The first time I saw Janaki Nagraj’s profile photo on Facebook, I saw a woman with gentle, doe- eyes. A beautiful shy smile, eyes looking at a vision of her own and a countenance that bespoke a calm, restful disposition. Chiding myself for my fanciful assumptions, I decided to wait for a bit before I drew any conclusions.

Now, almost one and a half years later, I can testify to the validity of my first impressions. I was absolutely right. Yet, my assessment was incomplete. I had reckoned without a fun- loving woman who loved to dig out- and share- the funniest jokes to be found anywhere on the net. I had reckoned without her spiritedness that moves you quietly, but with perceptible force nevertheless.

I am aware of her assertion that she is capable of flying into a towering temper. Just between you and me though, I doubt it. The woman is so tender and soothing, she can’t ever get angry. Not ANGRY angry, if you know what I mean. Not ANGRY as I can get angry… the kind that makes strong men and women climb the nearest tall tree and pull it up after them– to paraphrase good ‘ol P G Wodehouse. Angry, nah! Not possible! But one indulges the kid, you know. So one says, “Yeah, you really have an awful temper Janaki!” Then one smiles.

The dreamy mellowness of her comes through in her writing. As you will read in this beautiful post she has written for me, her writing is a very private and defining part of her that she shares with the world. In it is contained all her love for life, her values and passion, her vulnerabilities and hopes. You can get yourself acquainted with her on Memoirs of a Homemaker.

Thank you for the honor of lending your mellifluous voice to my blog today Janaki. I am absolutely delighted to introduce you to everyone here.

I chanced upon this video on my Facebook page.

It is (supposedly) about the ugliest woman in the world.

It was a defining moment for me. Here, Lizzie Velasquez, the supposedly ugly woman, whose suffering we cannot even imagine, asks everyone a question. How do you define yourself? Bam! That hit me smack on my face. It kind of set me thinking…what defines me? I had not thought about it until then. Believe me, I am yet to come up with a satisfactory answer.

I remember what my blogger friend Tikulli has written in her blog post On Being A Mother And A Woman, In That Order…

Once a female child is born, she immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life.

~Tikuli Tiku

I couldn’t have summed it up any better. Are we independent of these roles? Our lives are so infused and meshed into these roles that we feel selfish and even guilty to separate ourselves from any of them. That’s why we all crave for some ‘me’ time…a place where we want to meet ourselves. Is that the reason Kitty groups thrive? A sisterhood of like-minded people where we can cast off the robe of role-playing and be ourselves?

I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.

~ Henry Rollins

Before I took up to blogging, I was unhappy and confused. Unhappy because I had not been able to identify my passion and channelize it and so was somewhat frustrated. Once I began blogging, I have not looked back. To a certain extent blogging/writing defines me. In fact I have evolved as a person since then. I was confident first, I feel empowered now. Not that I write revolutionizing articles… but what whatever I write is a piece of me… it defines me in a way. It is my thoughts, my feelings and emotions that I have laid bare on this blogosphere. This has given me an identity. This is something which I can say is entirely mine… the words I have strung together. But again, am I my writing or is it just one more facet of me?

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a Poetry Recitation event. One of the girls, Harshika Gupta has written a wonderful poem called Perception. In this poem she writes about how people perceive her and how she tries to be as ‘herself” when she is with her lover/partner, which is not easy. Here is an excerpt from the poem.

Every person knows me differently.
Some say my life is similar to theirs
Some say they count me in their prayers.
Some shower me with attention, some idolize
Some feign incomprehension, some criticize.
Some think I’m a Punjabi, hence very strong
Some know that the stereotype is so very wrong.

It is not easy to be with you – I have to be myself.
All that practice of having to live up to expectations,
Being nice with the nice ones; smart with the sly ones
Pretense comes easier to me than just letting myself be.
When you walk towards me, it is the reason I can’t breathe.
Because standing across you, I am nobody else, but me.
With your unflinching gaze – there is nothing you don’t see.

~Harshika Gupta

Pretending is easy. We have been taught to pretend and behave. We are on our guard most of the time and the mask clicks into its place automatically. What are we without these masks? Our masks comes undone when we face trials, they come undone when we face our fears exposing our most vulnerable side. Everyone is everything… some have an overdose of sweetness and some, meanness. Some people hide themselves while some reveal in the wide world. All of us have some quirks, which may irk others. And some may be a fine balance of all.

It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career. (And also life…I would like to add here.)

~Carlton Fisk

It is how we hold our head when faced with adversity that defines us; it is our principles, values and sum total of our struggles. It is the path we chose and how well we walked through it…it is our integrity, it is our strength and it is our identity.

Life experience is what defines our character, even if it means getting your heart broken or being lied to. You know, you need the downs to appreciate the ups. Going on the adventure or taking that risk is important.

~Nev Schulman

After all this introspection, you may ask – How do you define yourself? I can somewhat conclude I am a sum total of my values and principles I learnt from and emulated seeing my parents and also the dreams I have turned into achievements.

So, how do you define yourself?

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