I have reset my life.
I did this before: When I hit a roadblock or got stuck doing something I hated, I would imagine a day when a new life started. And, it works, because, all frustrations wash away, and hope comes back in. Besides, I let go of expectations, all that I accumulated over time, as those often are the biggest roadblocks. I have just done that again.
I grew up in more hopeful times. By the time I was in high school, the anguish of the Indira Gandhi's assassination and the shameful riots had been replaced by the youthful energy of Rajiv Gandhi; the middle Eighties brought about various peace agreements ending the various civil wars that raged in India. Also, Mikhail Gorbachev changed the conversation, away from the Cold War to the dreams of a new, open world altogether. Indeed, those hopes didn't last: Soon, India was torn asunder by resurgent Hindu nationalists engineering riots from Meerut to Mumbai; Gorbachev's reign ended in the drunken mobocracy of Yeltsin and dissolution of Soviet Union. But, by then, bigger things were unleashed. Rajiv Gandhi's tragic death did not take away the telecom revolution unleashed in India; breaking down the Berlin Wall built up to united Europe; and indeed, there was Internet in my life.
That I would eventually travel was perhaps determined in one of those moments. If I could go back to a day in 1989, my life looked very different: I lived with my parents, siblings and cousins in a house my great-grandfather built; I never got into a plane; I went to local school and spoke little English, and everyone I knew lived locally. At that point, all my future seemed to have been predetermined: I knew where I would live all my life, what I would do, etc. There was no trouble with my identity: Everyone around me knew who I was, as indeed I did myself. Therefore, that none of that happened, that my life played out completely differently, has something to do with those magic moments of hope and possibility of my youth.
It was perhaps the Internet - it's definitely the Internet - but that would be simplifying the matter too much. A number of things, personal, social, professional, had to happen before I turned up, low on money and high on hope, at a Gurudwara in Southall. I was no IT professional, banker or professional or any description: The only qualification I had was that I loved to read. The only way someone like me could gather the courage to make the journey was the very real belief that one could be 'global'! It may sound naive from the vantage point of today, but I really believed - then - in a flat, global world.
Sure, identity bit back not long after. As an Indian, it proved far easier for me to get an 'IT job' than anything else. Soon, my flatmate was changing his name to something Christian sounding, though his reasoning was intuitive and he did not have the advantage of recent research proving that an Asian name reduces your possibility of getting an interview call by 28%. I would eventually find my supposed expertise in being an India expert, and no amount of commitment and work would make me a full member of the education community. And, then, there was that education about grades and types of British Asian - the composite of where you come from and what you have - laid out in neat lines of generational categories. The only times when all British Indians are to become one common people is when they turned up to vote Conservatives, as a vote bank carefully nurtured!
It was strange to be in and out of identity: To be global and labelled at the same time, to hate 'vote banks' and be part of one - to deal with the full force of the conflicts that mark the global condition. And, then, suddenly, identity is everywhere: Globalization without global possibilities made the local turn out in full force; the Internet, now broken into walled gardens, isn't the emancipation engine any more, but rather the tool of segmentation and targeting; the hope in future has irrevocably given in to an undirected anger to unknown forces. Suddenly, being global is being rootless and being curious is lacking commitment. This is perhaps the logical next step of all those smart targetted politics of nudges and winks, but a far cry from the search of a global condition that set me off on the journey.
As I restart, then, I wish to turn this blog into a search for the global condition. This is falling in love with the dreams of younger days again, looking forward by looking back - and indeed, an attempt at answering that all-important question of identity: Who am I really and how I got here? As I found out, the big question - how did we arrive, collectively, at this global turn - is intricately connected to our own personal searches.
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