Category: random thoughts

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

I am writing. Again.

I am writing. Again.

The beginning of a year has always filled me with new vigour. It seems magical somehow, full of possibilities. Each year I print out planners, set blogging goals and health goals. I make resolutions, some of which I even manage to stick to.

This year, however, has been different. Because I’ve done nothing! Nothing at all. I tried to plan. To write. I opened my laptop multiple times. I sat staring at it but I just couldn’t. I read articles and blogs in search of inspiration. That’s what got me out of my limbo in the past.

Curiously enough, this time the more I saw year-end posts and resolutions, and Word of the Year posts and Vision Boards, the less I felt like writing. Because, honestly, I have no goals for this year. That sounds terrible – like a lost directionless ship. Moreso when everyone else seems to have everything worked out neatly.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to write. It isn’t a happy confession to make – that one is directionless. It’s like belittling the whole business of writing/blogging.

Then today I received a gift and a beautiful little note from friends from a blogging community which I am sort of part of – in a very peripheral kind of way. But that small note reminded me of the fact that I am a blogger. Goals or not, professional or not, good or bad, five views or five thousand, I am a blogger, I write. That’s what I’ve done for over a decade, not counting the years I did it for a living. There’s no way I could stop doing it.

And so I resolved to try again.

Each evening when I drop the kids for their classes I workout at a gym. Today I decided to dump it. I ditched my tights and tee. I picked out a gorgeous new top and my favourite pair of jeans. I put on some gloss for good measure. Then I did away with my gym rucksack, got out my bright red handbag instead and slid in my laptop.

Today, I was going to write.

The children looked on, a trifle puzzled. H, who can never hold in a question asked, ‘Where are you going  ma?’ ‘To write,’ I replied cryptically.

As they walked off to their class I headed for the smoky cafe I go to sometimes. It’s been an hour since I sat  here with a terrible cup of bitter green tea for company and I’ve got down a thousand words! Not all thousand are going to make it to the publish button, maybe none of them will, but the good thing is I am writing. Again.

The blogging world is vast. It is easy to feel lost and inconsequential, like you and your writing don’t matter (and maybe they don’t, really). However, one must keep writing with the hope that someday, some small piece of writing may make a difference to someone somewhere, that it might touch someone in a special way, bring a smile maybe, or a nod of relief and understanding. And for that, one must keep writing.

So here I am with my directionless rambling. Perhaps this will mean something to someone else feeling just as directionless. Perhaps it will make them continue on their path, like me, in the hope of better things. Perhaps, tomorrow I’ll find my goal and write something meaningful. But for now, this is all I have, this will have to do.

Why we need argumentative children

Why we need argumentative children

Sample this conversation here:

H: May I sleep in your room today?
Me: Why?
H: Because I get the best sleep there.
(The real reason is perhaps because his room is messy and he’s too lazy to clear it).
Me: Nope, you’re thirteen and you need to learn to be independent.
H: But mama India got independence after hundreds of years, I am just thirteen!

That was kind of funny, I know. However two words that top my list of most-detested-words are ‘But mama..’. I deal with them day in and day out, a million times a day. They have driven me to distraction, they have led to long arguments and missed buses. My personal Utopia would be a place where those two words didn’t exist.

Imagine for a moment, that did happen, that children stopped arguing with us. Imagine they ALWAYS did EXACTLY as we told them to.

Bliss.

Right?

Life would be peaceful.
There would be no dissonance.
There would be no tantrums, no whining, no arguments.
And so, things would move faster and we’d probably get way more done. We’d be more productive.

Right?

However, also, consider this:

Children would never learn to reason and think and make decisions.
Their mental capacities would lie in a limbo from disuse.
They’d grow up into adults with no minds of their own.
Things would perhaps never change because each generation would be a replica of the previous one.
There’d be no progress.
We’d probably still be hunter gatherers.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I mean arguing with your children sounds infinitely better than spending your life wearing leaves and living in deep dark caves crawling with all kinds of undesirable life forms, right?

Jokes aside, as a mom I hate the thought of my children not making their own decisions and taking over the course of their lives at some point. It is staggeringly frightening to think that I would always and forever be completely and wholly responsible for everything that’s right or wrong in their lives. That’s not how it should be.

Children argue because they have the capacity to think.
They argue because they do not want to follow rules blindly.
They argue because they want to try new things, new ways.
They argue because they think differently from you.

And that’s a blessing.

Be grateful.

 

Linking up with Mel for Microblog Mondays after a long time.

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?

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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!