The Memes 2018

Plural Identities

“Born and bought up in Mumbai, I am a complete Mumbaikar – as seen in my ‘don’t-give-a-hoot, fast-paced life’! But my parents are traditional Tamilians who moved to Mumbai only after marriage. I speak a lot of Tamil at home and when I am with my cousins, so I completely relate to my Tamil identity. Buts that not a complete description of who I am. I work closely with Aam Aadmi Party, so their ideologies are part of who I am. I am also an environmentalist, a feminist, a physicist (by training) and policy analyst (by profession), and a supporter of Mumbai’s IPL team!”

- Lalitha , 26 y/o, Mumbai

Identity can be divided into two broad categories: “Achieved” identity derived from individual endeavors (education, work and so on), and “ascribed” identity that is derived from intrinsic characteristics (religion, ethnicity, gender etc.)Today however we lead multiple lives and avatars in a single lifespan. Gone are the days, when life-stage determined identities and roles for Indians. With technology and social media, we lead multiple lives both in the virtual and real worlds.

Twitter profiles area great place to learn about how people see themselves and wish to be seen. Multi-dimensional descriptions of one’s profile are the norm. It is no longer seen as acceptable to have a monochromatic life. Modern living demands much multi-tasking, global events are too interlinked, and career paths have too much variance. Uni-dimensional personalities find it difficult to thrive in times where a celebration of plurality and multiple interests is finding traction. We now borrow threads from the virtual world and bring the idea of multiplicity into our everyday lives as well. Many people from urban India are proud to showcase two-visiting cards as they introduce themselves. Mompreneurs are the celebrated as new age entrepreneurial moms who seamlessly blend life stage roles and professions together.

Plural identities give rise to multiple other memes too. They bring alive the fact that every meme brings forth a contra-meme. The meme of plurality generates multiples alternate realitieswhich in turn makes seemingly contrarian ideas credible. Our icons today are both regional and national. While Amitabh Bachan and the Khan’s rule Bollywood, crossover appeal is no longer the exception, and regional stars are commanding prices on par with Bollywood. Our politicians find ways to bring up in the same sentence the contradictorydiscourses of hindutva and vikas (where the former divides based on ascribed identity, while the latter unifies based on achieved identity).

Regional cinema, long the poor cousin of Bollywood, has found a self-assured, impactful voice . In the metros multiplexes are creating regular slots for films in regional languages every Friday. While cricket may have been a national obsession for 70 years, for today’s generation of young Indiansplurality and multiplicity has created abundant choice even when it comes to sports. From kabaddi to hockey to football, sporting leagues are creating city and region specific team-identities. Whether it’s the Ranchi Rhinos, the Kalinga Lancers, the Haryana Steelers or the Telugu Titans – the culture of city- or region-based pride that emanates from local sports teams is now a pan-Indian phenomenon.

What we need to watch closely in 2018, will be how this meme of plural identities will influence and give birth to newer memes. Will plurality polarise, or will plurality showcase some new mainstream and new cult ideas. We will watch this space for more!

Whereas individuals were traditionally members of just one community, and risky ventures such as entrepreneurship, science and the arts could get only one roll of the dice, in the age of Social Web 2.0 people can split themselves into multiple selves inhabiting multiple communities.
- Mark Changizi, Science Writer