Saturday, December 03, 2005

Visiting Cards!

Reshma, my latest client (whose name I have obviously changed) has been going on at me to get visiting cards made. Visiting cards! The last time I had any made I wasn't even a psychotherapist. I was a photojournalist. Several moons have waxed and waned since then and my hair has grown a whole lot more grey and my visiting cards have almost sprouted a beard.

This particular bunch of cards (they are still sitting on my shelf) have a neat logo, designed by the son of a friend of mine who happened to be venturing out as a printer and whose first client I think I was. It has a camera materialising out of nowhere, from out of whose lens like a larva, emerges the long fat nib of a pen. The first couple of friends I handed it to actually sniggered because they claimed it looked rather like something it wasn’t supposed to look like! Don’t ask me what or why because it isn’t me that has a devious mind.

I was happy enough with those cards but the same way that I have a couple of exotic perfumes sitting on my dresser which I keep forgetting to dab on after a shower or even when I go out, I forget to give out my visiting cards. They have been collecting dust for the last ten years and meanwhile whatever telephone numbers they mention are outdated and we’ve been given new ones. (Telephone numbers in Bombay seem to be constantly on the move. We’ve had ours change at least six times in the seventeen years we’ve lived in this flat.) And now Reshma says. “What about visiting cards?” Her husband has been asking her to bring one home. Maybe he doesn’t quite believe I’m professional enough although Reshma who has taken to therapy like a duck to water, now wants to bring her whole family along for sessions.

Why did I bring all this up? I believe because what I’m actually thinking about is the labels that people find so necessary to give themselves and other people. Reshma confessed that she was both puzzled and even upset that there was no nice plaque on the door calling out “Dr. Uma” to the world to confirm that here was a lady with the credentials required to treat people who were "emotionally sick". (I told her I do have them but don’t need to advertise them).

Labels have been the bane of my life. A couple of days back I spoke about how much I dislike using the phone and now I have to say if there is anything I dislike even more than the phone it is labels. I have always been allergic to being thought of as any particular “thing.” (Brown skinned/Hindu/Feminist/Liberal/Disabled/Writer/Teacher of the deaf/Psychotherapist etc etc etc ad nauseum).

Do we really need those labels for our identity? Isn’t it enough somehow to know that you’re a human being? That like others you have possibly picked up skills along the way in a certain field which people might find useful, and that is that. Isn’t it possible to work towards an equitable society without having a whole lot of labels fixed to one’s name like a long tail?

Well, I am going to make those visiting cards made anyway. I don’t feel particularly defiant about any of this, only questioning. And of course maybe they will serve a purpose after all. Apart from my name and address and my “designation in life” and telephone numbers they will carry my website address and maybe some other info. I’ll be looking out for a nice logo as well. And I guess that along the way it will make Reshma and her husband happy.

Group website: www.basicindia.net


3 comments:

Stardust1954 said...

Labeling people bothers me, too. Labeling someone is pigeon-holing a person to be one thing when human beings are more complex than that. Our "labels" change from person to person we come in contact with. (What is really frustrating is when someone labels you something that you really aren't!) We are different things to different people. How does one sum up a person in one word? It's impossible.

Anonymous said...

check out ASC by Deaf psychologists about labels http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=65

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