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The FIRE within

Isn’t the world a mesh of relationships? Relationships with people, those with our possessions, time and space, are what defines our identity here. But hardly any of us get by without feeling the need to scratch the surface in a quest to find and understand what this world really means to us. Ultimately, this bears out to understanding the relationship with our own self. This quest thrusts forward in times of struggle, bubbles under in times of quiet reflection, and is a very important part of what we call the process of growing. It’s about asking questions that work to the core of our being, helping us get in touch with our nature, and understand our actions with respect to our feelings and reactions to situations. Some of these questions are... Who am I? This is a quintessential question that confronts us in every stage of our life. Usually, we make short work of it by claiming it to be an outcome of our philosophical mood and thus throw it into the recesses of our conscious thought. Sometimes, we try to answer it by seeking out extreme experiences, pushing the boundaries of our reality. Yet, once the euphoria settles, the question is back to haunt us again. Sometimes it just takes a few defining moments of happiness or strife. It’s our yearning to understand ourselves over and beyond the roles we play in the journey of our life, to peel off the layers that cake the façade we put on to face the different worlds in our universe and no amount of rationalisation causes it to abate. It’s is thus all about what we are with respect to things we see, experience, own and do, who we are in circumstances that try us, with people who love us, care for us or depend on us, or how we fulfil our roles in the society. This question is far from mere philosophical musing, it’s very much a part of our reflections. What is the purpose and meaning of my life? Different ‘isms’ have tried to answer this question, and each provides a compelling perspective, compelling, at least, in that time and space that we pass through as we grow. Lack of a meaning or purpose in life renders all our efforts directionless. Indian scriptures talk about the purpose in terms of ‘Swadharma’, which is one’s responsibility, one’s duty and one’s Karma, that one is good at, and by virtue of one being good at it, it becomes one’s responsibility to follow it! It’s a realization of one’s potential (in the sense of self actualization) and then acting on it. Some scholars have tried to link it to ‘nature’ and also ‘varna’ (as an extension/surrogate of nature) but then the morphology of the “Varna” has to be understood to clearly reflect on its nuances. Originally, varna system was about sorting out people’s strengths and helping and encouraging them to make it their vocation, as against the form we’ve generally known, the one based on birth. How do I relate to the universe around me? While we strive to express and establish our individuality all our life, ironically, that is the thing we lose the instance we are born. At times, on one hand is our ‘self’, while on the other is the fact that we are a child to someone, brother, sister, wife or husband to someone... thus engaging us in a series of reciprocal roles that last all our lives. These roles have two attributes (as a matter of fact three, but the third – role identity – is not relevant here) attached to them: role perception, which is how one thinks a role ought to be played out, and role expectation, which is how others (and especially the person on the other end of the reciprocity) feel a role ought to be played out. More often than not there is a discrepancy between these two attributes. Once these questions get answered we also want to figure out as to how do we shape our own lives?, and what do we offer to the world around us? And thus, FIRE, Framing Identities and Roles through Exploration is an elective that we concluded recently with my PGP students, second year in tow. Conducted over a period of three days, it’s an experience-based course that recognises an individual’s need to understand his own self, his purpose in life, and his relationship with the environment in terms of the multiple roles he plays in his journey of life. Here, the participants reflect on the crucial events of their lives, the social, cultural and family codings of role identity, perception, and expectations, and the pulls of their own identities, which together shape their lives. FIRE facilitates them to explore their life experiences and acknowledge and identify the baggage they carry, which, hopefully they can deal with effectively.   The way FIRE works is by sensitising participants as they share aspects of their lives they deem significant, sans compulsions of the specificity of sharing. The faculty facilitate explorations and help the participants to give voice to their innermost thoughts, fears, emotions and feelings. No prescriptive remedies or specific answers are given. The participants discover answers for themselves. As a participant, you can connect with others and relate to them, leading you to reflect on your own questions. This process could prove to be more enduring at times than reflecting on your own life, which, in view of clashing with emotions it may evoke, may not remain wholly objective. It’s more proactive than reading a book, regarding perspectives distantly, however deep. And, it’s not prone to scepticism or dependence of a counselling session. You may connect with others in an inside-out way insofar as you ‘feel’ what the others feel and then try to articulate it for a cognitive analysis inside your head, or, alternatively, you may connect in an outside-in way where you don’t really feel, but you use your cognitive ability to understand what others are saying and then transform your analysis into a feeling that helps you relate better. Whichever of the two ways you choose, rest assured, you will find some answers, and if not that, then at least your questions to yourself will be sharper. The only prerequisite is the will to find an answer to these questions, or, to introspect. As we say, ‘the door has to be ajar’.

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