Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Am What I Am

The song “I am what I am” was first publicly featured in the tony award winning gay-themed Broadway Musical La Cage Aux Folles which ran from 1983-1987. Being born in 1983, I had no idea about the existence of this song, let alone the musical, till I was in Degree College at St Xavier’s Mumbai, in the early 2000’s. I still remember how we had just finished a batch of qualitative analyses of some random chemical sample I don’t even care to remember. We had huddled outside the laboratory on the ground floor of one of the buildings of the large colloquial building complex that constituted St Xavier’s. We were breathing God’s good air and soaking in the sunlight after an hour of chemical reactions, when our chemistry professor came outside and sat with us. We got to talking and soon before we knew it, the ruddy cheeked, moustached and grinning professor Fr Joy Pereira, sang the song to us-hand gestures and all. And its stuck with me since. I never forgot the words-I was so impacted by them. Not because they changed my life or some such drastic event, but because I was tickled silly to finally find a song, the words of which I had been living by all my life without even knowing it. Everybody around me knew though J
All my life I have held steadfastly to the opinion that I am unique, that God had a prupose in mind when he made me. I have never been one for going with the flow or being a face in the crowd. And I’m not boasting when I say this because more often than not I have been labelled the weird al of any group that I temporarily belonged to. My ideologies, my rationales, my personality traits...everything seemed to not confirm to the regular trends set by my contemporaries. And the best part is-it never bothered me to be different. I have been happy the way I am, I’m still like that and still happy and pretty much sure that won’t change much in the future. So imagine my surprise when I find a song that could very well have been called “Twinky’s song”. I have since adopted the song as my battle cry against conformity and convention. I respect tradition, but I will never be forced into following something that doesn’t make sense to me. I am what I am.
I haven’t seen/heard the musical personally but Wikipedia tells me that the song is found on the finale number of the play's first act, and performed by the character of Albin Mougeotte. For obvious reasons, the song became so popular that it has since been covered by the likes of Shirley Bassey, Marti Webb, Joannie Taylor, Respect featuring Hannah Jones, Soraya Arnelas, Ken Page, Gerard-Rene-Gordon, Doug Shneider, Teatro, Linda Eder, John Barrowman, Amateur Transplants and Anthony Warlow. In fact, Wiki tells me that in Argentina, the singer Sandra Mihanovich made a Spanish-cover of the song called Soy lo que soy.
Although it was composed in 1983 by an openly gay man – Jerry Herman, and popularized by disco diva Gloria Gaynor, which made her a widespread icon of the fast growing gay movement, for me it has nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation. To me “I am what I am” is a personal song-one can even call it a cliché that I live by, my stronghold, my armor.
My mother has often warned me of the lyrics acting as a double edged sword. And as usual she has been right. I have observed myself using the song as an excuse for my wrongdoings sometimes and looking back, I do not condone it. There is a fine line between being proud of what one is and making it the be all and end all of everything in the person’s character. I believe in change (though I don’t think Ill ever get used to it), and I believe in changing for the better. However through it all, I have promised myself that I will always maintain a balance, ensuring that the very basic root ingredients which make me-are not lost to societal or peer pressures, a dogmatic world or baseless fears. I am what I am. I am strong, I am emotional, I am peace-loving, I am just, I am fun loving, I am creative, I am non conventional, I am God’s child. I am what I am.

I am what I am, I am my own special creation,

So come take a look, Give me the hook

Or the ovation

It's my world That I want to have a little pride in

My world And it's not a place I have to hide in

Life's not worth a damn

Till I can say I am what I am

I am what I am I don't want praise I don't want pity

I bang my own drums Some think it's noise I think it's pretty

And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle

Why not see things from a different angle

Your life is a sham

Till you can shout out I am what I am

I am what I am And what I am needs no excuses

I deal my own deck Sometimes the ace sometimes the deuces

It's one life and there's no return and no deposit

One life so it's time to open up your closet

Life's not worth a damn till you can shout out I am what I am

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