Finding Nipun

Jun 28, 2005

Couple years into this life, I start to be known as Nipun. Everyone calls me that, so I believe them. "Hi Nipun", "How is Nipun doing today?" "What will Nipun be when he grows up?" It's an overload, to be honest, but you get used to it after a while. In another year or two, Nipun is even ascribed a unique personality: content, quiet and never cries. It's quite a charade -- this Nipun character has got a body, a personality and at least a hundred people who buy into the show.

A few more years and the Nipun show gets old. "Ah, two hands, two legs, one mouth. He's just one of the six billion others on the planet." It's no longer good enough to be Nipun. You've gotta be different. You've gotta be top in your class, you've gotta be the coolest kid on the block with the latest toys, you've gotta stand out with your antics. "Wow, Nipun is the third fastest, under-12 roller skater in the country." Now you're talking. Nipun is bigger and badder than ever before. It's a big show and no curtains will close without the applause. People appreciate your illusions, you appreciate theirs; that's how this game is played.

What we call society are all inadvertant players in this massive game of hide-and-seek with ourselves. In fact, at 16, they give me a license that certifies my identity: six feet tall, black eyes, brown hair, this is our Nipun. It's surprising that they don't list the name of my designer clothes, the brand of my sunglasses or the number of girlfriends I've had; probably because technology hadn't gotten far enough to list that on a 3x5 plastic card.

In complete ignorance, I build a strong confidence in the inscriptions on that plastic card. Deep down, I still have my doubts if Department of Motor Vehicles has the authority to identify Nipun but after a few more plastic cards, placards, certificates and medals, I am sold. I really am Nipun, I am unique, and I will promote this image so everyone else knows this truth. All in favor of this image of Nipun are the good-guys and all who oppose it are the bad-guys. I will build walls so I can secure me and mine. Most of my life's budget will be spent on defence because after all, if I lose Nipun, I will lose it all.

I never knew myself beyond Nipun.

Fortunately for me, Nipun had moments where his identity broke down. 1989 earthquake: Nipun thinks he's going to die and he spontaneously starts chanting Aum. Where did that come from? Who am I really? Instead of studying for finals at UC Berkeley, he would be reading books on religion, quantum physics, God and the Universe. Still, nothing satisfied. A chance encounter with a Korean monk in a monastery, a Japanese mystic on an airplane, a Himalayan yogi on a busy street intersection, two American monks in his own living room. There's something there, but what is it? "Seek and you will find." But seek where, seek from who, seek what? Plenty of God-men and their yes-men are lined up with so many cookie-cutter paths, but I'm not interested in "Nipun II". I want something else. No satisfying answers, only questions remain.

Finally, Nipun hears a knock on his door. It's me. Someone he's known a whole lot longer than Nipun.

If Nipun opens the door, he's afraid his whole story will end. In truth, that's when his real life will begin. "Knock, knock. Anyone home?"

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