“Who is it that can tell me who I am?”
~~ William Shakespeare, King Lear, 1.4.230
My father gave me a name, rather labeled me with my identity, as soon as I was born.
It remained my identity, but not for very long. The meaning of it changed when I read the line “what’s in a name?” by Shakespeare.
It was my first encounter with the boggling identity crisis, pondering over which I found it congenital.
In quest for my identity, I began observing people who could observe and tell me, who I was.
And bingo! I found myself.
I was Shahrukh Khan!
I was a superstar. I was the purloiner of hearts. And believe me, I had the art.
My friends told me I could mimic the actor really well. And in no time I was on the seventh heaven proclaiming to myself, “Come on, Khan! Carry on!”
But then later one day, I performed the dance number by Hrithik Roshan from the song ‘ek pal ka jeena’ in the movie ‘Kaho na pyar hai’ at school, and from then onwards, my teachers kept calling me by his name.
My hopes of being King Khan shattered, but being the heartthrob Roshan was enthralling, and I started growing my hair ‘Dhoom 2’ style.
Soon my schooling was over and I came to Delhi for my higher education. Here, I knew nobody; rather, nobody knew me as Hrithik Roshan.
Since nobody knew me, and I knew nobody, I ended up becoming, a nobody.
It was funny; I went from being Shahrukh Khan, to being Hrithik Roshan, and then eventually to being a nobody.
But then I made friends in college, and then one day, somebody said,”Hey, you look like Johnny!”
“Johnny Depp?!” I asked enthusiastically.
“No, Johnny Lever,” came the answer.
Well, that wasn’t what I had expected, but it was still better than being a Mr. Nobody.
Later I joined the drama club in college and as a result my identities changed frequently. First I became a Chai-wala, and then even the heroic Kaurav Yuyutsu of the Mahabharata.
Then during my hostel days, I met my roommate who was in the second year of college, and he used to call me Chhotu.
All the foundations of my growth broke like a fragile mirror. I became a school kid again; a Chhotu once more. But the irony was still left to be explored.
A kid playing ball one day, called out to me and said: “Uncle! Uncle! Give me the ball.”
Ah! This two-time-uncle call was pricking. In one instant, I went from being a chhotu to a double uncle. It was a painful change and I felt what the generation gap meant.
In that doleful state of mind, I shaved my beard as soon as I reached my room, and searched the Internet for a men’s anti-aging cream.
The pace with which my identities kept changing baffled me. I started liking the Atif Aslam song ‘Kaun hu main, kiski mujhe talaash.’ Although I knew I had the ‘talaash’ of my identity, but ‘kaun hu main’ was still unanswered.
So to find myself, I kept pondering, wandering, and squandering over the question, but all to no avail.
I became a nuisance at home, a dunce in the classroom, and a failure in exams.
I was a nautanki with friends, a fool, and sometimes a phool, among my lady-friends.
I was a sissy for the tomboys, and a flirt, not for the beauties at sweet-sixteen, but for the beauties who still pretended to be at sweet-sixteen.
I was Shakespeare scripting plays, a Milton writing poems, and an MJ on the dance floor.
I was an Indian on Independence Day, a Muslim on Eid, and a brother to my sisters on Raksha Bandhan.
I was a star when I bragged about myself, and a nitwit when I tried to be me.
Still to come, are a lot more versions of me, changing with my changing attitude, in this ever changing world.
I love being incognito, changing persona at every turn in my life, living adventurously trying to find — Me.
… still finding ‘Me’