Dolly Koghar wonders what and who we are hiding underneath our designer clothes.
At some time or other, we’ve read The Emperor’s New Clothes; a tale written by the prolific Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson way back in 1837. It’s a story about how two conniving weavers duped the vain emperor with a fetish for new clothes into parading in their non-existent magical fabric. He was further plodded on by his cowardly retinue and junta (subjects), till a naïve child with no compulsions to society’s dos and don’ts, called out the – literal – naked truth.
Well, two centuries on and that emperor and his cowardly chamchas (stooges) are still alive; woven into my DNA. It’s that same fragile pride that has me pretending to be who I am not, and to lie-through-my-teeth that I live life on my own terms while the bitter truth is, I don’t even have the guts of that child in the story to break free from the feelings of inadequacy and insignificance which I guise with clothes and jewellery. ‘What people think’ is important to me, and I continuously override my own principles and suppress my voice for fear of ruffling society’s feathers. I sheepishly conform with the ‘herd culture’ in a feverish pursuit for approval and acceptance, and I readily emulate that something if ‘everybody is doing it.’
I remember the time I just had to have an LV handbag because everybody else had one. So, I forced myself to buy one, then it just languished in its original packing because I didn’t really meet-and-greet anyone I could show it off to, and the honest truth is that an LV is already heavy and it really doesn’t do anything that my non-branded ones weren’t already doing, and that is to accommodate some money; a credit card or two; my Thai ID; a comb and tissue pack; a pen to tick off the list-of-things-to-do and to shop for; some nibbles for the kids and a little perk-me-up gum; re-usable tote bags; the bane-of-life also known as a mobile; and of course, the wretched mask.
Although I’ll vehemently deny it even to myself; I’m lightyears away from being autonomous or free, because if I really was, what others think or say about me shouldn’t affect me a jot. But until and unless I remove the tinted glasses of self-judgement and move myself away from behind the sieve of society’s ever-changing norms and see myself, as I really, truly am, and finally brazenly live a life of harmony between my principles, my words, my thoughts, and my deeds; it is then, and only then, will I be able to stride forward towards bettering of that self, the ‘Me.’
But, at the end of the day, whoever I am or whoever it is standing alongside me at the Big C cash counter, we are all skin and bones and blood underneath that ever-denigrating façade; whatever be his or her standing or religion or colour or country of birth. No matter if that person is decorated, or industrious, or illustrious, or how many charitable hospitals he’s made or how many people he has swindled; we’ll all one day turn back into the dust from which we were formed. No one is spared, no matter to what lengths we may go to, to stall or even avoid the inevitable end; it is the one and only surety, nothing else is guaranteed. We’ve tried our utmost best, in our own ways, to convince the gods and ourselves, sometimes with penance and prayers and sometimes with monetary bribes, to pave our way through the gates of death with our belongings intact or hoping for a straight passage to a better world, but to no avail.
So, we’ll do well to reflect on Saint Kabir’s advice before we cross over to the yonder end, “Kabīra, when you were born, you cried, and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a manner that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.”