This Bangalore-based man is an incredibly happy person, and his happy-go-lucky spirit is so contagious, you just want to be around him all the time. So when he chose to speak on Identity Crisis, it took our interviewer, Poorva by surprise. The two sat cross-legged in a public park in Indiranagar, Bangalore and spoke of how he struggled with identity crisis as a child until he found solace in books. Read more and find out how his appearance, financial situation and relatives made the then young boy question his worth, and how his popularity with girls and his love for books helped him wade through young adulthood.
Anonymous male, 37 years, School Teacher, Bangalore
Interviewed by Poorva Dinesh
Why did you decide to give us an interview on identity crisis?
It is a subject that is seldom discussed. And I went through a severe identity crisis in my life.
Would you like to elaborate?
This is a very very very personal story. But I know this is what you are looking for. My father was a university professor, and a highly-regarded guy in the society. He was extremely good looking. Honestly. And we were a respected family in the village. If there is any problem today, people just Google. In those days, they asked my father. I may be exaggerating a little, but this comes very close to the kind of person he was. I was the dumb boy in the family. Seriously. I was the least attractive. Some of my friends even said I didn’t belong to this family. They joked that I was adopted or something. This was when I was six years old. Things like this hurt me a lot, because I believed I was adopted. This is a typical Indian thing about being fair-skinned or not. When children are born, they are given a piece of gold or something like that so that they become fairer; I was never given this and I believed it was because of this that I looked the way I did. Look at me…curly hair, broad nose; I really don’t know what to say about my appearance. Looking back I can’t even imagine something like this happening, but it was a real identity crisis.
Did the crisis start as early as the age of six?
Yeah, in my case it did!
Was the crisis because you did not fit in due to your physical appearance?
Yes, but emotionally as well.
What kind of child were you?
I wasn’t shy. I was trying to be an extrovert. I used to talk to everyone, I used to be loud and noisy and I think this was one of my defense mechanisms to overcome the crisis.
I work in a school. If today we come across a child like this, we will send the child to a psychiatrist or a counselor. Those days I think I counseled myself.
For how long did you feel this way?
Until I was in high school. You know how did I overcome this? I was a good student and scored high grades. There was a public library close to my house, and I was the youngest member of the library. I read hundreds of books in a span of two years and it made me much wiser than my counterparts in school and family. As a result, girls started liking me and I suddenly started accepting myself.
Did you go to the library to fill a void?
I think so. You know why I looked up to my father? Because he knew a lot and he gained that from reading, and I really believed and still believe that reading is the thing that takes you to the next level. I wanted to upgrade myself to the next league so I went to the library. There was no internet or TV. Reading was my only solace. And we were very fortunate to have a library in the kind of village in Kerala I grew up in; it was a village where even the nearest railway station was 55 kilometers away! Electricity went for seven days and nobody cared about it. Kerala was closely associated with Russia because of the common communist cause. So the library had a lot of Russian books translated into Malayalam that took me to a different level. And reading allowed me to participate in discussions, and this helped me overcome my identity crisis. My father and I would talk about Robert Louis Stevenson, and my cousins didn’t know who this guy was, and I felt powerful. I had the power.
I also get an impression you felt inferior to your cousins. Identity crisis doesn’t necessarily mean inferiority complex. But I get a feeling you had this complex too.
Yeah. I did feel inferior to them.
But maybe all this was just part of growing up. Now looking back do you think your identity crisis problem was a serious one? Something serious enough for a counselor’s interference perhaps?
An emotionally strong child will overcome anything like this. Human beings survive anything. But, there are chances that a situation like this will destroy the spirit of an emotionally weak child. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome my identity crisis had it not been for books.
So your identity crisis wasn’t a fragment of your imagination?
No Poorva…It was real. As a family we didn’t have as much money as some of our other relatives. I don’t know whether this also had to do with my appearance, but my mother’s brother always treated me differently. Let me tell you something that happened as a child which is very livid in my memory. It was Christmas and I was in a room with my relatives, my parents and my three cousins; my uncle gifted all three of them a pair of shorts, t-shirts and shoes, while I didn’t get anything.
I have made my peace with him, but I will not pardon him for this, or even the other adults in the room. It is unpardonable. It shouldn’t happen to anybody.
The last question has nothing to do with your interview topic. But we ask everyone we interview – what does love mean to you? What does love mean to you?
This is a very complicated question. But at this moment, my relationship with my daughters is the purest form of love for me. My wife is the love of my life…I don’t know how to explain it…
I know what you are saying; I am a mother myself and I know what I feel for my children is so pure that nothing can come close to it.
When I am older and wiser maybe I will be able to answer your question…