And, true to his bounty, he asked me a question I answered too easily: what does my ethnic heritage mean to me? I gave him answers that bore as much relation to what needed to be said and understood as the stars bear to the earth. I spoke of a mother tongue I do not know well, and a poet-mystic who transformed his identity into universal things. I spoke of…too little, it seems, and not the thing itself.
What is this, this Bengali-ness? If I call it by its name it becomes a rock, at once an inaccessible thing and an anchor, against which things crash and also come to rest. But this Bengali-ness to me is not what is called by that name; I merely am that, and not that. I suppose we all are so and not so. As life is lived, it would not be a problem, if it were not for the parallax error of identity. When we call a thing a name, we fix it in its ‘proper’ place and, because the ways of seeing in life cannot be corrected for, we never see it again for what it might be.
Call it too much information or call it the fruit of the horn of plenty. Or call it Kalpataru. The answer to each is the same: to refrain. Not to wish. The catch is that we have nothing but ourselves to restrain our desire or our remorse.