Category: random

Does Free Will Really Exist?

Does Free Will Really Exist?

I was reading this piece here on how the author thinks the festival of Karwa Chauth is regressive yet she fasts each year. Perhaps, she reasons in her article, the conditioning is so deep she cannot not keep the fast.

She goes on to say, ‘the bottom line is that it is my choice’.

I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly. As long as the choice is ours, we’re not being regressive.

Then I saw a tweet where someone mentioned he loved the food cooked at home on festivals like Karwa Chauth. He went on to say the women cooked happily, out of ‘choice’.

That irked me. (More perhaps, because it came from a man).

Tell me, does it seem at all logical? Would someone truly enjoy spending much of their day in the kitchen without a sip of water through the day? Even if they otherwise enjoyed cooking?

And yet I know of women who do just that. My mother does it. And that made me rethink this whole thing about ‘choice’ and ‘free will’.

I was reminded of another piece I read on Sudha Murthy. Quoting an excerpt here:

In 1981, (Narayan) Murthy realized his big dream and it was the beginning for Infosys, one of the biggest names in software consulting (In India). But before making any decision, Murthy gave her (Sudha Murthy) the choice. He said that both of them could not be at Infosys together, so he gave her the choice of joining Infosys, but she chose to pull back.

There it was again — the bit about ‘choice’, that made her decision acceptable.

Here’s a question, though — what would have been Narayan Murthy’s choice had Sudha Murthy put this same question to him? Would he have made the choice she did?

Maybe yes. Maybe no. We’ll never know.

It did feel logically wrong that a brilliant woman, who had been a trail-blazer all her life, would choose to stay away from a dream project such as this one.

Unless, she (like many other women) was conditioned to do so.

The two pieces made me wonder if the choices women make, could really be termed ‘free will’ conditioned as we were to act a certain way. When women choose to give up work or education, or to eat after other family members, or to wear head-scarves, is it really out of free will?

It holds for men too, although in a whole different way. For instance, would a man, or let’s say, would most men ‘choose’ to give up careers even if they had the choice to do so? They’re as bound by conditioning as women are.

That brings me to the question: Is there anything like free will at all? Can we ever escape our conditioning?

The answer is NO. We cannot. None of us can ever hope to do that.

However, we can be aware of it and try to rid ourselves of it, interestingly, by conditioning ourselves to do so :-).

As someone brought up by a feminist mother, my mum, modified her fasting and included fruits and juices in her diet while also easing off on the cooking.

As the daughter of a feminist mum, I could give up Karwa Chauth without guilt.

We were both conditioned by our respective mothers to modify traditions to suit our lifestyles.

But this isn’t just about Karwa Chauth. Nor am I saying we’re free of it all. I’m sure there are a hundred ways in which we continue to do things we know we shouldn’t be doing, but cannot give up.

That said the only way to move forward is to condition ourselves and our children to constantly question and to reason, to be open to changing, adjusting, reshaping customs, traditions, our entire thought processes.

Last thought: I am more than aware that when it comes to human behaviour, logic is often tempered by many many factors, conditioning is just one of them.

Traditions

Traditions

I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

If we were having coffee together – 7 #wordsmatter

If we were having coffee together – 7 #wordsmatter

The maid has just left. The house smells of Colin and Lizol – fresh, inviting. As I step out into the balcony, the sky is thick with clouds, the air redolent with the promise of rain. It’s a beautiful day and I feel ‘settled’ like I haven’t felt in a long time.

If you were here and we were having coffee together, I’d tell you I’d finally found peace in this new home of mine. Together we’d raise a cheer to that – you with your extra strong coffee and I with my ginger tea – each with our preferred ‘hot beverage’, as Sheldon would put it :-).

You’d smile at the Big Bang reference, relieved to see me well and truly out of the dumps just as I was happy to be out of them. I’d apologise for having been fretful and whiny over the last month but you’d brush that off with a wave of your hand. That’s what friends are for, aren’t they? you’d say and I’d agree wholeheartedly.

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you that life had definitely been looking up for me since we last got together. I’d tell you about this house which was slowly, surely turning into a home. It was only now that I was beginning to truly appreciate it.

I’d tell you about other friends who had dropped by in happy batches exclaiming over each new fixture, opening cupboards and peering inside with the ease of long friendship, suggesting reading nooks and writing corners. I’d tell you how they’d complimented my freshly arranged bookshelves, picking out books to borrow.

I’d wonder if perhaps it was their excitement that had endeared the home to me. Does this happen with you sometimes – that looking at something through someone else’s eyes changes your view of it? That a glum lonely space suddenly becomes warm and cosy? It echoes with the memory of love and laughter long after everyone has gone.

It is this memory that wraps itself around me like a comforting hug as I go about my day prompting me to open my heart and home to more friends. I stock up happy memories, collecting them like Shylock hoarded gold coins, chasing away the gloom of the past few months.

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you how I had been inhabiting the kitchen more often, finding pleasure in going back to some of my favourite recipes. I’d tell you of the time I’d delighted in laying out a full homemade ‘party’ meal despite my rather limited cooking skills.

Together we’d look outside my window and watch the rain that was now coming down in a gentle pitter-patter. We’d watch the sparrows sheltering in the trees and I’d point out my plants that were slowly coming back to life, sprouting new leaves, making a new beginning.

Just like me.

Things weren’t perfect, but then perfection is a mere dream, I’d muse. It isn’t, you’d correct me, it exists scattered in small moments like this one, you’d tell me and together we’d laugh at our philosophical ramblings as we drain our cups and head out to meet the rest of the day.

So tell me dear friend, how is life treating you? What would you share if we were having coffee together?

***********

I am participating in the #wordsmatter bloghop. I received this tag from Pooja Priyamvada who blogs at Second Thoughts First and I’m happy to pass on the tag to Rachna at Rachna SaysDo follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised!

The elevator hates me

The elevator hates me

*I solemnly swear that all instances quoted in the piece below are absolutely true. No really, it’s all true.*

N was down with loose motions and I was just back from the medical store. I stood in the lower basement waiting with my thoughts on my girl hoping she’d have been fine in my absence and wishing the elevator would hurry along.

When the elevator didn’t arrive for a while, I realised one was stuck on floor 6 while the other was on floor 11. I pushed the button again, not that it was required or made any difference, but finally, the one on 6 moved, I relaxed. It reached the ground floor and stopped. ‘Really?’ thought I, ‘today of all days?’ I willed it to come down.

It didn’t.

After a long lazy pause the one on the 11th floor began to creak its way down. It reached the ground floor and then .. yeah, it stopped too. I was almost stamping my feet in frustration and heading towards the stairs when it moved again and finally reached me.

That’s just one instant when the elevator has acted weirdly with me.
It hates me!

There I said.

This sounds like the rambling of a batty old woman but it’s true. I know it because this isn’t the first time something crazy like this has happened.

The first germ of suspicion was planted in my mind way back during my working days in Mumbai when on an official trip to the Stock Exchange one day the elevator went part way and came to a stand still. That, on a 20-something floor.

It stood there, a smirk on its face, (or so it seemed to me), enjoying my mounting panic. Mercifully a colleague was with me and we sounded the alarm. After much hoohaa the doors were prised open and we found ourselves stuck between two floors – too high to climb up, too low to jump down. It really seems easy in films. In real life, however, you either need to be the really sporty kind or have a spiderman boyfriend to bail you out. Since I am/had neither, a tall stool was positioned so we could step down to freedom.

Then recently, as I stepped into the elevator I saw a lady rushing towards it. Even before she motioned to me to keep it waiting for her I was reaching out for the ‘keep door open’ button. I threw her a reassuring smile to say that I was holding it for her. However, the elevator had other plans. Slowly, inexorably it started to shut. No matter how hard I jabbed at the button the doors continued on. I tried to wedge my foot but the otherwise all too sensitive sensors pretended not to sense it at all. Knowing my history with elevators, I had a feeling it would squash my foot with a wicked happy happiness and so I pulled back, and just in time too. Then, right before my horrified eyes (and the lady’s very very annoyed eyes) the lift shut with a gentle malicious click.

I imagined what it would have seemed to the lady – That I smiled at her and then shut the elevator in her face. What kind of a mean person would do that?

She now refuses to acknowledge me when she bumps into me and my hopes of making friends in this new place have died a silent death.

That’s not all. Each time I’m in a hurry I’ll be sure to find both elevators stuck on the floor furthest from me. And when I try to summon them, I can almost hear them arguing.

‘You go’

‘No you go’

‘I went last time’

‘So what you were just a floor away’

‘I don’t care. It’s your turn.’

… and so on. Quite like H and N when I call them for a chore.

If I hesitate for a moment, or stop to pick up my bag or pause to smile at someone, it tries to squish me. Once it carried away my stole, carried it right away in its evil jaws, even as I barely managed to save myself.

I’ve now taken to dashing in and diving out without giving it a chance to mess with me. Of course that means I sometimes knock over unsuspecting people. And then no matter how much I apologise and try to explain this strange vengeance, I come out looking stupid. All the while I can see the elevator laughing its mean laugh and if I as much as turn to give it a nasty look in return, I further damage my credibility.

What? Did I hear you say the elevator is an inanimate object and cannot have feelings? Hah! You, dear sir, have no idea!

I’m not crazy, okay?

Random ramblings about leftover rotis

Random ramblings about leftover rotis

The other day about half an hour after dinner H said, ‘I am hungry. Can I have a roti?’ The only emotion I felt at that question was annoyance.

It had been barely five minutes since I’d wiped down and cleared up the kitchen and the last thing I wanted to do was to pull out the entire roti-making paraphernalia and roll out one for him.

It’s another matter that I also dislike the idea of him eating anything half an hour after a meal only because he was in too much of a hurry to get back to whatever he was doing while having lunch.

Of course I can make a few spare ones but the thing is I hate/dread left over chapatis. I have no idea what to do with them. Oh I do have an idea, many ideas, actually, but most of them require either too much effort or some form of deep frying – both of which I am averse to.

Re-heating doesn’t make them palatable and the maid doesn’t want any. Cows and stray dogs are not so common around here, even if I could gather the courage to seek them out to feed them. And I do hate throwing food in the bin. So I’m pretty stuck, unless I resign myself to eating stale chapatis.

How did the past generations manage.. 

…I sometimes wonder – my grandmom and my mom. The number of people who would be around for lunch or dinner was often fluid. People would flow in and out all the time. Very often whoever visited at lunch/dinner time was asked to join in. And Boy! did they have appetites!

What’s worse, one could never ever, repeat, never ever, ask people how many chapatis they would eat. It would have set tongues wagging and become the worse kind of family folklore in the entire extended community as the epitome of bad manners. I can clearly imagine the whispers, ‘So and so asked so and so how many rotis will you eat.’ Yup, it would been quite the scandal. The person who had been thus humiliated would probably severe all relations with the family of that insolent woman.

In any case counting wouldn’t have really been required back then because rotis were supposed to be made and served hot and fluffy, as and when various members sat down to eat.

A story goes..

..that when my maternal grandfather (my mom’s uncle) would sit to eat and my mom, not really famous for her patience, would ask him how many more chapatis she should make for him, he would shake his head and reply with a rather vague and completely non-committal, ‘I’m eating.’

She had little patience with this tiresome tradition but was fortunate in that the trickle of random guests had all but died down by the time her generation took over. It was only occasionally that she had to chip in. I have to add here that this is her own uncle we’re talking about or else she wouldn’t have dared to voice that question. Also, my mom has been quite the revolutionary. She broke many traditions, which worked really well for us, easing the way ahead.

That brings me back to my quandary

As the children are growing, specially H, their appetites vary from day to day. Sudden growth spurts make them sometimes more sometimes less hungry from one day to the next. And so either I’m stuck with stale rotis or I don’t have enough.

After thought: I’m seriously considering adopting a stray.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

The Burning of Books #Fahrenheit451 #BookReview

The Burning of Books #Fahrenheit451 #BookReview

Book: Fahrenheit 451Author: Ray Bradbury Here’s a question for you — Is it enough to be happy?  Would it be alright if one existed in a permanent state of happiness, the struggle and strife of life swept away somewhere? Would it okay for one to shut one’s eyes to the reality of life, if that […]