You are one of those few people I know who truly love what they are doing wrote a friend. Innocuous words at first but they got me thinking and setting of on an inward journey. For the past ten years I have been so caught up in keeping the ship afloat that I have rarely given myself time to take a back seat, catch my breath and savour moments the way I should have. But my friend’s remark made me stop in my tracks and realise that what she said was incredibly true. For the past ten years, in spite of all the problems and hardships I have truly loved what I have been doing. I guess it is sometimes a sense of perhaps misplaced decency that refrained me from letting out whoops of joy each time something special occurred. My friend’s question ultimately nudged me to ask myself the question: who am I today.

Who am I? I do not know how many of us ask ourselves this question over time. There can be simple answers. You are from a particular country, of a particular gender, have a particular profession, a particular religion, a certain age and so on. So I am Indian, an old woman, a social worker etc. Some of these markers can change with time, some stay with you for a life time. Some of not much consequence. The others are the ones you build yourself and have the liberty to alter and even change. And the question you need to ask yourself is Who am I, today!

Often you are portrayed through your relationships with another so you become a good or bad daughter, spouse, friend, sibling, citizen and so on. But here again the description is insufficient and inadequate leaving you still wondering who you truly are.

Another friend recently wrote about the importance of finding your voice. It was an innocuous remark pertaining to a very specific situation but somehow it struck a deep chord inside me. It seemed an answer to a deep search I had embarked on, the search of who I truly was. Over the past 10 years, when I began the pwhy journey I have felt more and more alienated by what was once comfortable and sufficient. As pwhy grew so did my loneliness. The situation was paradoxical as when I set up pwhy I was painfully alone but pwhy brought innumerable new souls into my life. Then why the loneliness? Perhaps because I suddenly felt alone in my world, perhaps because all reference points suddenly seemed pointless and empty. I realised that the time had come to redefine myself but that was no easy task.

With each step on the pwhy road I felt I moved away by quantum leaps from the world that I had known and found ample. Suddenly it felt painfully deficient. Once I had crossed the invisible line I had unwillingly abdicated the right to be one of my erstwhile peers. I had done the unthinkable in a land where you were conditioned to remain in your determined framework. If you did dare venture out of the box you had to be prepared to pay the price. Sounds cryptic. Let me try and elucidate.

Say you belong to a particular social class, then all your activities are defined by it. Your conversations, your likes and dislikes and so on on are almost predefined and that is the world you are meant to navigate in. Now say you have tasted other flavors and dare bring them into the closed doors of your predetermined orb, you are immediately considered persona non grata! I remember how quickly people moved away from me when I use to try talking about pwhy in up market parties. I felt like a pariah. But the other side of the coin was that the other world was not ready to accept you as one of them. There you were put on a pedestal and had to remain there and that is when the loneliness set in. You suddenly became no one’s child. And yet you so wanted to belong at least somewhere. It was a real predicament and there seemed to be no ready answer.

But slowly as time passed , people grew less in awe of you and more willing to accept you. True these people would never become your intellectual sparring partners, but they surrounded you with so much love that you once again felt content and wanted. Wonder who they are? Let me introduce you to some of them. It is Utpal and his endearing ways, Manu and his lopsided smile that greets me every morning, the band of special children and their cheerful Good Morning Ma’am, the tiny creche kids, the Okhla children, the Khader children and their incredible smiles. But that is not all: it is also the Lohar ladies who never failed to produce a syrupy cup of tea and a lovely hand slapped roti; the innumerable families who have always opened their homes and heart to me; the simple people who illuminate my day every single morning and make it worth living.

So today I am above all Anou Ma’am and I like what I see and truly feel that this is who I want to be till the end of my days.

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