This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Wamick. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Understanding The Idea Of Self And Concept Of Identity Through Kafka And Allama Iqbal

This article attempts to critically examine the idea of ‘self’ and the concept of ‘identity’. For this purpose, I have made a humble attempt to analyse Franz Kafka’s famous novella, ‘Metamorphosis’ which was published in 1915. The article also attempts to interpret two profound works of a distinguished philosopher and a scholar, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, widely known as Allama Iqbal,- ‘Asrar-e-Khudi’ (Secrets of the Self), a philosophical poetry book published in 1915, and Rumuz-i-Bekhudi (Secrets of Selflessness) released in 1917.

A person is best when s/he struggles against his/her individual nature. Fighting for life, Franz Kafka studied existentialism and many of his stories, including ‘The Metamorphosis’, revolves around this school of philosophy. Metamorphosis is a story about Gregor Samsa who one day wakes up and realises that he has turned into a bug. Kafka uses existentialism through Gregor’s consequences and struggles in dealing with being a bug, mainly as a metaphoric symbol of his lack of humanity. The instance when his father, Mr Samsa, wounds him by throwing an apple has a great significance in itself that I specifically would like to bring forth.

Apple is a metaphor for wisdom that makes us distinguish between good and bad. In the garden of the paradise. Adam and Eve were allowed to eat the fruit from any tree except the fruit of the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. But since their temptation by the evil made them eat the forbidden fruit; they were exiled from the garden of the paradise. Therefore, an apple may also signify the beginning of an exile or suffering.
Similarly, when an apple hit Gregor, it struck him like a sudden realisation from within. And since the entire family was dependent on Gregor, earning money by working in a job that he doesn’t like was as bad as an exile. “By the apple, your eyes shall be opened;” and their eyes opened too. Gregor realised that his life has certainly changed now. He is different from what he was before. A burdensome, horrible, and verminous creature. And after he is locked in his room all alone, he tries to rebuild the identity that he had sacrificed by living only for others and ignoring his wants and needs. His search for identity seems to be a hapless journey, mostly because he never had an identity of his own. Isn’t that like with most of us?

The apple stays on Gregor’s back, even after his death which depicts the truth, a new identity created by his family. As Gregor approaches death, the apple becomes a burden to him, because he realises he cannot do anything for the family anymore. An apple grows and rots, as the fruit symbolises both knowledge and its result in this case. The decaying fruit implies how the knowledge of his new life and identity also leads Gregor to the ugliness of this situation. A giant cockroach understands a reality which he does not want to face; his family wants him out of the house.

There are fruits of sins and fruits of revenge. As in William Blake’s ‘A Poison Tree’, the apple does not represent the fruit of wisdom. It is a fruit of revenge.

Consuming the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden may be the sin, but now, it is not. If a man does not gain wisdom and discover their own insights, their life will be a tree without any apples, which is meaningless. The sole purpose gets lost. Similarly, the story of that particular man will be like a diary without any entries.

Allama Iqbal, the popular poet of the 19th century, had the extent of Homer, the philosophy of Dante, the flight of Milton, and the depth of Shakespeare. ‘Khudi’ is one of the key themes in Iqbal’s most of the poetries. The term Khudi means ‘self’. This is the beauty of poetry that even a single verse is so deep; depending on what one wants and how s/he understands. Iqbal could do magic by conveying the message in short verses, something that writers and thinkers like Shakespeare did through their lengthy plays and books.

To understand the writings of Iqbal, one has to be a firm believer in god and believe that destiny plays a significant role in one’s life. No doubt, God has power over everything. But man’s efforts are also rewarded. If one’s intentions are pure, destiny can be changed by selfless prayers and with God’s mercy. The feeling of self is heightened as man’s spiritual journey progresses to the extent that man can explore his true power and understand his purpose in the world. Khudi is similar to the word ‘Ruh’, as mentioned in Qur’an.  Something divine that is present in each one of us as it was in Adam for which God ordered all his creation to bow. However, it depends on us how we cultivate ourselves to realise that hidden spark within us; Khudi.

One can understand the idea of self and the concept of identity like a seed; every seed has the potential to grow and transform into a tree. But, to become a fruitful tree, it has to go through various processes; withstand harsh conditions, break the ground, absorb light, meanwhile, hold itself tight with strong roots and let the shoot come out. Only then, after passing all the stages with the utmost strength, it bears the fruit. Similarly, Iqbal encourages us to travel multiple stages of the spiritual path, which he experienced, to reach to one’s Khudi. However, one thing to note here is that not all seeds turn out to be trees that bear fruits. Likewise, not all can do a scholar in a specific field. Most of us may or may not complete our schooling even. Only few may cross all the hurdles of materialism in them and reach the Mount Everest of spirituality.

The aim of our life should be the self-realisation and self-knowledge, if we all want to live in peace and harmony irrespective of any caste, religion, sex or creed.  We can, indeed. But the question is; do we want to?

Ending with a quote by Iqbal;

“Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud puche bata teri raza kya hai”


You must be to comment.

More from Wamick

Similar Posts

By nipun tickoo

By Priya Prakash

By sakshi upadhyay

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below