Identity

Who are you?
Are you the smiling face
On that living room portrait?
Or that ‘neutral’ face
On your passport
Looking straight ahead at the camera,
Unblinking, unfeeling?

Are you merely a face
Stamped alongside a name
Printed on a card
That is authorized by
The sovereign republic of India?
But what is India?
And what authorizes India to define you?

What India wants
Is to put a name and a face
To every human within its borders
To ensure that the taxes are paid
The traffic rules are obeyed
And poor Dhanraj can receive compensation
For the mangoes the urchins picked from his orchard.

Is identity natural?
Would a lotus smell sweeter
If you called it a rose?
Would a bulbul be more punctual
If you called it a rooster?
Would a tiger turn vegan
If you called it a bison?

Identity is a story we tell ourselves.
To keep the trains on time,
Our cities in order
And show everybody their place.
Identity is fiction.
Do not turn it into fact
Lest you fetishize suffering.

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