What am I to myself but a collection of scripts, a loose accumulation of narratives that I repeat over and over to myself, polishing a little here, editing a word or two there, reluctant to make the newest, most intimate ones public?
My identity a reef - dead versions of my self gathering one on top of the other like coral.
I am a nation of stories, a democracy of tales - some flamboyant and demanding attention, others dignified, repressed, content to live out their quiet little lives; some ambitious, others meek; some who have died young and others who will live on long after anyone can understand them, long after anyone cares. Some of these stories do not live with me, they have been exiled from my heart and have taken refuge in the memory of others, where they are occassionaly heard from. Others spend their lives wandering across the continents, looking for a place to call home, still others are afraid to even step out of the silence, for fear that the sunlight of being spoken may prove them false.
And yet they live in harmony, these stories, exist in an easy symbiosis, even the ones that contradict each other taking pains to be polite (though every now and then a story will turn to question, will seek to humble or destroy; and then, of course, there are the stories that exist only to embarass me, like senile relatives). Each story has its own function, its own special skills, its own place in the larger heirarchy. They understand division of labour, these stories, so that the stories about me as a corporate go-getter know they could not live with themselves without the stories about me as a poet; and the stories about me as a poet in turn know that they would starve without other, more practical tales to make their work possible.
What I call me is only the most powerful among these stories, their first among equals, the one narrative that all the other scripts support or are in agreement with, and have therefore chosen to be their representative. The self is inherently democratic, though, the purpose of the I is not to insist upon its own rights, but to give voice to all the other stories hidden deep within me. Other selves wait jealously in watch upon this elected I, ready, at the first misstep, the slightest awkwardness, to claim the prize of me for themselves. The position of this first story is always shaky, in fact, because the self does not much care for incumbents, is always impatient for change. No sooner has an I come to power, than the self grows weary of it, each individual story looking for other I's that it would rather have representing it. Every re-invention of who I am is a fresh election, the results uncertain at first, but then the majority becoming quite clear, and the I that has been usurped (if it has been) bowing out gracefully, stepping aside to let some other script take over and becoming, eventually, a statesman of the self, a preserver of its history, its ambassador to distant climes.
Faiz writes: "Zard patton ka ban jo mera desh hai" (roughly translated: This forest of fallen leaves that is my country). These are the countries that we inhabit. These are the nations of our becoming.