Posted in Musings

Educated

It seems like a strange coincidence that I should read the final chapters of Educated by Tara Westover while sitting alone in a crowded hall, surrounded by family members who seem, somehow, alien to me. As I stared into my phone, Tara described to me what it was like to be torn away from her family because of wanting to get an education. It would almost seem that her thoughts reflected mine, or perhaps it was so in hindsight. Perhaps it was a passing comment made in jest by one cousin to another, “Of course she is so different now, she wouldn’t talk to us simpletons”. Or perhaps I am paraphrasing, distorting a benign sentence to suit my deranged thoughts, my illogical attempts to justify my self-absorbed exclusion.

I was a lonely child, different from the rest, lonely in groups, cradled by books; and at a relative’s betrothal ceremony two decades later, it would seem I still remained the same.

It would be nonsensical to draw parallels between Tara and me; I never went through a traumatic childhood or fought demons to become what I am. But the ending lines of the book shook something in me.

“You could call this self-hood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education”

And I realise I am at odds with my family for the same reasons. I have always been an odd child, yes, but whatever I have become now, transformed into, has made the lines darker, the chasm wider. Here I must pause and elucidate what I believe changed me.

First, I travelled outside my state. The majestic landscape that India is, travelling from one state to another is similar to coursing across Europe, except that the changes would probably be less palpable over there. One journey of a few hundred miles gets you in touch with the manifold textures of the collective Indian society, which differs by geography, language, cuisine and clothing with each dividing line on the map. Shifting house from the evergreen rainforests of Kerala to the savannah of Tamil Nadu, I was not only battling a change in climate, but that of people as well. The cultural fabric that I was brought up in, and which I stubbornly held on to for a long time, was torn and tested, and I had in my hands now a new one woven by me, coloured by my varied experiences.

Second, I became a doctor. Between busy schedules and the lure of extra-curricular activities, my weak ties with the extended family slackened further. What was essentially a personality trait sought out an ally in my profession. And then arose the familiar alliteration – ‘of course, these doctors are all the same..

Third, I made unconventional friends who led me to unconventional books and ideas. It was a slow and steady drift from the girl who readily laughed at inside jokes to the woman who identified casteist and racist slurs in them. From the quiet child who reserved her observations to herself to the outspoken ‘maoist’ who raised her voice against communal thinking and right wing extremism. From the pious theist who feared the wrath of God to the agnostic who wondered aloud about the existence of the same.

And here I stand, an entity without an anchor; buoyant halfway between sub-optimal family ties, uprooted principles and raw nerve endings electrified by my eccentric explorations. Who am I? A wild horse tearing across known pastures, pretending I do not know them? A blasphemous young woman who will one day find Redemption for my sins of commission? Why do I feel an incessant need to fight against dogma and proselytize people to join my views on liberty and socialism and the very uncanny futility of any extremist thought in the grand scheme of things?

Am I mad?

Am I confused?

Am I poisoned with the ideas purported by a multitude of strangers, stirring me to work towards their ends?

Am I brain-washed?

Am I deluded and delusional?

I contemplate the adjectives one by one, trying to attach myself to one, finally realizing that I, like Tara, would prefer to simply call myself educated.

Author:

A wayward thinker hiding behind the facade of necessary courtesies

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