We are so many feelings and experiences and memories and conversations. We refine what fits into a label called an identity, the way our travels fit into a little cardboard book called a passport. Just like a passport, that identity only contains the details of things the world deems most suitable.

I never imagined that I’d be a performer. The stage was for people with a giant ball of magic inside them. A shining sun of purity that obscured such mundane things as fear, worry, ordinariness. I did not have that sun inside me. It’s not that I hadn’t performed before. I first went on stage when I was not yet 5, singing, repeating the melodies that had been passed to me in my genes and training from my mother’s side of the family. It never took. Music was something I was made to do, not someone I was.

I stumbled my way onto stage, being thrown off the path I tried very hard to stick to – of settling down – after a partner violated my rights and identity. I could not live with his hatred, his violent rejection of me. And I didn’t know that it would be in something I’d been indifferent to, that I would find my redemption, my reclaiming of myself. But I say reclaiming as if I have taken back the person I used to be. No, it is as though I have discarded the old Ramya at the foot of the stage when I climbed those steps. And in the being formless and naked under the spotlight, I became a different me. A new personhood.

This picture was shot the night I performed for the biggest audience I’d faced. Minutes earlier I’d run into my ex and almost backed away. A friend hugged me and said GO. I knew if I didn’t I’d never set foot on stage again. So I left him & my old self behind. And I smiled when the spotlight shone on me.

It’s not that I don’t remember what it was to have stage fright, to prefer the safety of anonymity, the comfort of a glass screen to the spotlight. But that’s a story most don’t want to believe because they’d rather think I was born in the spotlight. Maybe I was, this me was. And the other me’s live in my head and that’s all they need to be. I’ve transcended the passport.


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