My Choice

John Steinbeck, in his typical profound manner, tells us: ” the Hebrew word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not’.” (emphasis added). How well this captures the entire journey of our life!! It is always a struggle between “thou mayest” and “thou mayest not” and the final choice that we make in a given circumstance. Truly the choices that we make, make us!!!

Imagine that fateful day, when young Narendra decided that he must meet someone who has “met God” and was in search of such a Guru. On reaching Dakshineshwar he asked  “Have you seen or experienced God?”. The fateful reply of Ramakrishna,”Yes, I have seen God. I see Him as I see you here, only more clearly. God can be seen. … If one cries sincerely for God, one can surely see Him.”. Bewildered and puzzled, Narendra returned to Calcutta, but  was convinced the words sprung from deep inner experiences. So he returned to meet Ramakrishna again and again; till he was transformed into Swami Vivekanada. Advaita Vedantism owes a great debt to that fateful meeting and of course to Vivekananda’s decision to go to the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893. His speech there ” Sisters and Brothers of America, It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise…” changed the course of seeing Hinduism as the religion of true tolerance and universal acceptance.

Or take the case of Gandhi. When travelling to Pretoria, with a legitimate First Class ticket, he was thrown off the train on the instigation of a white man. Instead of fleeing the scene, Gandhi stayed back for 21 years to fight for Indians in Africa. Gandhi’s travails at Pietermaritzburg railway station was akin to a second birth.  It was said: “When Gandhi was evicted from the train, an Indian visiting South Africa fell but when Gandhi rose, an Indian South African rose.” The aborted train journey finally took Gandhi far beyond Pretoria!! His concepts of peaceful resistance were born from his choice of not accepting injustice. This in turn would shape his entire Nonviolence and Satyagraha philosophy which gave India its freedom from the British; while till then “Sun never set on the British Empire” The first blow to that superstructure was in Peitermaritzburg;  finding its resonance in the birth of India, Pakistan, Australia,  Kenya,  and so many other countries’ independence. (Sotto voce: we must locate and thank the white man who objected to Gandhi’s presence in the train compartment!!) General Smuts put it well:”men like Mahatma Gandhi redeem us from a sense of commonplace and futility and are an inspiration to us not to weary in well doing”. Truly, to do or not to do:  it is our choice!!!

Jawaharlal Nehru’s approach on Article 370 and  J&K; his actions and decisions in the China War in 1962 were bereft of his genial Chacha Nehru lover of children and roses image.  His choices at that time shape our present day actions vis-a-vis J&K as well as China.

Indira Gandhi’s Declaration of Emergency in 1975 gives many great examples of choices altering the course of history. The split of the hoary Congress that Indira engineered in 1969 – Congress(O) and Congress(R) – were the beginning of her megalomania. Riding on the back of populist measures like Nationalisation of Banks & Abolition of Privy Purses, Indira got a catchy slogan of Garibi Hatao to pilot a thumping majority in Parliament in 1971 elections. This fueled her greed for power even more. Newly anointed with Bharat Ratna, Indira won a war against Pakistan, freeing Bangla Desh. She started dominating the judiciary after the Kesavanada Bharti case and cases against the 24th Amendment not going her preferred way. Challenges began with Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat and agitation of Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti under the leadership of Jaiprakash Narayan(JP).  Ignoring the assassination of Railway Minister LN Mishra or the ruthless suppression of the Railway Strike by Indira only showed her decisions/choices progressively becoming undemocratic and totalitarian. The final straw was the Allahabad High Court decision finding her guilty of misusing governmental machinery in her campaigning, declaring her election null and void, unseating her from the Lok Sabha. When the Supreme Court also upheld the HC decision, strikes swept the country in trade, students and government unions. Indira’s choice and decision was to get a compliant President sign on a Proclamation of Emergency.

Even a simple recounting of these events shows the number of fork points and decisions ingrained in the choices made by all actors in this drama. We can  conjecture many, many “what-if” scenarios. There will be no definitive answers to questions like what-if Raj Narain had not challenged her election; what-if the HC judge had not ruled against Indira; what-if SC had overturned the HC decision; what-if JP and Nav Nirman movements had remained dormant; what-if SS Ray had refused to prepare the note recommending declaring  Emergency; what-if Sanjay Gandhi had not implemented forcible sterilizations… Questions, questions, questions. But you get the point I am driving at. Our lives are shaped by choices: choices that we make and choices that others around us make.

On a purely personal plane: I was always enamored with English Literature. Wanted to study and then teach English as a career. When I chose Humanities everyone advised me my life would be ruined. I would live to regret the wrong choice I was making.  Then came a time when there was a choice to shift to studying Psychology and specializing in Organizational Psychology. After that my career aspiration became teaching Psychology. Soon life presented another choice: IIM Calcutta. Having cleared entrance exams with difficulty,  I chose to study Personnel Management & Industrial Relations(PMIR) in IIMC!! Again I faced ridicule and disbelief since my choice was not Systems or Marketing or Finance in the proverbial melting pot of IIMC. I chose PMIR as it would add value to my psycho background. Today my choices have made me: a service oriented professional, happy building other’s careers and coaching them to succeed. I am what my choices have made me.

My final take is destiny is not predetermined; it is a matter of choices we make. Think of Vivekanada restlessly asking to see God. Think of Gandhi emerging stronger from his fall in Peitermaritzburg. We shape and create our life, and our future, through our choices. Indira’s death was also shaped by her choices. Richard Bach put it beautifully: “we are free to choose a different future: or even a different past”.  Think about that.

Let me end with the philosopher of philosophers Aristotle: “Excellence is never an accident… it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

Robert Frost sang beautifully: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
… long I stood;  And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

So friends make your choices wisely: and walk the road less travelled: vikas

 

37 Replies to “My Choice”

  1. True KK. My main submission is to accept responsibility and take action. Do not pretend to be at the receiving end od destiny. You owe it to yourself to exercise some charge

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  2. I agree with the ideology that you have so beautifully presented here sir, and this very idea forms one of life’s biggest conundrums to the over-thinkers among us.

    From the glimpses into your life, that your blog provides, I believe that you are a decisive person. I will attempt to portray the perspective of one who isn’t.

    My taste in books and my penchant for analysing situations from all perspectives might have made me a more understanding and a less judgmental person, but consequently it has also resulted in my being a very indecisive one. I get stymied by even the tiniest decisions I am faced with, because after analysing the pros and cons of all the routes the decision splits my path into, the choice for me isn’t as simple as stacking them one against the other, but rather it involves considering their effect on my life along with that of others around, evaluating the probabilities of them occurring and also their moral implications. Phew! One can imagine the quagmire this makes of my head. The awareness of my inexperience plays its own role in the equation and makes me more susceptible to external influence. The more time I spend in this state, the less clarity I have. With all this chaotic roiling in the mind, the temptation of letting life run its course without mucking my hands in the decision making, or at least procrastinating the decision making, is very strong. It would certainly be lot more easier if I could “murder the alternative”, but Chaos theory (Butterfly effect) keeps me from doing that in clear conscience (what if I murder the wrong butterfly?!).

    I could be called a coward for this thought process, but here’s a question – Do our choices make us? Or do we make them? Was Gandhi who he was because of the train incident? Or would he have reacted similarly in another incident? I think it is the balance in the symbiotic nature of these questions that forms the solution to this conundrum.

    To be or not to be…

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      1. You have raised absolutely the correct issue made famous by the soliloquy in the “nunnery scene” in Hamlet when the Prince says ” To be, or not to be, that is the question:
        Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
        The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
        Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
        And by opposing end them:”
        we lesser mortals are in perpetuity on the horns of this existential dilemma. Even the decisive fools like me agonize every minute wondering whether did the right thing, made the appropriate choice OR we should have let destiny take its course?
        the latter at least absolves you of the moral responsibility of choosing one path, a alternative
        So sometimes cooperating with the inevitable may be to let nature runs its course
        while other times it is better t cast off into the raging sea and trust your seamanship and boatsman’ skills
        I do not think one route is ab initio better than the other
        my only submission is: even when you hold yourself back, and do not act : that is a choice!
        when you jump in: that is another choice
        In either case do not be passive spectator, influence what you can, shape your destiny and ride the consequences

        Many thanks for your long comment
        I has indeed raised some very relevant points
        in this game there is no one right answer
        To each his own
        So as God said to Noah : Go forth and multiply…

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  3. Well articulated Sir. The difference is in our choice of letting things happen OR making them happen. The later gives us choice in our hands while the former gives choice to someone else to decide for us.

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  4. Beautifully expressed Vikas. In one of the companies that I worked in we asked a batch of 600 trainers as to why they joined the Company and also what dictated their choice. The surprising finding was that a majority of them joined only because we were the first company on the campus and that we had selected them. Further it was found that whether it was schooling or Engineering or even the branch of engineering they never made a proactive and conscious choice. It was a passive choice dictated by the context and trends at that time. Needless to say, we changed our entire induction and assimilation to teach them to make considered and conscious choices. Many of us are in this boat trudging along and let circumstances decide. The other is to be aware of what choosing means in terms of what is therefore not being chosen and the consequences thereof.

    You have articulated it so beautifully.

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    1. VJ my friend thanks for sharing this experience. It is really eyeopening.
      I am reminded of my maternal uncle who would take us to fancy restaurants and ask us what we want to order/eat. If we said”anything” he used to say “that is not on the menu. You have to order something specific” He always encouraged informed choice and reminded us ” in our time no one evr asked us as children what you want” If I am asking you you cant say anything….choose”
      Re circumstances/destiny/unwilling choices: I only want to say- even these we need to own and make “our choice” if we dont we will never take the emergent situation to heart. We will always think of the road not taken: and we will end up being neither here nor there.
      Fortunately today’s youngsters are more vocal. and as seniors our effort must be to get them to exercise choice. While being put out at sea may be my destiny: what I choose to do after that determines my future. I can be a boatsman and ride the seas. Or I can give up and go under. Again a choice!!!!

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  5. Beautifully written… as always… 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼
    Totally agree that who we are and who we will be (or will not be) is decided by a series of choices…
    … mostly our own, and of people who influence our lives closely; but sometimes even those we come across for the briefest of times…

    Was reminded of a beautiful concept movie “The butterfly effect” based on chaos theory in mathematics…
    … which goes on to show (in a theatrical way, of course) the huge impact/ difference in the lives of 5-6 kids down the line due to small variations in a single action in their childhood.
    But the movie leaves behind an interesting message: We often ruminate and romanticise on the choices not taken, and keep wondering (mostly ruefully) where they’d have led to. Well, if we really had a way to extrapolate our lives again along the choices not taken, we may not really like the results or get what we had hoped.

    “What-if” is a double-edged sword, much like alcohol. In moderation, it’s a pretty nice romantic entertaining thought, that can fuel on our inner creativity. In excess, it carries the potential of ruining your present day and reality.
    Instead of questioning in hindsight the choices we’ve made, it’s wiser (and easier) to accept them by saying, “If it felt right at that point, it is right.”
    Kinda in line with one of the previous blogs re: your father’s teaching of “Murder the alternative”, if I may say so.

    Gosh, it’s been such a long post already, and don’t know how far I’ve drifted from the original message. Well, I now have a choice to make: erase it all and write a simple “Nice share” type of comment instead…
    … or to keep it as it is, thereby leaving you the choice to see if it’s relevant and edit accordingly.

    Either way, an excellent thought and thanks for sharing!!! 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

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    1. Ameya
      great ponts . Well expressed. Logically presented.
      Little brother ( not so little any longer) you have given me a complex. What can I write after this?
      you have put it so well
      the fluency is admirable
      You must blog my brother.

      Thanks fr not editing and posting a “nice share”
      your long post shows your care for me
      and your thoughts on the subject add to the debate

      I remember seeing the “Butterfly Effect” and have done some preliminary reading of the mathematical Chaos Theory.
      But it scared me off.
      I want to still keep man at the center of the universe
      and think and believe that what ever we do has an impact (much like what Chaos theory says actually)
      only sometimes we do not understand the linkages and “dhage dore” or the “runanubandh” which binds all that is happening.

      what if is a legit form of analysis and gives us implications of our actions/choices in the near future. But what i am objecting to is the sheer agonizing people do on spilled milk or as they say is Marathi “maushi la mishya astya tar”. There certainly Baba’s advice of Murdering the alternative puts you back in the game facing the future and moving on.

      Thanks for your comments. and keep the love flowing. Feel good to genrate such responses.
      love vikas dada

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      1. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! Height of modesty, the part about giving you a complex… no way, Sir!
        All your posts plus the discussions that follow are thoroughly enjoyable, enriching… and heartfelt!

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  6. Beautifully written weaving significant events in Indian politics and history.
    It evoked feelings of patriotism on the eve of our 70th Independence year. Absolutely agree that we are today because of the choices we made yesterday and they define us and our journey through life. Although we are free to make whatever choice we want, we are “not” free from the consequences of the choice!
    Remembered the 3 C’s of life as preached by Buddhism- CHOICES, CHANCES CHANGES. You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. And the eternal question “is my choice right or wrong”? will always linger…….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deepa
      thanks a lot for your kind words
      You have been encouraging me on every blog and that has become quite important and heartening for me to read
      keep posting so that I am motivated to keep writing

      Very frankly I had not realized the closeness of the Independence Day
      but when you said it I realized that the detailed explanation I wrote of the events preceding and around the Emergency were more to remind people of my generation of what a bot that Emergency was on our democracy
      the newer generation on the Social Media may not even know what actually happenned
      no of events which could have gone either way bear reminding ourselves to make the right choices always

      the 3 Cs of Buddhism are a nice summation of the entire 1100+ words of the blog. On reading this Choices Chances & Changes formula I had the feeling: I wish I had said that. “You must make a choice to take a chance of your life will never change”. This is such a prophetic sentence which captures the wisdom of the ages.
      Your post and some other comments make me realize that there is so much wisdom out there. I wish there was some way to collaborate and co-write these pieces as am sure the writing will be embellished and richer by including thoughts like these

      Thanks for your comments and your continued encouragement
      I got so late into blogging
      and I felt I write for myself
      but with such good debates on the topic I realize I also write to learn some new perspectives
      thanks for adding value to me

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      1. Your words are too kind and coming from a person with an unparalleled sea of knowledge and experience, I’m touched. All your articles are so relateable and delve into various facets of life, living and human behavior; that it is difficult to refrain from commenting. The diverse comments and richness of your replies has enrichened and widened my thought processes. So, thank you, keep writing and enlightening me.

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      2. Thanks a lot Deepa. I am glad my writing is finding a good readership and adding value to others. I am a great believer in the power of dialogue and so this medium is enabling me to say what I want. and then listen to what others say. all in all a mutually enriching process. I will continue to write till I have something relevant to say. And look to my wellwishers to encourage and keep me on the path.

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  7. It is really nice sir!!! You find the best way to explain the point. Great learning….. and direction to the way to excwptional success by choosing less used path. Waiting for next one ….

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    1. Thanks Vishal. I try to make it practical and easy to understand as I am a simple fool at hear. Really appreciate words of encouragement. Keep them coming and I promise to keep blogging. ( Naya mussalmaan jo hun: kuch jyada hi namaz padhunga)

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  8. Well written. Our important decisions play a major part in finally making us who we are and also shaping the world around us. Depending on who makes what decision, history is impacted.

    Also interesting is the “why” behind a decision. Maybe one more blog? 🙂

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    1. Can’t agree more Amit. Sometimes our life appears a series of hits and misses. But what you cant run away from is that you are responsible for everything in your life. I have a qyuarrel with : I had no choice. What could i do? Possibilities always abound.
      that really brings the other great point you make. The “why”. Freud said most imp decisons in life are intuitive/unconscious. Skinner and the Rationalists feel it is “logic” : though there may not be one logic acceptable to all. Ratinal Emotive Theory posits a combination. Indeed that aremultiple ways to reach Allah. As you said another blog perhaps.
      You take care

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  9. Interesting. I liked the informative examples given. The acceptance of choice also makes it easier to carry on despite success or failure. All in all an important topic well drafted

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    1. Thanks a tn Preeti. Your feedback is important. So hanke for taking the time to comment.
      I got a feedback from a close friend that the Indira Gandhi example is little too long. I too felt so. But I still left it untouched as people in my generation need to be reminded of the many twists and turns the Emergency story took. The younger generation has to know the possible abyss ahead if we do not exercise choices we have and take the easy way out. I really cannot reconcile a senior politician like Siddhrath Shankar Ray actually drafting a note for declaring Emergency to counter JP and Nav Nirman. Raj Narain was a joker in the pack but he made a place for himself in history due to his choice.
      You recollect the Laxman cartoon at that time when Fakruddin Ali Ahmed as the then President is in the tub bath and objects when Indira enters the bathroom with an ordinance to sign: ” Could this not have waited till i finish my bath?”.he indignantly asks. And then signs!!!!
      Justice Krishna Iyer of SC showing the supreme courage and exercising the choice of upholding the Allahabad HC judgement.
      as a student of human behaviour I am intrigued and enthralled. Thanks for following my journey and my dilemmas

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  10. Very true sir.. like you say ‘the choices you make determine your future’. Do you also believe that the choices made are probably the right ones in that circumstance. The maturity lies in course correcting rightly at the right time- if required. Here the ‘what if’ questions could be used more for paving the future path..
    What’s your take on this ??

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    1. Suresh I agree 100%. When we make a choice of course we believe what we are doing is the best in that given situation.But keeping an eye open; seeking feedback and course corrections mid term will make a difference between the successful and the “also ran”s.
      What if as a form of analysis and evaluation of alternatives is great. But after a decision is taken a choice made: Then move forward without a backward glance. If you go on agonizing “what if” after the decision is taken then your strategy is bound to fail. My objection to what if is only let that not distract you from a cosen path.

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  11. Nice articulation, thought provoking. Strongly guides one to make choices for his / her career, achievement, happiness.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Sanjay Aphale

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    1. Sanjay ji
      You are more than kind.
      If I have planted some questions and thoughts in the reader’s mind I have achieved my purpose.
      I think if we understand options and make right choices we would not only be happy but also spread much happiness and peace all around.
      Do keep reading and encouraging me
      vikibaba joker

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  12. Brilliant blog yet again Sir ||
    We are what we want to be or what we have worked towards ….. In the process of what we want and what we are going to make of ourselves we certainly will go at times on the wrong side of choices that comes our ways and that I believe is human…. But to realise those mistakes and move ahead and achieve is life,..

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    1. Nikhil
      Yes Sachin as the best batsman in the world does not hit a century each and every time he comes out to bat. He is evaluated on his batting averakge and strike rate which have to be positive and show a trend of consisteny and improvement.
      None of us were given a “Manual of Life”. We are searching for solutions and moving ahead heuristically.. As we play the game of life let us all look on it positively and seek to make a contribution to our family/team/nation. Overall if the bartting average is positive: enjoy the journey and dont let the coule of missed shots or early wickets bring you down.

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  13. By this blog post, you probably meant taking the road less travelled or the unpopular option. But I interpreted it literally in that my choices make me what I am today – they may be misguided, popular, unpopular, made under duress or helplessness etc.

    I feel the most important choices people make are about education, values/integrity, life partner and career. These really mould their personalities and create an identity. It’s most important to give adequate thought to these during one’s life, but most people spend unnessecary time in deciding what to eat, what to cook, what to wear, buy, say, watch etc. It’s such a waste of “my choice”.

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  14. By this blog post, you probably meant taking the road less travelled or the unpopular option. But I interpreted it literally in that my choices make me what I am today – they may be misguided, popular, unpopular, made under duress or helplessness etc.

    I feel the most important choices people make are about education, values/integrity, life partner and career. These really mould their personalities and create an identity. It’s most important to give adequate thought to these during one’s life, but most people spend unnessecary time in deciding what to eat, what to cook, what to wear, buy, say, watch etc. It’s such a waste of “my choice”.

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    1. Nilambari
      i drafted and I thought posted a reply to your and VNM comment last night. I find both missing now.
      I did get a message of internet connectivity dropping off. But now I see my replies have not got saved. Making the effort again. Hope this one gets thru.

      When I said road less traveled I did not mean popularity or unpopularity. I am talking of just one traveler- myself. So what I thought was “road less traveled” is actually out of my comfort zone; something that stretches me into the deep dark beyond. As against doing something familiar. Sticking to the known road. Not taking risks. In moth situations you need to walk the road ahead. So do you go there happily and in a learning mode? Or do you grieve and complaint all the time. Not enjoying the road and the journey you are on. But all the time wondering what the other road would have een like. The choice is yours!

      All our choices shape us : whether taken after thought and accepted OR taken willy nilly. I cannot pick up one end of the stick. The second part gets lifted automatically. With choices it is similar.

      Education and marriage is of course choices which have long term implications. Seeing a movie of making a restaurant choice do not have those long term impacts.

      But your behavior and mindset in both can make a huge difference. in the way the whole thing plays out. My main thesis is : Take charge. Accept responsibility. And be answerable for your choices.

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  15. “we are free to choose a different future: or even a different past”.
    Excellent Piece Sir…Just 1 or 2 questions…
    1.What if circumstances and not you decide your choices?
    2.What if there is conflict of opinions between you and your closed ones regarding choices you are gonna make with your life…How to manage those situations…?

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    1. VNM
      i drafted and I thought posted a reply to your and Nilambari’s ( my sister in law) comment last night. I find both missing now.
      I did get a message of internet connectivity dropping off. But now I see my replies have not got saved. Making the effort again. Hope this one gets thru

      re #1 I feel you always have a choice. Sometimes the choice is to co-operate with the inevitable ( Padtya falachi aadnya” as we say in marathi). I say that is a choice as you can fight that and make yourself and others around you miserable because life is not going the way you want it to. So accepting what is happening is a choice. Your response to that is another choice.
      I am always on the side of free will and choices. And feel many times we use “mai kya kar sakta tha?” and the external circs as an excuse. Finally it is your life. And you have to be in control. Or at least post facto take control. Of actions and their consequences.

      re#2: this is a more difficult one as Family and emotions are involved. Sometimes these can get so strongly entrenched that “movement” on either side is difficult. But here I have followed a simple formula: either I convince the other person or I get convinced. You need to set a time or resource limit. The stand off cannot continue indefinitely. If I feel so strongly about say my choice of course of action in a dillema then I must use all my skill and capability to convince my family that what I am saying is right for me. If they are not convinced I make more efforts. If after that also they hold their point of view I must gracefully get convinced. That is if the relationship is more important to me than the decision. If the relationship is not important then I have to give that up and move forward with my decision: accepting the price it has cost me in terms of my relationship

      The problem is because we do not make a choice and continue to sit on the horns of the dilemma. In that case I am sure to my a… gored!! (Forgive me the unparliamentary language.) .

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  16. Thanks Minouti. Feel privileged to have your comment as the first comment on this blog. You are one of my most genuine wellwisher so this blog is blessed.
    I have always struggled with the “why” of what happens. And I have realized the age old debate of free will versus destiny comes at the bottom of it all. We as free thinking individuals must stand up and make our choices and be ready for the consequences. Hiding behind destiny and determinism is for the waek minded. Even Krishna had told Arjun in his moments of doubt : “Pursharth karo. Faal apne aap aayenge”. Then only can we “control” and shape our so called destiny.
    Once again many thanks for your interest and encouragement

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  17. A brilliant piece. Liked the fact that the article touched upon the political choices in the history of our nation and the personal choices that you have made in your life. It threw open a lot of points for introspection. Really enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Yes, we make choice, consciously or not, in everyday life from minor decisions ( like which restaurant to go ) to major ( like which course, marriage, children, job, etc) and choices shapes our life. Often we don’t assume responsibility for our choices ( karma ) and its consequences. Awareness that whatever is happening is caused by my choices ( karma ) help transform.

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