I have a group of inmortal monsters hunters that were given immortality by a supreme entity at different times and places, they’re a Altai woman from Russia in the 16th Century, a pilot from the Indian-British (Kamma caste) army in WW2 and a Indigenous Querandie woman from Argentina during the Independence Period. I wanted all of them to have different backstories that go into the baggage of inmortality, would that be too close to being an identity story? Would I have to touch on colonialism?
Baggage of immortality story - is this an identity story & should I address colonialism?
Yes. You would have to discuss colonialism for your pilot. Unless your Indian character died before European forces showed up in India, colonialism is going to affect many aspects of their life. At a bare minimum, colonialism will affect the history of their family and much of their life during World War II (Thanks Britain!).
Identity narrative: potential issues, reincarnation, purusartha and attaining moksha
I suppose delving into the internal consequences of immortality could be a lead-in for an identity story, but I can’t really picture how one would go about doing so. I am also unsure why/ if this is something to be avoided. I can only note that if the Indian character believes strongly in reincarnation, there might be a bit of an existential crisis in being effectively blocked from reincarnation and perhaps attaining moksha. Although. If one lives forever, they also have a very long time to strive for moksha as well, so maybe that doesn’t matter…
There’s a variety of ways you could go about it.
First off, you could delve into their understanding of the purusartha (4 aims of life), and what they choose to pursue from
- dharma (moral values & righteousness),
- artha (prosperity & economic values),
- kama (pleasure, love, psychological values), and
- moksha (spiritual liberation & enlightenment) given that they’re now living as an immortal.
I agree with Marika that placing the focus on the character’s belief in reincarnation could bring up some internal conflict regarding moksha and striving for it. There are many paths to moksha, and many ways you can approach their perspective.
You could focus on dharma and your character’s karma given the context that they will not break from the cycle of birth and rebirth, so any action they take, right or wrong, will not affect their next life.
You could focus on jnana, and discuss whether your character seeks the knowledge that springs from it amidst the rest of their circumstances, knowing that they have the opportunity to learn from many people and achieve a state of spiritual understanding unlike that of previous philosophy.
You could focus on bhakti and how the ‘supreme entity’ interacts with their previous beliefs, as well as whether they continue their devotion in the face of their life as it is now. There’s much more that I haven’t mentioned, but these are some of the base concepts.
In short, you have options for what your pilot’s ‘baggage’ is. In terms of an identity narrative, if what you’re trying to avoid is making your story exclusively about how their immortality affects them in relation to their cultures, you can do that by writing how they’ve rationalized it into their background as a part of their character rather than as specific plot points. I’ll note that identity narratives aren’t necessarily a bad thing; if your worry is that you will misrepresent these cultures and the individual’s understanding of them, the only answer I have for you is to do research and be respectful.
Addressing colonialism, cont.
The short answer is yes, colonialism must be included.
The longer answer would be to consider: how can a plot that hinges on time-specific elements (different characters in different timelines, the concept of immortality) work effectively without contextualising the pilot’s backstory? While mod Abhaya has already covered the identity narrative question, I would also like to point out, by very virtue of your character’s ethnicity + the fact that she serves in the military at the time of WW2 (1930s-40s, when Indian independence and resistance movements were at their very peak), colonialism is inextricably tied to the storyline, and even if it doesn’t affect her directly (which is unlikely) at this point in Indian politics it would be pretty impossible for an individual to not have a sizeable aspect of their life shaped by it.
- Mod Mimi
*Note: I would also like to add that the participation of Indian soldiers in British WW2 forces was a very controversial political issue at the time, with several notable parties (including the INC) having conflicting opinions over such recruitments. I suggest more rigorous research, if you are planning to go through with this particularly tumultuous era as a backdrop.