>illegitimacies and identity

>there have been countless times in the past when i have written my blog, in my mind, organised my thoughts, even put the lines the way i thought they ought to be; but never really “typing” them on this page, as i am doing now. why do i do this? well, in some ways, that is what i am going to write about.

i believe i am a woman of substance. I am over 51 years of age, live in India, been married, had a child, raised her, been divorced, been in relationships, worked full time as also loved, fought, claimed, offered, received, rejected, accepted, reached out, ran away, denied, acknowledged, hated, ignored, cared for and been loved.

i have had a difficult and a very interesting life …. difficult because that is how i feel about the experience, and interesting because it still fascinates me.

the idea of illegitimacy can occur in people’s lives in many ways … through owning and disowning, by status and power, and by being rejected and by rejecting. legitimacy in the sense that i am talking about is not about social status but also of what belongs where in our emotional world.

i remember as early back as when i was 3 years old, the status that i received from my father were that of “being his wife” and “his companion”. my legitimate status of being his daughter was held in strong evaluation by him and was never approved. in fact he did not know how to approve as he always looked up to others for approval of himself. His legitimate role of being a father to me could not fulfilled by him emotionally and psychologically. he would use me to fulfill his aspiration of being approved by his highly disapproving family members and as a result, no matter what i did, it was never enough; i could never be a “good, desirable daughter’. what i mean by “his wife” and “his companion” is that he expected from me (as a child) to understand his pathos, his grief, his loneliness, to approve of him, to be his friend and companion and to redeem himself to an utterly unforgiving and insensitive family system.

the primary roles that emerged for me in my mind were as follows:

– the resourceful one and
– the rebellious one

they are a trifle contradictory to one another as being resourceful is not good enough if they are not being put to proper use in a context, and being rebellious did not offer enough scope to me to be a part of any context and put my resources to any use. in the world of action, thus, i remained a whole unto myself and kept testing, flirting, toying with the idea of being a part of a larger whole.

in the world of relationship then, being a rebel would mean always looking at what am i deprived of, and being resourceful would mean negotiating a place for me by being useful in the context. so metaphorically i would offer endless possibilities in a relationship, but in reality would block every avenue of any actual union and merger and a movement forward.

this is the illegitimacy of the identity that i am writing about. the illegitimacy is about not knowing what is your rightful place in a context and even if that is spelt out, how does one experience it the way it ought to be as i have had no positive experience of it in my growing up process from my primary and only care giver.

so i stumble, i fall, i get up again and start all over — only to realise that i repeating the same thing over and over again –

what i have figured out as of now are some of the blocks … one of them being a cruel and utterly insensitive attitude towards myself. when i am faced with a negative situation, i turn to myself like a hired assassin, a cruel and hostile killer, a tormentor, and i tear myself into pieces with a pervert glee which screams “you deserve it, you bitch”.

i know when this entity came into my life ..as early as when i was 6 or 7 years old. i used to be beaten up by my aunt and other relatives quite mercilessly and at some of those moments, i would turn to them, tears in my eyes but with utter contempt on my face and would tell them “how much more will you beat me? at most, you will kill me, right?, go ahead, do it, but i will not listen to you…”. i can see the same entity today who is saying the same thing today but this time, to me, to my other voices which are seeking a fundamental shift.

as of now i don’t know what to do with this one …. except to be patient and loving to it. it has blazing eyes, its mouth curled cruelly upward, fists are clenched and the heart is beating fast, really fast and it is not ready to forgive anyone.

i can only wait, with love …..

I live in Bangalore, India, and by profession, I am CEO of a consulting organization, an Organization Consultant and an Executive Coach. I write because I like writing my thoughts and reflections for me to review my life and the life as I see around myself. However, sometimes it makes sense to convey my thoughts to others and connect with others. Maybe it strikes a chord; may be it does not. My life has been my most outstanding teacher, which is why I like sharing my experiences, memories, encounters and other narratives that I build as I go along. I am interested in people, society, culture, ways of life, individual and collective narratives/stories as they lead us to discover each other as nothing else does. I also write about coaching, people's lives, culture, stories, mothering my daughter, believing in a feminine way of life, and most of all, believe that all politics starts from the self and personal convictions

9 thoughts on “>illegitimacies and identity

  1. >the most difficult thing in the world is to forgive myself…it seems impossible to stop the voice that repeatedly yells..'you deserve this, you brought this on your head'…there is almost a fatalistic voice that says 'such is your destiny, you are destined to destroy'…but somewhere in the cacophony there is also a patient voice..one which says 'it's ok, there is yet more to happen, there is yet forgiveness and healing, don't beat yourself up'…perhaps that is the voice of love…it tells me to wait too..it makes me move not with anger and pain, but with a feeling of calm and reason.i am not just the useful one, not just the resourceful one, i am not simply to carry burdens and define myself within them…i am also peace, also serenity, i am also rest and laughter…i am not merely to keep myself whole, i am also to let me be whole through others…in that i am a part of the larger whole…


  2. >hmm.. you say so much, in this one note…. .. not knowing my rightful place in a context is so familiar and i can see exactly how the resourceful one and the rebellious one play out for me !On days that i can watch myself and laugh "there i go again!" I feel light. But behind it is despair – how many times will i need to stumble and fall flat and pick myself up and move on , only to stumble again… yet refusing to give in.Love,


  3. >This post has hit me, as I am grappling to return to work tasks after SP, my ohter parts kept aside for the time being. So much is true for me and i stand at similar crossroads. What resonates the most is the part in which you talk about the play of resourceful and rebellious in relationships where you offer endless possibilites but block movements; and the one where you talk about turning against yourself. the tormentor in me takes such a toll though its viciouness is reducing as i can see.


  4. >@Anuja: and may be it is not a tormentor at all, may be it is just a little girl desperately seeking love but believes she is so unlovable that it will never come.@RC and @ Antara: may be the hardest part is to find the music that will put the tormentor to a blissful sleep, take away the cruel smile from her lips, help her unclench her fists and help her wake up from that sleep with a new dream in her eyes.


  5. >f*&^%ing hell! my first instinctive response to fear is "freeze", my body goes cold and freezes, trying to locate the source of threat.that's what happened as i read ur piece. hit me straight in the gut. still reeling from it. and i read this piece right after reading the following from Child Man:"The female Child Man is caught in her fear of the oppressive side of the static-masculine and her disdain towards the static-feminine. Consequently, she goes out of her way to test the genuineness of the affirmation which she receives. In a sense, what she is saying is "How can anyone ever love me? I will keep making myself as undesirable and obnoxious as possible till you are forced to accept that your love is not for real."one of many voices in me (a strong loud one most times), a little girl desperately seeking love, while also having utterly given up any hope of actually ever getting it – or is it the little girl who is forever anticipating orphan-hood and "preparing" herself for it, in the process making it a self-fulfilling prophecy…i don't know what to do with this one… either… on 'good' days, her voice becomes a whisper almost not there while other nourishing ones are stronger, on 'bad' days, her voice comes out in all it's gleeful gory glory bringing a tidal wave of futility…and somewhere, inside me, hopefully there is love… that can hold her bitterness?thank u… for sharing, for this space, for ur companionship.


  6. >@ Vinti: may be the little girl's voice says something else and you are not hearing it yet, for instance, she may be saying "I am alright and I know you will take care of me"!!


  7. >Sharbori – elegantly expressed and took me to deep places. Was directed to this wonderful piece by Vinti. Thanks to her and you.Just this morning I heard a talk by Ken Wilber and Warren Farrell on 'Need for Men's Liberation'. The issues you talk about have been as relevant for me as a man and the talk + your piece has given me word for it. The identities I got raised for as a result of the fractured emotional intimacy between my parents was- the 'different' performer and- the 'whining' nurturerThe performer was to follow the male model of penetrating the physical world and make my mark on it. I became the channel for legitimizing the illegitimacy my father feels to date of being pushed into a job (made a man of!) at the age of 15 as the eldest son of a large extended family. I rebelled against conventional norms – covertly. Result? Everywhere I went I became an over-achiever by quickly learning to beat the system and then doing my own thing quietly on the side. The powerlessness of inadequacy and feelings of oppression by stifling patriarchal norms was over-compensated by pro-creating in a standalone mode. This 'asexual reproduction' is something I have understood in last few years and have led to delightful claiming back of my own masculinity. I still relapse into getting competitive/ prove myself mode many times – especially when faced with successful men. And so is the relapse into feeling anxious/ inadequate/ disdainful when faced with aggression or expectations of performance from a man or a woman. Those are the times I oppress myself – and of course others.The nurturer identity was the donning of all the unmet needs of my mother. A 23 year old ambitious, accomplished and intelligent lady becoming a foster mother in a joint family in very difficult financial times and established patriarchy – with husband away on army duty. I felt literally raised as a 'force against the dark world of men that oppresses women'. Nurturing others became my default response to most situations of life – as a means of gaining approval/ power/ love eventually. And of course if those needs were not met I could always whine about how much I give but don't get and how I am stuck in the grips of an opressor. The journey is still on to clarify my own assumptions about how much of my giving in a relationship – specially with women – is offered as insurance for future rewards I expect. So has been the journey also on accepting and exploring the oppression each gender faces from the social context – rather than using each other punching bags. An interesting fallout of this has been the restless oscillation between two lifestyles. The first one of go-out-there-and-make-a-mark lifestyle which comes with charting ambiguous territories with little boundaries and low predictability of my availability to even myself. A lifestyle that reaffirms my belief in myself. The other is the pining to nurture and be nurtured within a quiet/ predictable/ domesticated home life. When I choose first – I become 'eligible' in relationships for it comes with socially desired rewards of power, money and fame. But in the process I become an 'opressor' to loved ones who I am not available to! Choosing the second makes me and my loved ones feel 'loved' but leaves me anxious about my 'irrelevance' in the larger social context. It leaves me wondering if as a man – do I really have a choice? Or is it any different anyway for women in this 'performance-first, nurture later' world – for I see them struggling as much with the same dilemma of full-time career or being at home moms?Become a long piece…a lot unleashed!


  8. >@sanjaylove – thank you for your very poignant, well thought out and from the heart response. we need a long dialogue for this and i am wondering whether this space is the right one yet … but for whatever its worth, I don't see a dichotomy between the :- the 'different' performer, and- the 'whining' nurturerboth are looking for affirmation and owning up in two different ways. but like i said, this needs a dialogue. will come back with another piece soon. take care.


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