Every once in a while, we all look back and wonder how life would have been had we chosen differently. Talking to a friend earlier today, I was struck by much the same thought. A series of “what ifs” presented itself during my conversation, to which I don’t necessarily have answers.

What if, after finishing school with decent marks in the Sciences, I had chosen to pursue the same profession as millions of my compatriots? Would I have been among those comfortably settled in the US or elsewhere part of a several hundred thousand strong IT workforce? Or would I have, already fed up if being an IT wage slave have given up on a career and settled for domestic bliss?

What if, after graduation, I had actually taken the pains to write the civil services exams? Perhaps, I would today have had a comfortably cushy government job with all the associated perks.

What if I had not rejected the possibility of studying Social Work and ended up as a recruiter with some headhunter? Would I have found myself in a better, or perhaps worse, position than the one I’m in today.

What if I had chosen to stay in Paris rather than coming back? Would I have found an interesting job, love and life there?

What if I had chosen to marry young? What if I had been less stubborn, more focused or more flexible? What if…what if…

There are no answers to any of these questions. We will never know if life would have been better or worse had we made different decisions at various stages in life. Perhaps there indeed exist several parallel lifetimes like Richard Bach explores in One. Perhaps in another world, somewhere else, there is another me leading a different life.

And perhaps all this just too metaphysical for the human mind to comprehend. But, these questions will somehow keep coming back. Because,isn’t it always interesting to know how decisions affect our lives?

Being a woman…

…is not easy at times. This is not the first time I’ve spoken up against online abuse and it will not be the last. Yet, it never seems to end. As a woman, the minute you say something the majority doesn’t agree with, you’re targeted. Sometimes it’s people making you see sense, sometimes it is those who malign you and question your integrity and at other times it is those who threaten you into silence. But, almost always, the fact that you’re a woman is held against you.
If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I have refrained from commenting on politics and especially on the political right wing in India. This is mainly because I find objectivity sorely lacking in Indian political discourse. The attitude usually is, “if you’re not with me, you’re against me”. To elaborate, you either believe that the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate is the best thing to have happened to India or you’re a dynasty apologist. People like me who harbour a certain ambivalence to both mainstream parties and almost every other party in-between are considered outcasts. Indeed, there can be no middle path in Indian politics today. This basically forced me, and I believe many others like me, into preferring to watch from the sidelines.
In this situation, the news that Muthalik had joined the BJP shocked me into speaking out. So outraged was I with the idea that a hooligan could actually be admitted into a mainstream political party that could well be tomorrow’s ruling elite that I finally sent one one tweet on rethinking my ambivalence to the party.
Less than three hours after that tweet went out, I found myself inundated by @ mentions and retweets suggesting that I should go lick the feet of the Congress. The reactions did not stop there. As is usually the case, they extended to my character and my beliefs, even my family and my person. One well-meaning critic asked me what I know of Muthalik apart from what’s published by the mainstream “paid” media. Some critics helpfully pointed out that being a woman, I should watch out.
To all these people I have just question. Can’t you think of any better way to disagree with a person other than to malign her character and threaten her into silence? I find misogyny so rampant in the online world that nobody even stops to think about it any more. The last time I spoke out against the hooliganism of the Ram Sene in Mangalore, I was threatened and intimidated. There is no guarantee that this won’t happen again. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if I we’re to speak out against any political party at all, I’d be targeted in much the same way.
I find that otherwise rational and normal human beings become strangely intolerant when they start supporting one or the other political party. This is true about people across the political spectrum. What explains this? The need to belong? The need to identify with a group, however big or small? Or is it simply that ambiguity and ambivalence are too difficult for them to take? I don’t have answers. And perhaps never will.

On life, love and everything else…

Every once in a while, life teaches you a lesson. It jerks you out of complacency and tells you to wake up and smell the coffee. I get the feeling that life has been sending out a very similar signal to me lately. For some strange reason, I thought of someone who hasn’t really been on the top of my mind anytime in the recent past. Nandini. The closest I’ve ever had to a sibling, she was cheerful, bubbly and everything else a 20-year old should be.

Over seven years after she passed away in a road accident, I’m suddenly thinking of her again. I don’t really know what triggered the thought, but something made me wish she were still around somewhere. What I wouldn’t give to be able to hear her voice and talk to her right now! All this is a reminder of how transient life really is. Here one day, gone the next. Today was a reminder of everything I’ve never bothered to notice all these years.

Today I learnt that you only live once. If you miss this opportunity, it’s gone forever and you may never get a chance to do this again. I learnt that the one thing money can’t buy is good health. Ruin it, and you may not even live to regret it. I also learnt that it’s easy to make mistakes but very difficult to correct those mistakes and ensure they don’t recur. I learnt that if you can only ever prioritize one thing in life, it should probably be your body and its well being.

Maybe, just maybe life gives you those little shocks and disappointments only to warn you that your time is running out. Maybe the Greeks we’re right all along. Carpe diem. Seize the day, because it’s all you have.