enabled, smart classrooms in small towns. Overall, I’m quite convinced that TN is a good place to live.

But beyond these obvious and objective reasons to love this place, there’s something far more emotional. A sense of belonging that I don’t feel when I travel in other parts of the country. I’m kannadiga. At least, that’s how I’ve identified myself all these years. Suddenly, over the course of one long weekend, I find myself wondering if I should reconsider this. I speak Kannada. Some broken thanjavur Marathi as well. And Hindi quite well. Plus English and French fluently. But somehow, with Tamil, I feel an emotional connect that I don’t quite feel with any other language. Except English perhaps. I realise now that Kannada is my language of communication. So is Marathi (for purely functional conversations). To a large extent, Hindi is a language I’d rather not speak unless I have to. It’s not a language I’m comfortable with. It doesn’t come naturally. French is the language of business. But Tamil. Tamil is a different quantity. It makes me cry and laugh. It makes me crave and want. It appeals to the deepest emotions in a way only English has so far. And in a far more earthy, close-to-the-heart kind of way.

I realise that deep inside, my personal identity is inextricably intertwined with Tamil. The language, the culture and its people. I now realise that I’m well on my way to identifying myself as a Tamilian, something I’ve never done till date. And this realisation is important for my growth as a person.

After all, questions of identity aren’t so easily resolved, are they?