Is this not the most eternal, existential question which human beings have been asking for ages? Many philosophers and religions have attempted to answer this question in their own way. I can not even dream of competing with the profound knowledge of the scriptures and philosophies when it comes to demystifying this question. 

I, however, would like to humbly answer this question by analysing different roles which each one of us is expected to play through our lives. For this purpose, I have tried to use a popular corporate structure of a holding company with different subsidiaries. Using this model, I have tried to understand the concept of a conglomerate called “I”; and to see how we can maintain a balance between different roles expected of us.


Let me take my own example. I am known amongst my friends and family as HK. Does HK define me completely? Answer is obviously “No” (after all Shakespeare said “What’s in a name?”). It is just a name assigned to me.

Now let me treat “HK” as a Holding Company which has many fully owned subsidiaries. Some of these could be:

  • HK as an individual – the body and the soul
  • HK as a member of his nuclear family
  • HK as a member of the extended family
  • HK as a professional
  • HK as an earning member
  • HK as a friend to his circle of friends
  • HK as a member of the society
  • And so on and on…………..

Each of these subsidiaries can have their own secondary level of subsidiaries. For example, the subsidiary called – “HK as a member of the extended family” – can have second level subsidiaries like – HK as a son, HK as a brother and so on.


  • Each subsidiary has certain needs and demands from the Holding Company. It needs the Holding Company to provide certain resources (time, attention, financial resources, behavioural resources). 
  • Holding company has to lay down rules, systems, and expectations from each subsidiary.
  • Simultaneously, each subsidiary also lays down its own rules, expectations from the Holding Company.
  • More often than not, there are conflicting demands and expectations from the Holding Company, and it needs to maintain a careful and delicate balance between these demands to ensure that no subsidiary turns sick due to paucity of resources and attention.
  • At different points in the life cycle of the Holding Company, one or another subsidiary may become more important. For example, in the age 25 to 60, the subsidiary called – “HK as an earning member” – may become dominant and may require disproportionate resources.
  • Different subsidiaries have different life cycles and longevity. For example, the subsidiary called – “HK as an individual – the body and the soul” – is there for the whole life of HK, from birth to death. Whereas the subsidiary called – “HK as an earning member”- will generally have a finite life span; often, smaller than that of – “HK as an individual – the body and the soul”.


Let us now look at some of the more important subsidiaries

  • HK as an individual – the body and the soul

This is the longest surviving subsidiary – from our birth to the end of our lives. It is also the most important subsidiary as it significantly affects the health of all other subsidiaries. However, very often, we do not invest enough resources in it. We also, perhaps unconsciously, give a lower priority to this subsidiary. Our work pressures, family, and relationship pressures (which are more Urgent) take precedence, leading to neglect of this subsidiary (which is more Important). We feel that we can always attend to this subsidiary whenever we have time after solving other pressing and urgent problems. Result is that this subsidiary receives only residual time and attention and is often not in the best of the health. By the time we take care of “urgent” issues, it could be  too late to fully revive this important subsidiary. 

My advice to all youngsters is to devote at least one to two hours every day for their own Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual wellbeing. If we understand and realise the importance of this, we can always find those 2 hours in a day of 24 hours. They will go a long way in having a healthy “I”. Not only this, it will also have a highly positive and visible effect on other subsidiaries. (Remember the safety announcement in a flight – “in case of loss of Oxygen pressure, please first wear your own mask so that you can  then help others”)

Some of the important and regular activities for this could be  – exercise, walking, yoga, meditation, pranayam, reading good books, listening to spiritual talks, keenly observing happenings around us and taking some time out for reflecting on these, deriving some learnings and meanings from them, enhancing knowledge and skill set. All these, if done regularly with full focus, will certainly be helpful in building a stronger and healthier “HK as an individual – the body and the soul”

  • HK as a member of his nuclear family

This perhaps is going to be the next longest surviving subsidiary. Yet its health is often taken for granted. It is also a victim of all the pressures and demands of other subsidiaries. We can witness many cases around us where, supposedly very successful persons, are left with not so happy family relationships. This subsidiary requires a lot of handholding initially (responsibilities towards partner, children) and a constant stream of the resource called Time. In addition, emotional connect, empathy, love and caring attitude, openness, honesty, quality time together, are a few of the other resources which can keep this subsidiary healthy. 

  • HK as an earning member

Most of us identify our lives with this important, but transient, subsidiary. Undoubtedly, this subsidiary gives us valuable resources like money and an identity in society. Any new person we meet, wants to know “where do you work” and a hidden (unasked) question is about designation and money earned. The resources generated by this subsidiary are utilized for the betterment of other subsidiaries. Hence it is undoubtedly a very important subsidiary.  

But, with time, we get extremely attached to this subsidiary. Often, we fail to notice its negative effect on other subsidiaries. The Power and “importance” we earn from this subsidiary become so overbearing that we lose a sense of proportion. Instead of our Job being a subsidiary, we ourselves become a subsidiary of the Job. As a result, our other subsidiaries start getting deprived of the attention, time and resources, which legitimately belong to them. I have seen many senior executives feeling lost when they retire from their official position. They suddenly find that what they considered as  their “most important subsidiary” is gone and they are left with other subsidiaries which are undernourished. 


Yesterday, when I was  inundated with warm wishes, on my 74th birthday,  from a large number of my friends and family, I realised all the more that  the need for efficient and prudent resource allocation to different subsidiaries is an important need for a balanced life. Investment in my ‘individual’ subsidiary means I can still go for a hike with my daughter, or talk science with my granddaughter. Investment in the subsidiary of friends means I am reaping rich dividends of beautiful friendships and companionship at this age. And taking care of an extended family subsidiary means I have so many children who still seek my advice and come running to help me with anything I might need. 

Alas, many of us learn this the hard way when very little time is left for corrective actions. My only hope and wish is that the younger generation becomes more aware of these multiple subsidiaries and is able to balance their needs.

We have to move from “or” to “and” in different spheres of our life.

4 thoughts on “WHO AM I ?

  1. Dear H K I am blown away by this concept … there are multiple layers of wisdom and very practical pointers on allocation of our resources … mostly time and emotions . Fabulous , H K 👏🙏


  2. HK ,

    Such a wonderful N dimensional frame work, yet so easily explained – and string has from the heart. Bravo my friend
    you have given so much to think about. Thank you.🙏



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