A friend of mine used to say "In Pakistan the phrase 'do you know who I am?' should be read as 'do you know who I think I am?'"

Falsehood has crept so deeply into our society that we can't even stop lying to ourselves. The lie of who we think we are gets so distorted with time that even we lose track of who we actually are.

The false persona that we create about ourselves is necessary in a society where one constantly has to oversell one's self to stay relevant. A society which focuses on optics more than substance; a society in which appearing a certain way is more important than being that way. But all these fake facades leave our egos extremely vulnerable. The persona that we create needs to be kept in extensive care -- even a slight whiff of truth can be fatal for who we think we are, and we don't want to know that we are not what we think we are.

I see that all around me irrespective of profession, age, colour, gender and background. The fierce protection of our alter-egos. I see it on roads when our alter-ego of Micheal Schumacher refuses to accept that someone can overtake us. I see it in offices when perfectly nice people conspire against their colleagues to somehow protect their own alter ego of 'best worker'. I see it in colleges when an argument turns into a physical altercation because the alter-ego of Aristotle couldn't tolerate being outwitted. I can see it in the broken arms of underage domestic help, who inadvertently made the alter-ego of Raja Inder question the validity of their arrogance.

But what happened yesterday at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology should be a wake up call for all of us. We all saw the overwhelming power of the death of the collective alter-ego of lawyers. Don't get me wrong. Some of the best people I know are lawyers, some of my best friends are lawyers. I am talking about the fake persona that the black coat has come to represent now. The persona which forces a perfectly nice person to not wear a seat belt and refuse to accept a challan because of who he is made to think he is once he is in that black coat. The alter-ego of Goliath, which couldn't sustain a slight from the video of an unknown young doctor addressing his colleagues. Defending the fake persona became so important that the human inside forgot that it was human to begin with. The black coat successfully killed the last strain of humanity in those donning it, to attack and fiercely protect the alter ego. We didn't comprehend the full horrors of collective fragile egos being challenged when they burned Joseph Colony, maybe because it was away from cameras, or maybe because the victims were not worthy of our empathy. But this time we felt the pain differently. This death of ego resulted in a blazing asteroid that hit too close to home.

Sadly, even this debacle couldn't change our mentality of "us and them". We still think we can get away by blaming a profession, by discussing the symptoms and ignoring the real issue, and accepting that we are all a hostage to the alternate reality we have created on the shifting sands of lies.

It's high time that as a society we start looking inward and break free of the toxic effects of striving to appear pious rather than being pious.

Let's all take a lesson from this and never forget who we really are, not let our alter-egos command us. For when it's challenged, the lies won't defend it, and it will require the sacrifice of our humanity to protect itself. We are the first victim, so let's be kind to ourselves and let's be honest. Stop judging someone who sins differently, stop forcing people to adopt fake personas to be invited to dinner. Stop telling yourself and others around you that they have to be a fake persona to be even accepted by the society. Stop being the log from the phrase: "log kia kahen gai?"

Let's build up our egos on solid foundations, on our traits -- not on the traits we think we have because we are made to believe we need to have them to be "accepted". Trust me when the foundation of your ego is strong, it won't need such inhumane acts to protect itself. The ego will be protected by the virtue of truth, not by the virtue of violence. Being rejected by a girl won't shatter our alter-ego of Sharukh Khan and turn us into acid-throwing lunatics to teach a lesson. Being fired from a job won't send us into the depths of depression and anxiety. Being slighted by an act of road rage won't turn us into street fighters. Let's build our egos and truth and let's release ourselves from the prison of fake personas we all live in as a society. 

So next time you find yourself asking "do you know who I think I am?" Stop and check whether you are being a victim of your own alter-ego. Let's all start trying to escape this trap of thinking as we step into a new decade.