If I had chosen to live inside the cube that engulfs people around me, I wouldn’t even be sitting here penning this. And choosing not to do that is exactly what is expected of me – by my dad, whose dad taught him to be what he is now. While I am gloating at the smart choices I have made, my dad is sipping his fourth cup of kappi for the day happy at how well he had played his part to turn my life as successful as he wanted it to be.
It was on 12 April of late 80s; my life was signed, sealed and delivered without a kiss. The first and foremost decision was taken by my dad to raise me as the independent girl that I am now. I hadn’t realized that was a decision that is going to define everything I am going to do and not do in my life, until one day I woke up to the fact that even being independent is a lot dependent on others.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I have been programmed to be what I wished to be and I ‘decided’ to be ‘different’ from everyone else, at a quite young age, thanks to the rebel (wannabe?) in me.
I had no clue, what I wanted to be but I just didn’t want to be everyone else. So when everyone wanted to love cricket, I wanted to engross myself into the world of books – not realizing what I was doing so because I was doing the exact same thing my dad did, and probably someday my kids would do, if I decide I could tolerate raising one.
Though I preen when someone says I am like my dad, I am wondering where he ends and where I start. Or for that matter, where does society end and an individual start living his/her life?
I was a vegetarian long before it was fashionable to be one, because my parents, their parents, and their ancestors were. My sister cheers for the Indian team and prays desperately for them to win because my dad and my cousins were ardent fans. If I had not been the ‘different’ one, I would be oing exactly the same.
But having said that, there are numerous other instances where I was programmed to want to do certain things. Maybe this programming is what we label proudly as our traditional values / heritage? What good is the so-called freedom when you have to exercise the same within pre-defined premises?
A step outside the normal curve and you are labeled and shunned out of the community.
I am not denying that we are ‘given’ the freedom of making choices, but what is the use of talking about freedom to a person who is not even aware of the options that are available beyond those predefined choices. I am reminded of the often-quoted Henry Ford’s words “You can choose any color car you want, as long as it is black.” Quite like the other parents of our generation helping us choose our career with the question – Engineering or Engineering? Oh the quite liberal parents like mine, ‘gave’ options “Medicine, Engineering or Finance?” ain’t it?
I used to wonder if I was enough of the rebel that I desperately wanted to be. Then I realized all my life I have had been fed with a misplaced hope that I am the owner of my life and that I can choose to be what I want to be. It was a moment of truth when I was fed with the dosage of reality that almost everything is predefined and your life is everyone else’s except yours.
The blatant truth is you fly high, as high as they will let you fly and the personal freedom of choice is nothing but an illusion, an illusion created by the very society that most of us are trying to escape from.
You think that’s air you are breathing? – Morpheus
The African pygmies, even today have an aspiring practice, where their attitude towards their kids is permissive, and they let the child chose whatever they want to do! To explore and discover… They’ve understood the concept of infinite choices and a child has the absolute freedom.
The vast majority of people out there want others to make choices for them, they give up the freedom to choose and let others influence their decisions.
But the true essence of freedom and the pursuit of the same is what has pushed our existence forward. True freedom is the freedom in creating a choice and mankind has proven that it is possible to do so, since the times when we were nomads.
The ability to create fire instead of waiting for it to naturally appear, hunting and gathering food, looking for the next cave to hide in for the long night; all of these choices were transcended by man when he decided to take the initiative to settle down to create civilizations.
When man was limited to sign language, man made the choice to create a dialect, and then create a script. He moved from writing on stones and leaves to creating paper and writing on it so that knowledge could be passed down through generations! Johannes Gutenberg around 1440, decided to create a “choice” of printing, which then gave rise to myriad other choices.
When people limited the ability to fly only to birds and other avians, labeling anybody with the dream to fly as insane, the Wright brothers created the first aircraft that revolutionized the concept of flying which we take for granted in today’s world.
Charles Babbage created the computer, Alex Graham Bell created the phone, started with Leonard Kleinrock, boosted by the contributions of various people, and tada! Somehow, today we have the Internet.
If all of this isn’t the freedom to create choices than what is it?
There are those that have dreamed and abandoned their dreams and those who are yet to dream, and maybe we know it but have failed to realize that freedom is discovering that you can create choices you want from the limited resources around you.
How is it possible in the world full of coerced choices?
Simple, accept those crazy ideas that pop in your head, believe that it is possible, it’s been proven after all historically! Don’t shoo them away, yes they might sound absurd but everything is possible, we just don’t know that yet. Maybe it is time that we as a society started to accept and embrace our limitations so that the very idea of restriction and limitation can propel us to create choices that can open some pretty amazing doors for us!