Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Conundrum that is Choice

There is so much by way of choice today, it is hard to make a choice. I spend a big chunk of my free time, trying to figure out what to watch on Netflix and sometimes I can’t make up my mind and end up watching nothing at all. It is the same in restaurants. I put in so much effort to make the right choice when it comes to the hundreds of varieties on offer that invariably I order something funky and the memory of a jellied scaly fish swimming in a foul smelling white sauce, described by food critics as sex on a plate, haunts me the next time I find myself in a similar predicament. 
It is the classic paradox of choice described by Barry Schwartz. The overabundance of choice has put so much pressure on us to make the perfect choice that we are unable to choose anything at all. When we do choose, it is impossible to be happy with the decision because we are convinced that there is something better out there, that impossibly perfect thing we must have in our lives and which we have missed out on because we didn’t keep looking.
While it is hard enough to wrestle with personal choice, we compound matters by criticizing the choices made by others in order to feel better about our own. Of course, everybody is entitled to make their own choices, just the same as us, but we prefer it, if everybody makes the same choices so that we can all be miserable together. If not, we will judge and shame while viciously condemning those who do the same to us.
We will attack not just the makers and Shahid Kapoor for the admittedly problematic Kabir Singh but those who watched it and dared not to hate it, because they found it to be engrossing cinema and brand them as flag bearers of toxic masculinity.
We will not respect Zaira Wasim’s decision to disassociate herself from Bollywood. How dare she? Here I am praying fervently before the Karan Johar bust in my puja room hoping he believes the definitive proof that my great aunt was a stunt double for Hema Malini when she danced on broken glass and gives me a glitzy launch and this teenager throws it all away because acting interferes with her religion! Of course I am going to natter on about her foolishly regressive choice or if I am Barkha Dutt, worry about ‘the indoctrination of religious conservatism.’
What about Virat Kohli’s inexplicable decision to keep backing Dhoni? Sure, the legend has contributed his mite to cricket but he is done damn it! We twitter warriors have begun a crusade to get the legend dropped and we urge you to join in.
Given the chaos over choice, I am convinced that the solution is to let our mothers take all decisions. They will always be happy to do it and we can have the comfort of blaming them when life becomes crappy. Or we can find a way to live with our choices and make even the dubious ones work for us. But that is sensible and deserves to be rejected outright since it is better to stew in discontent while laughing ourselves silly over the foolishness of others. 

This column was originally published by The New Indian Express.

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