So, where do you come from?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
The first thing people want to know, whether they are employers, colleagues, friends or neighbours, is which part of the country I come from.

Submitted: February 04, 2007

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Submitted: February 04, 2007

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I always thought modernity and being educated was all about being an individual, knowing and seeing oneself for what one truly is, rather than identifying with linguistic or ethnic identitites. The modern world however runs with a different understanding, proving me wrong all the time.

The first thing people want to know, whether they are employers, colleagues, friends or neighbours, is which part of the country I come from. In a country which is linguistically divided, with over a dozen major language groups who now have their own separate states and governments, it all boils down to which linguistic community I come from.

The question itself is appears innocuous on its face. Anyone meeting a stranger or a foreigner would ask them where they came from. What remains hidden is the context in which a person actually gets defined in terms of ethnic and linguistic identities. A context in which even nicknames are used to label others, it being irrelevant whether or not these carry any meaning to the people so labeled.

I could never understand, and still do not, the whole point of asking such questions. Every individual, in this scheme of things, belongs to some community or the other. True. Every individual identifies himself / herself with this group identity. False. Growing up in a big city ought to free us from such attachments, where we form close relations with only those who happen to share a common ethnic background.

I feel no pride or comfort in being surrounded by people from one's own ethnic region. The initial feeling of pleasantness soon gives way to revulsion on being surrounded by like people who 'know me' as a member of 'their' group. The feel of oneself as an individual is much more pleasant than seeing oneself as one of the many.


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