Every beginning in school and college has always been accompanied by the mandatory introduction, “I am so and so, from so and so state, denomination and background.” The start of anything of essence is thus accompanied by the laying of an identity, which will be the sign board of our existence as long as we are in an institution or any other place of study or work.
Our journey mostly revolves around the shaping and reshaping, as well as safeguarding of this identity. Why does one need an identity? Is it for the purpose of convenience to differentiate people? , or is it our effort to be part of a community? India is for this purpose divided into North, South, East and West in a broader sense and then into other divisions as well.
As a theologian it has intrigued me no end to understand the need and essence of identity. What was the identity of Jesus? Did he have an identity or was he given an identity by the identity hungry humans?
When I started my theological pursuit way back in 1997, the main people I knew were the Keralites, the people who inhabit the state of Kerala in India. For me Kerala was a country, Kerala was the world, Kerala was the only thing that mattered. I just about happened to know other parts of India and also had my own perceptions about other Indians.
Therefore it was no surprise that my first day of theological studies started with a problem. There were too many foreigners in college. And they mainly were from China or Japan, or so did I think. Little did I realise that the people I saw and judged were my own people, my country men and women, my blood!
My perceptions started changing. I understood that India was not only the land of the Keralites, but it was the land of the Kannadigas (people of Karnataka), the Tamils (people of Tamil Nadu), the Telugus (people of Andhra Pradesh), the Bengalis (people of West Bengal), the Nagas (people of Nagaland), and the Mizos (people of Mizoram), to name a few. This was when I felt hollow inside. Hollow because I felt I wanted to lose my self bloating identity and be a part of all the identities that were part of the world I lived. And so comes a de-learning and a re-learning, a self emptying, the feeling of the man and the woman....the hollow man......woman.