Choice by Subhadra Jayaraman

There is quite a lame TV series I once watched, called Sense 8, and I hope none of you will ever watch it. But there was one dialogue that I still remember. One of the protagonists, Wolfgang, is questioned about why he tried to save his best friend’s life by putting his own at risk. To which Wolfgang responds, “He is my brother, and not by something as accidental as blood… by something much stronger. By choice.”

There are many things in life we did not choose. Our birth, our parents, our siblings, our genetics. These things shape us in mysterious ways, especially in our formative years. We are reared in circumstances we have no control over. As we grow older, we get a grasp of things, we become human. We identify our boundaries, we know the lengths of our leashes, we know the extent of possibilities. We slowly get accustomed to the realm of making choices. It starts with do you want idly or dosa for lunch?, or do you want to wear the purple dress or the blue one?, and then progresses to do you want to study computer science or biology?, or do you want to move to Bangalore or stay in Chennai? Making choices is a very cognitive phenomenon. It requires us to be aware of all the aspects surrounding the choice we are about to make, including their consequences. It shows the true potential of human decision making. Being determined, independent, and rational stems from the acquired and honed skills of judgment.

Those among us who have been given the liberty to make choices from a young age, however trivial, often are the ones capable of making more important decisions as we grow older. Individual personalities are the result of early decision-making resources. I have known people who never had that privilege, unfortunately. Women, who belonged to their fathers, and then were handed over to their husbands, never permitted to move a tablecloth or prepare a dish without prior consultation, who then lost the ability to judge and decide, and submitted to the needs and requirements of their sons and then grandsons. These women might be called meek, weak, domesticated, or tamed. Did they have a choice? In the yesteryear, no. It is as simple as that. No, they did not. That was the protocol. That was the law of nature. Those were the rules of domestic living. Today, though? Hell, yes. None of the choices come without consequences, but if the human mind is not jumpstarted to make decisions, then we become but a herd of sheep.

And then there are unfair choices. Should I be a mother or a working woman? Should I choose my partner or my parents? Should I advocate for women’s rights or immigration rights? Am I trying to ‘have it all’ if I choose to do both in all of the above questions? Pick your battles. Pick your poison. Pick your stances. Well, you know what, it is hard. I don’t want to pick my poison. I like rum, I like wine, and I like beer. And sometimes I just like coconut water. I don’t want to pick my battles. I am an atheist and I love my family. So, I want to hang out with them and not want to go to the temple or pray. I don’t want to pick a stance. I want women, immigrants, queers, people of color, the underprivileged, the disabled, and everyone else to all have the same rights. Is that too much to ask for? ‘Having it all’ is a wildly exotic concept. I am not trying to have it all, folks. I already do. We all already do. Because when we harness the power of choice, when we call on to ourselves to decide, when we learn to weigh our options, we secretly and gleefully realize that we do, in fact, have it all.

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