Sometime last week, I found myself alone with 2 of my cousins that I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years. I had no choice but to start speaking about Harry Potter – the ultimate ice breaker with kids and certain adults these days. Needless to say, whatever ice was there vapourized in an instant and we felt much warmer in its wake.
That’s when I might have made a little mistake. I asked them to name the one character they identified most with. One smartass cousin chose Hermione, and the other smartass cousin chose Ron. It seemed to me that they gave me a chance to choose Harry because I was the older one and therefore, the chosen one. I promptly said “the boggart” and found them looking at me strangely. The older boy was a little more tactful at hiding his surprise, but my younger cousin could hardly contain herself. She asked me just as tactlessly, “you do know what a Boggart is, right ? Its not Hagrid”. I could do nothing but smile back and insist that I knew what a boggart was, and it really was the one character that I was most like. “The boggart’s scary”, she said. It wasn’t until then that I realized why she thought my choice was odd.
Assuring her that I wasn’t a scary person would have done little to persuade her otherwise. Besides, I wasn’t entirely sure if I were indeed a completely non-scary person and as the older one I had a moral responsibility to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. Somehow, I managed to wheedle out of the precarious position I had landed myself in, and we were back to showing off to each other how many spells we knew, how many theories we could come up with and so on. But I was adamant about my choice of the boggart.
I have a dozen identities that I can pull on myself with ease. They are mainly masks meant to hide rather than faces that reveal. It isn’t as though I have a deadly secret that I plan to carry with me to the grave. It isn’t even as though I’m given to doing juvenile things that I’d rather keep to myself, groping for respect. Its just one of those things that I naturally do and almost invariably realize it when it’s too late. Who’s to decide that it’s late is an irrelevant question. Whatever argument is thrown at me, whatever reason is lucidly put forth, there are matters of the gut that tell me it’s too late and that’s it. I asked myself what it was that I was trying to so hard to keep within me, and yet struggling so hard to unleash. If it’s so deep within me that I can barely reach it, or even identify it, it must be something futile.
My mom once told me that it’s one of those habits that people pick up for no reason and find even more trying to give up because of lack of reason. I’m reminded of the tone in which it was said, and am inclined to disregard what she said. There had to be a reason – perhaps vulnerability. If there were a million masks one would have to remove before they can finally wreak havoc on me, I’m hoping that I’m not that important a cause. Then again, it’s this large sense of “self”, a world that’s predominantly occupied by myself alone that I believe that people even care about unearthing anything from me. I can honestly say that they’ll find nothing in those deep dark crevices within me – nothing that they’ll need.
I look within myself fervently these days to find something that’s actually worth guarding, and I’m almost dismayed when I find nothing. I could turn a little optimistic and say that every tear has dried, every scar has disappeared, every pain has stopped, and there isn’t even the fear of numbness. That would just be going back to sitting atop a high pedestal, looking down and fearing the height. There has never been a large number of tears, or scars that were conspicuous even to me, or pain that’s been unbearable.
I remain though, a boggart that creates a new face for itself depending on its surroundings. Its not a reflection of the environment as much as it’s a varying reaction to even static environments. Like the boggart, I too get startled by large crowds of people consisting of people I know, because eerily they become strangers due to an internal conflict that arises about which identity to adopt.
Regardless of whether I like being a boggart or not, its become part of me. The tendency to sprout a new face on seeing a new face is deeply etched.. The spell JK Rowling uses to ward off Boggarts has the encantation “ridikkulus”. It truly is utterly ridiculous sometimes if there’s a thousand masks that mask nothing. Perhaps I am beyond redemption. Underneath all of this though, is the comforting thought that if ever I need to hide something, I perhaps wouldn’t know where to hide, because there’s so little I know about myself and I make dumb assumptions that every cavity within me is filled to the brim with important nonsense, but on having found the place, I will surely know how to keep it there.