There are expanding circles of our human identity, each of which has its place and value. I think that .. many relationships and acquaintances .. that sometimes develop into long-standing relationships .. are to keep us away from alienation and disorientation. Being alone once in a while is okay and understandable. Everyone needs his or her own ‘space’ in their lives. I do not call this as alienation! But, here, I am referring to expanding circles of identity. And, religion helps us in this effort, by building communities!
First comes the family circle .. nowadays, it is nuclear .. as identity, then comes everything else. But this identity should spiral outwards from smaller spheres to larger ones – to siblings, relatives, neighbors, friends, colleagues, society etc in that order. I do not see this happening in many lives I come across; they intentionally restrict themselves as if it will cost them a lot, if they do not. They close themselves off from others, isolating themselves in order to protect the component of identity that is perceived as threatened. I call this nothing but a bluff! If the relations are strong enough, they cannot be threatened by anything external.
In Gujarati community .. from the state close to Mumbai .. in India, there is lot of emphasis on community togetherness. Quite similar to Malayalam (from Kerala State) community down south in India! The identity is expanded as well as protected from external scourging. Religious community is serving a large role in bringing them together – while praying or eating together. I can vouch for the strength of such communities!
Family that eats together, stays together! Here, the community that eats together, stays together!!
During the course of my initial years in my sales career, I have traveled a lot across Indian states and districts in the western part of India particularly. This gave me an opportunity to interact with different people in different dialects sharing different food. This developed a sense of belonging in me .. towards India, especially after coming back from the US. I fell in love with India after traveling into interiors of India so much. Eating together – has always brought people of different faiths together! Then, I traveled to Middle East and Africa on work assignments and it gave me an opportunity to interact with more people, visiting more surroundings, understanding different cultures, eating more different food preparations. And these incidents have remained in my mind as etchings on a piece of glass do.
One should experience expanding circles of identity and not restrict himself or herself under the guise of protecting what he or she has. This will bring happiness, contentment, sense of meaning or purpose in our lives. Life is lived from moment to moment ( and there is no other way!) and these moments are not to be arrested in any protected identity.
If we know that we are part of the universal whole, we would not isolate ourselves as often as we do.