Harshal, aka Grond, is an old friend, who has been a reader of my blog ever since I began blogging. His comments always have a deep insight to them. A cheerful young man, he can hold forth on profound matters including Vipassana meditation, of which he is a passionate votary, and Zen Buddhism among other things. But before you think he is all sombre and serious, let me hasten to add that he also ‘likes to irritate others with my over sized knowledge of useless trivia.’
His blog Grondomania is dormant at the moment, but do check out the origins of his interesting pseudonym here.
I have been asking him to do a guest post for me for ages now and finally, when he came up with a cracker of a piece, it had me sweating for a minute wondering if I could handle it! But when I began reading, it stumped me with its simplicity and profundity at one and the same time. So go on, find out for yourself…
I have no choice in the matter,’ is an oft heard statement uttered in various contexts in varied states of helplessness. While this may be true of that particular circumstance, it certainly doesn’t encompass most of the larger issues of life or the paths our lives can take. We all have choices and more than we can ever imagine. It is when and if we make them, that determines how we shape our lives.
Time was when all we had by way of visual entertainment was whatever the government chose to show on the lone channel of Doordarshan. Or, if you were lucky to have a rich neighbour who could afford a VCR, you could watch a movie VHS rented from the local video cassette parlour. DD2 came into being in 1992, quickly followed by a veritable explosion on the transmission waves, as satellite TV began beaming new channels across the spectrum through the local cablewala into our homes. If you didn’t like what one channel was showing, you simply surfed to the next channel or the next. Over time channel choices became so mind-boggling that today, just about two decades from that small beginning, there are over 500 channels being transmitted across homes in India.
This choice was one of the by-products of the consumerism that came about through the triumvirate of liberalization, privatization, and globalization. The consumerist marketing ideology states, ‘If you don’t like the product, don’t buy it;’ ‘Get it changed if it doesn’t work for you;’ ‘Choose only the items that fit you, not what the salesperson is forcing on you;’ ‘Get a second opinion;’ and so on.
A small choice in itself, channel surfing changed the very outlook on life for an entire generation through the exposure it brought – to international media and culture through television, movies and later internet.It brought about an awakening of sorts and exposed to a range of choices, people started selecting from them. This not only included consumer goods and lifestyle, but also life choices, which had not existed till then. The question in everyone’s mind was, ‘If consumerism allows us to have a choice in deciding what we consume, why can’t the same choice be exercised in our life to make it more rewarding?’ And the answer was a resounding, ‘Of course!’
Earlier when people finished their education, they immediately began looking for a job, and once they got into one, stayed put in it until they retired. They cribbed about it, but it was not about what they were or not ‘getting’ out of the job, (other than the salary at the end of the month).
— Today, they talk of gratification that goes beyond the salary, and want to work in what they are interested in, monetary benefits be damned! Changing careers, giving up careers, experimenting, taking a break – are all increasingly becoming the norm. In short, they are willing to take a chance with life. The numbers are not huge, but certainly on the rise.
Time was when a boy and a girl were brought together and they often met and got to know each other only on their wedding night. If there was no compatibility between the two, who cared? Nobody dared separate the two, the couple themselves never considered it as an option, even if the differences were visible to everyone. They were thus doomed to spend a lifetime bonded to the despair of a bad relationship.
–Towards the end of the last century, the situation had begun to slowly change: Firstly, the two had begun insisting on getting to know each other well enough before tying the knot. And saying ‘No’ had become an option if they felt there might be incompatibility. And walking out from a bad relationship to salvage the rest of their lives was no longer a closed door.
A quarter century ago, when a son rebelled against working in a job of his father’s choosing, or a daughter confidently stood up and demanded an education, it was a matter for discussion and even censure for being rebellious.
–By contrast, today a boy is often deemed a loser by his peers if he chooses to join his father’s business or choice of a job without exploring other options or occupations. A girl opting not to work or take up a career is still not uncommon, but if she chooses to sit at home without educating herself, that is matter of concern for a progressive society.
The world today does not accept people who do not gain exposure, whether it is for personal choice or just for its own sake. And why not, since it makes the person poorer for missing the experience.
I am not implying that making choices is simple. As children we learn digits and letters but need to get trained to make words and numbers out of them; which is why we go to school. Likewise, we know that a plethora of choices exist from complete surrender to total rebellion, but need practice to use them effectively. Put in very simple terms, consumerism and the exposure to the varied information that it brought about was the training that was needed, practicing on TV channels and cars before putting it to use in life.
So what does Henry Ford have to do with all this? In his autobiography, Ford wrote about his famous Model T automobile, ‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black’. Later textbooks picked it up as the de facto advertising slogan. Some said that Ford wanted to speed up production and reduce costs by introducing the idea of an assembly line. Supposedly black paint suited the line as it dried the fastest, increasing efficiency. This lack of product range in the early years of modern marketing as compared to the consumption-driven era of today is a case study fiercely discussed in marketing classes across the world – you may run out of energy to select which colour you want to buy, but not out of options to select from.
But the truth about Henry Ford is far from what has been perceived.
Although the production of Model T started in 1908, Ford did not enforce the ‘so long as it is black’ policy till 1914. The idea of black paint drying fastest is also incorrect, as even after 1914 nearly 30 different types of black paint were used simultaneously, instead of just one uniform formulation. The car was available in grey, green, and red, but not black, till 1912. From 1912- 14, the colour was midnight blue with black fenders. Industrious owners changed the colour of their car by repainting it themselves.
Similarly too, the perceived limitations that life and society throw at us may well be nonexistent. Choices always exist about which we might only be unaware of. Often too, we don’t believe we can exercise the option of choosing. All we need is to only be exposed to them, and voila! The choice which is right will automatically be visible to us. All that is left then is to take the risk and grab it. And who knows, by this exposure we may even expand our horizons, bringing us closer to even more choices that enable us to fly!
How about giving flying a shot?
This Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1910Ford-T.jpg
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There is excellent flow of thought in your post ,everything is strung together imperceptibly.No doubt there are umpteen choices before us today—but only for the brave.Youngsters today are circumscribed by what they think is hep & groovy-peer pressure,media pressure,consumer trends-all point them towards ,say a particular option.They will grab it because it is the smart thing to do.It is only after the damage is done,that they come to their senses.
What i am driving at is this-that along with choices wisdom too is essential.
The ability to make a choice brings its own wisdom along. What one essentially needs now is the courage to be able to stand up to those commenting on the choice made since it is not on the trodden path.
After making remarks in a jovial or even flippant manner, I now choose to deliberate the efficacy or futility of exercising the options before one, confronted with choices.
Choice is the spice of life. It leavens an eventless life with opportunities that which taken at the floods , leads one on to fortune. One man’s food is another man’s poison is an unimaginative option, leaving one with no elbow room to manovere. . But in actual life, we are assailed with a variety of choices rendering our mental faculties, some times unequal to the task. On waking up at dawn, choice of breakfast confront us. Later in our official day, several problems mushroom and the myraids of solutions defy our mental capabilities. The government we so soliticiously elect every five years is really a choice in futility, wondering whether one is betting on the wrong horse after all.
Youngsters of present generation choose their own partners and in several cases, lead them out of frustration to knock at the doors of the Family Courts for a divorce. They seem to mock at us saying that “no doubt marriages are made in heaven, but it was hell down here”. Perhaps the choice has gone wrong and awry. In our generation, we were left with no choice as our elders sought alliances for us based on tradition, family back ground, horoscopic compatibility etc etc., but such arranged marriages eventually turned out to be enduring and successful with a long tenure of matrimonial bliss and trust in each other. We opted to love after marriage, with faith in our elders and perhaps in our wisdom rejected the choice of hatred towards our better or bitter half, bearing no ill will against one, who was perhaps a victim of circumstances. Of course, I daresay, most of such arranged marriages, where the element of choice was minimal, were highly successful and failures were few and far between.
Options existing in our lives is not a new thing – they have existed forever. What consumerism brought about was a dissolution of the fear of making a choice. What we once left others to do, we started doing ourselves. By letting others make a choice for us, we absolved ourselves of the responsibility of making choices. Now, we understood that making a choice was our job, albeit with guidance from others who knew more than us.
The examples listed in the post, of people’s lives – these are examples I have noticed often in my circles of observation – I have just genericized them for the sake of simplicity. It is indeed unfortunate, but I have seen many examples of families plodding on with incompatibility, interpersonal issues, even seething hatred at times, just because no other option has been proffered to them. Separating, moving into different houses, counselling, seeking elders’ support and more are all options that we can think of, but there is no courage to take up even one of these.
Perhaps by looking at consumerist tendencies that making a wrong choice now does not affect our life for the long run – they realised that even life does give us options that are not perpetual and can be changed, modified, or even reversed, if given the chance.
Thank you so much for commenting again.
Thanks Mr Grond for your observations on my comments. You have rightly said that the choice made with the advice from others who know more than us, is the right spirit of approach. I am thankful for it and am only hoping that the experience of the elders are taken into account while one makes the choice. I candidly admit that people of our age group were more guided by the advice of our elders but we are none the worse for it. There may of course be instances of the choices going wrong. But with the tremendous advantage of technological advancement and a very high degree of intelligence of the modern youth compared to us, I am sure the youth of the modern era will make the right choice every time. I wish them all the best.
Thank you so much. We certainly do try, and will continue, to live up to the confidence shown by our elders.
I feel even if the choices are mind boggling, it is better to have them rather than having no choice at all. If we have very few things to choose from then the spirit of adventure, new experiences and making mistakes are not there.
Many people still want to play it safe and stick to choices that are the norm even when they have the opportunity to be adventurous in spite of getting exposed to a range of choices.
But to ‘not’ make a choice, from a wider range of options, limiting ourselves to a small set – that too is a smart choice sometimes. If you are unaware of the pitfalls of a certain range – or if you don’t need them. In such a case, better to limit the options to choose from perhaps.
I feel the circumstances in each case will decide as to whether to restrict the choice or enlarge the scope of options before one, embarks on the task of choosing.
I found this post very pertinent, Harshal, as I have found the question of choice very liberating and bothersome at the same time. Liberating as I can choose to live my life the way I want to, and bothersome because of the many choices presented before me sometimes.
But I maintain that there is always a choice, the choice to say yes or no, the choice to walk or fly or ride as the case may be, the choice to study or not to study. I think we always had the choices; blatant consumerism only made us aware of it and accept it and exercise that choice.
Thank you so much for your comment!
Your comment is a perfect precis of what I wanted to say. Choices have existed ever since the beginning, it may have been difficult to notice them for one, and two, to have the courage and stability to stand up to others to be able to exercise them. Consumerism made the first idea redundant by giving us continued exposure to a range of choices, and the courage to exercise them came automatically.
An excellent article. Though I had the choice of skipping this, my curiosity gained the upper hand and forced me to exercise my right to choose. Thanks to consumerism.
Thank you for commenting. I too, am thankful to consumerism, in that I exercised my choice to write this post – it really had been ages that Zephyr’d been behind me to write one!
Sorry, Mr Grond. I just made the comment in a lighter vein in the wonderful spirit with which you have written it. In fact, I do not miss any postings of Zephyr, as all of them are either,very interesting, educative, entertaining or instructive. I await further postings of similar nature from you. Thanks for responding. G.N. Balakrishnan
Thank you for the comment, kind sir.
We try to depict in writing what we feel, and if hits the right note, there is no greater joy.
Choices are the things that totally define our life and the directions it takes. Be it deciding our career, life partner, vocations, our choices influence the very way we think in life. No choice is a life of subjugation and not a happy life. However, making the bad choices sometimes can lead us to believe, it would have been better had there been no choice at all, atleast then the blame could be attributed to something else!. But I guess, it is still better to have the power to make the choice right or wrong and gain the experience anyway.
Yo! Thanks for commenting!
Even if we make a wrong choice, we are acutely aware of where what went wrong, and what we could have done right. Blaming the abundance of choice (or the lack of it) is, to an extent, escapist. At least when we know what is wrong, we are able to take steps to correct it. And yeah, I agree – get the experience anyhow, whatever be the result.
Your blog made me remember that I think was it the Pizza ad where the vendor gives so many options to the consumer that he bangs his head and finally takes off! Too many choices can be painful too! Like choosing the right phone 🙂
If I remember correctly, in ‘Ram Aur Shyam’, after the waiter has listed a litany of available menu options, Dilip Kumar says, “Sab ka do-do leke ao.”
Choices in restaurants have been there before also, these electronics and stuff is still new, and frankly, I doube we know what we have to do with them.
Good read! 🙂
I was going through the comments, and noticed umashankar’s comment. I do sort of agree with him. As far as consumerism is concerned, there’s not much choice over a given monetary range.
On a more philosophical scale, I believe all that we have is an illusion of choice. You might think you are in control, you are making the choices; but all that you are doing is choosing the means: the path to an already prescribed destination.
The fact that you have to make a choice means that you have a destination to reach. If that was not there, what is the need of making a choice? I personally think that it is not as fatalist as calling it an illusion of choice. Consider this, making a choice of career is not that illusory – what you choose will have a strong impact on your future.
Thanks for the comment.
About choosing a career, let’s say I want to be a football player; I choose to be one. During the process I get injured, eventually I end up, let’s say being a shop-owner! Whatever happened to my choice then?
Since there’s no way to actually test the theory, I guess both view-points are equally viable. 🙂
Isn’t it important to be able to exercise the choice to even find an alternative career (i) if one finds it the wrong one for whatever reason (ii) if one is forced to abandon it as in this case? While the second case is inevitable, in the first case, had one not exercised the choice one might never have realised the fact that it was unsuitable and gone on wishing that one had taken it. Seen from another viewpoint, choices give us experiences that help us grow in all ways. And though everything is pre-ordained, we still make them happen, don’t we?
It is nice to see you here, Sajal 🙂
Good to be here! 🙂
Glad to hear that. Do read the next post. You feature in it 🙂
I think I didn’t make my earlier comment clear enough, and since I was busy with exams, the reply is a little late, hence pardon!
Now, I don’t abhor our ability to make choices. Choices, are important; they really are: they shape the way after lives are molded after-all! What I wanted to say, can be clearer if you consider the following.
I am a to-be engineer, for that to happen I chose science stream in my 11th standard. I assume that I don’t fare too well in the said stream and end up becoming a writer lets say.
Now, suppose time travel was possible. I went back, and since I wasn’t too fond of my engineering days, I wanted to change it all. I told the 11th standard me not to take the science stream.
“Pick commerce or arts, instead”, I tell myself. The 11th standard me agrees and chooses commerce, let’s say. After that, what I BELIEVE, and am speculating, is that, I again end up becoming a writer.
Hence, in that way, yes, choices are important; they shape the HOW parts of our life; but no matter what choices we make, we always end up at the same cross-roads.
But since time travel is not possible and nor are we too sure about the existence of alternate universes, there’s no way to actually test the theory. Hence, I guess both view-points are equally viable.
P.S. Sorry, if I again wrote a confused looking comment! 😀 It’s just that speculation and I, go hand-in-hand; hence the excitement and the resulting confusion!
I once wrote something similar, regarding Control (the whole illusion of it!), you may read it here, if you wish: http://arcumen.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/control/
I wouldn’t say that both choices had the same outcome, though the engineer and the commerce student became writers and so it appears to be similar. From what I read between the lines the student didn’t enjoy his engineering which is why he wanted to go back in time to urge himself to go for commerce. So while an unhappy engineering student went on to become a writer, the happy commerce student enjoyed his studies and then went on to become a writer — a world of difference , wouldn’t you agree? A simple choice gives one happiness and unhappiness because of the wrong choice. And did they become writers just like that? No, they chose to become one.
I hope I understood your comment and replied it properly. Psst…I am just an old woman talking out of experience without much knowledge of philosophy, so I might be way off 🙂 Perhaps Harshal should take this one up.
😀 😀 “just an old woman”!
Often, getting an experience off the centre track is justified with the statement (sometimes sourced to Lucille Ball) “I would rather regret the things that I have done, than the things that I have not”.
One can’t learn swimming on land, one has to enter the pool. Similarly, unless we make a choice, we can’t realise whether it will be good for us or not. Sometimes, our intuition and training warns us if something is wrong, but most times we are glad we tried it and failed rather than not trying at all.
I loved the flow of the post. It goes on to show how much of a change there has been in every aspect of our life. Yes, we do have choices and only with time and with making the wrong decisions and learning and unlearning from them would we come to a state where we know which would be the right choice for us. Almost every step taken by our predecessors would have been due to a lot of pressure . But today , people have the sense to realize that they would have to please their own self first and give it more priority.
Very Nicely wriiten 🙂
Thanks for your comment. When we look back upon our short lives, we see how many things we expected to stay as is have changed slowly.
“…people have the sense to realize that they would have to please their own self first and give it more priority.” – More than just putting the self first, people have started putting their own priority structures in place. If the self comes first, it comes first. If it does not, and family does, so be it. But at least this priority chart is made by us, not by others and thrust upon us.
Forgive the typos above.
(This is a reply to your previous comment, but the page design will make it difficult to read if I reply to it directly, hence I am replying to this comment…)
I am not a votary of any brand of technology. In fact, I am not a votary of technology itself. I can easily let go of all the excess technology in my life and work with the bare minimum of machinery that is needed to earn my keep. Anything extra is a luxury which I may be able to afford, may be not.
In life, you learn to read the words within words. The message in the text. The Mahabharata and Ramayana are not just our mythical history or stories told to children, but teachings of righteousness, of truth, of aiming to reach enlightened levels in our thought. If we go beyond the story, the moral becomes easy to imbibe. I like a particular book of teachings not because the author made a good vision out of words, but that the teachings those words contained mirrored my own life, and hence those morals became the goals I aimed for.
I personally do not find it wrong in aping pioneers. If life is a race, you are either first, or not. Why is it that glory is given to only who came first, not those who finished the race? The racetrack is difficult, and completing it is no easy task. This discrimination is the root of most evils that I have faced in my short span on this planet.
Today there are teachers who hold their visions in reserve, releasing it grudgingly, to a few, marking a difference between ‘those who know’ and ‘those who don’t’. On the other hand there are teachers like the Buddha, who practiced ‘ehi passiko’, ‘come, and see’… His teaching was open to everyone. Those who wanted it, got it. And He freely allowed everyone who learnt it, to spread it across, encouraging the uninhibited spread of knowledge. There was no ‘us v/s them’, it was just ‘all of us v/s ignorance’.
I believe that a person be respected as one who can think on their own, no matter what their background is. If they do not have the knowledge to make a choice, then it is upto their teachers to first train them, then let them choose. To deny them this is to belittle them, howsoever well the intentions are. Living stories around us are very apt case studies of teachings of the masters, and since I prefer to explain by example, I end up using them.
I beg for forgiveness if you felt my comment was out of line.
That was an interesting piece on choices available and our perceptions of the same. I didn’t realise my Galaxy Note is actually Midnight Blue in colour till I bought it!
The one thing I have an opinion in this Samsung v/s Apple debate is that Samsung at least identifies us as humans, understands the value of choice, and gives us a range of almost 35 Android phones, plus 100+ other phones.
Apple, on the other hand, has taken the idea of choice out of our hands and said “We know what you want. Here it is.” and given us just that small set of 4-5 phones. Almost as if, as I mentioned in an earlier comment, it considers us stupid and does not allow us the concept of choice at all. A regressive step, so to speak.
What do you think?
And is that thought propelled by Samsung’s new tag line for their flagship product Galaxy 3S, “designed for humans”?
Let me clear the air at the outset itself that I have never owned an Apple product till date. But that has been a decision driven more by cost issues rather than choice constraints. Apple products have been synonymous with the visions and exacting standards of late Steve Jobs. His philosophy were driven by convictions such as, don’t ask what the customer wants, tell them what he needs instead! And he did not set out to skimp on the efforts. He drove his designers and engineers mad by the impossible visions and standards both of beauty and technology. Even the innards that were never supposed to meet the eyes of users had to be beautiful, rounded and well set! He spotted and acquired technologies like touch, pinch and zoom, flipping over like a book, and had these honed till extremes. He dug out the Gorilla Glass mothballing at Corning to set a new standards in display. And that has resulted in a product which has only been copied and aped rather than bettered.
Do not for a moment think my comment is propelled by the recent setbacks Smasung have had in USA in the very many copyright infringement cases. Nor my thoughts are the bitter offshoot of a recent sad experience with Samsung which I’ll try to squeeze in at the end. Tell me, what is it that is really new or startling that has landed in our hands from the Samusung mints? Variety? Oh yes, there has been enough of that! Take the case of Galaxy ‘S’ series of which there have been at least 5 variations in the market, if not more. And what have been the differences among them apart from shifting the primary camera across the back, placing and unplacing of a flash, juggling around of the sound-hole, and using processors, RAMs, graphic cores of similar capacities but acquired from different manufacturers? You think the different processors, RAMs, graphic cores were acquired by Smsung for making their Galaxy ‘S’ line breathtaking products? It is more like they had to clear the inventory and since they were different from what was put in earlier lots, they became new versions and Voila!
Companies have long fooled the customers with the so-called variations. Allow me to take an example from the digital camera manufacturers. I am a Nikon loyal but do not expect me to be taking potshots at Canon just because of that. Canon had had typically several lines of both consumer cameras and DSLRs and have been churning over its products at an annoying speed. But how many of their products have been top-notch, except for 2 to 3 out of a crowd of over 15 or so? It is just a marketing strategy and even Nikon has fallen to it of late. Strangely, many times customers get the same hardware for a lesser price with the only difference of deliberately dumbed down products. Now, tell me, who is a bigger fool: the one who bought the product at a higher price or the one who got it for a lot less but can’t use it to the full potential? And when Nikon makes their top-end D4, or Canon their Mark III, do they give us an alternate choice at that bracket where they throw in the best that they have?
About the bitter experience with Samsung, (and mind you, I have been the owner of at least 10 Samusng models over the past 10 years and quite a few their top end versions) I’ll just say that I had bought my Galaxy Note form ‘The Mobile Store’ within a period specified by Samsung to be eligible for a Sennheiser headphone worth probably Rs 2000 or so. Despite a score of phone calls, emails, upload of copies of the bill by both myself and Mobile Store, Samsung has failed to send me the headphones. Not only that, they have kept passing the buck to various divisions among themselves. Now, I have never really been a fan of headphones, but when other customers have been provided the same, why should I be derived of the pleasure?. Maybe I just want to jump up and down on the headphones or donate it to the dog downstairs, but hey, they owned this to me! Do you think Samsung is giving me a choice of purchasing another phone from them?
Life seemed less complicated in the ‘old days’ when people had less choices, perhaps. I know when I had to decide about a career – being a writer wasn’t really an option. So much has changed today – youngsters have so many choices with their careers, not to mention so many other things. However, I guess with freedom and choice must come responsibility to ourselves first of all and then to the world.
I love the way you tied this post to Henry Ford and made us wait for the explanation – clever!
Thanks for having Harshal here, Zephyr.
Complexity of choices is a matter of perspective. Everything that seems complex can be broken down into a chain of simpler and simpler sets of choices. Some may be interconnected with each other, but it still is easy to tackle them piecemeal.
Thanks for your comment!
Very interesting post! Yes, having a variety of options you can choose from is nice, and having the capacity to choose which is the one for you is nicer still.
In India, I think one major restraint which puts limits on the choices a young person can make, is the economic restraint.
A youngster living in the slum area sees so many choices around him/her- but knows it is unlikely he/she can aspire to them.
I agree that the size of your pocket is a restraint to the choices you can exercise. At the same time, I don’t thing it is an inhibitor. If I aspire to something I know is out of my reach, I will at least try to grow myself that much to reach the ability to fulfil it. Only if I give up the idea of being able to have that choice, then I have limited myself to what I can afford.
Thanks for your comment.
what can be the best way to describe about choice, trying and using.. when there is no choise, i always want a choice.. say when i am offered a box, spoon and bottle, i cry that the spoon in not matching, but when i am given so many boxes, i dont know which one to choose.. same thing happens in my life.. i dont get to try what i want or the way i want.. 🙂
or may be we call it as satisfaction level which is very less b’cas of the reasons u have mentioned.. 🙂
You have the choice of not being satisfied with what you have. Imagine being in Russia in the sixties or the seventies. At the height of communism, they had no choice in what they could or could not do – every single thing in their lives was decided by the state, whether they liked it or not.
I feel that this situation of plenty is much better than no choice at all, no matter what ills it brings along.
well, as far making choice is concerned some of you may make a fun of me here bcoz at times it gets so difficult for me to decide even which piece of jeans i should buy..??? Easy fit, narrow fit or the Baggy one….. and then selecting the fabric… its so confusing at times….
I wonder, how could any one choose if given the herculean task of selecting from more than dozen types of perfume or shampoo for example….
BTW wonderfully written article Harshal…..
and thank you “Zephyr” for introducing him here..its a nice read 🙂
Irfan, you are not alone in crying about the ills of excessive choice. Each choice has a feature, its own characteristics, its own identity. The one that suits you, you choose it. I prefer Head and Shoulders Anti Dandruff Silky Smooth Green shampoo – and voila! I don’t need to think too much when I face the shampoo shelves in the supermarket.
Thank you so much for the comment.
Very interesting .Half the way I was thinking where is Henry Ford? Loved how you brought the entire topic together.
Thanks. The ‘so long as it is black’ conecpt was first shown to us in a classroom, and then I saw it again in a bit of detail in a case study in college. During my MBA I studied it a bit more, and I realised how wrong the world was. And since I wanted to talk about the wrongness of ‘absence of choice in our lives’, it seemed a perfect fit as a trivial allegory.
Oxford is contemplating the addition of ‘jaishvats’ to the synonyms of ‘confusion’. That being the case, choosing is such a tough task for me especially when both choices have their own pluses and minuses. If its something simple like a dress at a shop or the TV channel to watch, it does not have a very long term impact. There are life determining choices as you said – like ones spouse, education, career etc. Exposure is definitely needed as you correctly pointed out. End of the day, whatever be the choice one makes, one should believe that there is definitely something good in it. I think ‘No choice is a bad choice except when you are incredibly stupid’ 😀 That was a very very nice read . As Zephyr said it screams out ‘simplicity and profundity at one and the same time’ 😀
‘No choice is a bad choice except when you are incredibly stupid’ – Not always. Sometimes, as our PM would put it, doing nothing is the best thing to do.
And I agree about there being something good in the choice you make. I feel, instead of ‘good’, one can also use the word ‘relevant’. As long as there is something relevant in the choice you have taken vis-a-vis the rejected ones, it is good enough.
Thanks so much for your comment.
Very interesting read 🙂
I think choices complicate our decision making, and in my case, increases the risk of making wrong decisions. Also, more choices lead to more frustration.
Often it is over heard “200 TV channels and nothing worth watching”. That leads to so much annoyance!
So we have 50 brands at the mall to choose a party wear from, and even as we like a dress from the first store – there’s always that urge to check out the rest – Waste of energy, time and of course, the haunting thought later – Should I have picked the blue one instead of the black!
Choices are great when it comes to life altering things – like making a career out of a hobby, marrying the one you are compatible with, etc. But plethora of choices in everyday decision making is cumbersome and does not make any life simpler.
I don’t enter an electronics outlet until I am clear on the minimum features the device that I am going to buy have. The outlet may have a hundred mobile phones, but if I want a certain minimum battery life, over half of those phones have been chopped off the list before I even stepped into the outlet.
Availability of choices don’t complicate our life – lack of clarity in identifying what we need/want does. I explained in a previous comment – having three choices for our needs means six comparisions, but having twenty five means six hundred.
Let the plethora of choices be there, if you have clarity in what you want, all the pressures of making those choices vanishes in an instant!
Thank you for the comment.
For once, the post took me back to the good olden days of Chitrahaar and Udaan and many more nostalgic moments. Life is sometimes difficult with too many choices to choose from. If it is clothes, food, it is always easy to choose. But when it comes to decisions like career, marriage, it’s really hard. I always end up in a fix like that. When I am almost about to join some new work, I have this other offer which may seem better and the confusion starts..nice post. Thanks Zephyr for introducing Harshal to us and for another nice guest post.
Why do you feel that it is easy to choose food and clothes and hard for career and marriage? Does it not boil down to information? You know about the good food at Copper Chimney or McDonalds, and will be able to make a good choice there. For your career, if you are that aware of things around you, will the choice still be difficult?
I agree that gathering knowledge about good fashion brands and restaurants is easy, and careers and life difficult. But once you are exposed to this information, choosing the right path is as intuitive as choosing the right shirt from Arrow or Raymonds.
Thanks for your comment.
I believe that life comes to you as an open box. We always have a choice to put whatever you want in that box. Sometimes we add too many things and sometimes we just close the lid (most of us do this and limit our options). But then we always have a choice to open the lid again. 🙂
This was a great post for me, especially because I belong to the Doordarshan era and have seen all this unfold in front of my eyes.
In its early years, to me, cable tv was as exotic as a VCR, affordable only by the rich neighbours. It was only in class 10 or so when our housing society took over cable subscriptions as a tax saving measure that we got it, for free. The DD era, for me, has lasted longer than others, and perhaps I was able to observe the growth of the ‘channel surfing’ attitude in my friends and comparing it with my own lack of choice, was able to understand a bit more of life back then.
Your idea of an empty box is a perfect allegory to life – what we fill it with, when do we open or close the lid – everything is in our hands.
Thanks for your comment.
The more the choices, the more difficult it is to choose ! It’s so much easier to choose from options A,B or C than A – Z ! We end up feeling that we might have done better with other options !
Very well articulated post !
What we choose from the range given to us is based on what we think we need or want. We compare which choice fulfils our needs/wants best, and select it. With A, B, & C, we’ll need only six comparisions, but with A-Z, over 600! This is what gets painful, comparing one with the other, and the more the choices are, the finer our comparisions become.
Thanks for your comment.
I enjoy choices. I love the freedom that I have to choose. Now, the only thing I need is the wisdom to make the right choices :).
Once you are well aware of the choices that you have, the ability to choose the right one automatically arrives. Call it wisdom or call it intuition, it is there, as long as you know what your choices are.
I meant the wisdom to make the choices on the basis of good, solid criteria, not being pushed to do something because an FB friend says so or a relative sniggers. With choices come more meddling influences.
Rather than wisdom, one should then ask for the courage to be able to stand up to others’ meddling, and the wisdom to justify the choice to those who need to know. The rest takes care of itself.
I must admit, I function better without choices..the more the choices the more confused I get, and more crazier I act..Guess Henry Ford wrote that line for me 🙂
loved the post 🙂
Not choosing is also a choice that is made, and for a reason. At least you are aware of more choices, just not making use of the range they provide. Well enough.
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What would life be without choices and change! Adapting to change is the key to happiness rather than sulk in past. Very well written and touched different facets from TV programs, marriage , cars and their evolution with time!
Thanks for the response – this is exactly the idea I wanted to encapsulate – making good use of the change from just one option to a range of options to choose from – that is the true path to happiness.
Ah, finally got a post out of you! 😀
Loved the way you slowly led up to Henry Ford and made your point. It is hard to withstand pressures from various quarters as Alka says, but the ‘training’ should come handy while making the right one. Also the choices are more needed for life than consumer goods. I for one can’t make my mind up about them when I see too many of them. I remember the L&M asking the kids to make a ‘career chart’ from the time they were in middle school, listing all the possible careers they thought they could go into and striking out the ones they didn’t want as time went by. It is an interesting concept, making children look out for options and choose, don’t you think?
Stand up comedians have the idea of a ‘punch line’ – where they build up the joke and then the line hits and everyone starts laughing. I was hoping to use this idea of a ‘punch thought’ to make everyone ponder. Hope it worked.
A career chart is a good idea, but at that age, were most of the possibilities in the rage of astronaut, racecar driver, cricketer, et al? I know mine were. Though I don’t know, having known the younger one for a few years now – his plans might be dovetailing right into what he is doing now, are they?
It was a punch thought, alright 🙂 The older one had started off aspiring to become an auto driver and went on to computer engineering. the younger one was even more way off. He started off being a bhajiwala and then on to an environmentalist and then what he is today — but they knew they could do so much if they wanted to.
Well, being a bhajiwala is as entrepreneurial as it gets, doesn’t it? Autowallahs and environmentalists – their career goals were much more realistic than mine – astronaut, air force pilot, and prime minister….
The plethora of choices has complicated life. What society says, what the peer group does and what parents want, all play an important role. And yes, as you say exposure is important.
The most important thing is that atleast you have the ability to make a choice after weighing in all the factors. What if you didn’t?
I feel that it doesn’t matter much. What is perhaps more important is, to ensure that one gives 100% at whatever they do. Be it a desk job, roaming job or their own business. Everything has its advantages and limitations. Including having choices.
Having choices doesn’t make anything better, by itself. Even though new possibilities are created, people don’t always know what’s the best thing for themselves. Look at how they vote, for example.
Having choices (or not) and doing something with them (or not) are two very disparate ideas. Yes, whatever we choose to do, we give it our all – that is a given.
Just because we have chosen something does not mean we stick with it throughout – the moment we realise it is not to our benefit, we can make a different choice, if we can.
Elections – well, people have made a choice, have they not? We accept that. Just because someone does not know what is best for them does not mean we take away their right to choose, do we?
If we give people the right to vote and they keep making the same mistakes repeatedly, throughout the country, do you still say that their having a choice makes sense?
If you give a real gun to a kid and be satisfied that he has the choice to shoot (or not), do you think you have made the right decision?
It is not about forcing choices down someone’s throat, which is as bad as not giving any choices. It is about how to identify which choice for you is the best, and if you do not know, you ask questions to get to know more about more choices too.
And when you are dependent on others who have a difficult choice to make, you have to inspire them to learn more about what has been handed to them, explain the values of each choice and leave it upon them to choose.
I am the type who after ordering my dish at the restaurant regrets the choice made after seeing the dishes that are served in adjacent tables. The ladies who select one sari after hours of scrutiny of hundred saris go back to the textile shop the next day to exchange it only to change again on the following day. Choice is difficult if you have mind boggling varieties. We finally settle for something that is not necessarily the best choice. The extensive knowledge through media and the net does not help, rather they confuse. The grass is greener always on the other side in every choice we have made.
I liked the interesting post.
Thanks for liking the post. This thread of ‘a plethora of choices end up confusing everyone’ is there in many comments. Yet, I think it is better to have choices and not use them, than not having any yet not liking what you have.
What do you think?
😀 Interesting read, Harshal! – I couldn’t help laughing when I read the last line :Why how about giving flying a shot?
Thing is, there’s lots of peer pressure, keeping up and other peoples’ opinions to think about. 🙂 So while we all have a choice not everyone exercises it based on their own convictions.
Thank you, Zephyr – Harshal;s post is indeed a terrific read.
I walk to work. (That it’s a blissful headache is a different story.) But there are so many times I want to just fly over all the traffic and construction to land on my home terrace. Expanding horizons – spreading our wings – flying away – all these are terribly old cliches that make sense when you look at them from an allegorical perspective, don’t you think?
To talk about pressure – it’s always there. All that surrounds us, our environment, becomes a factor in making a choice. But it is better to know that choices exist, and we have followed one of them instead of not knowing they ever existed.
Thank you for liking this post.