Chance for a Choice!

18 Feb

Three incidences that happened last week led to this blog post. First was a recurring meeting where curious souls connect and discuss about all things Life. Second was a rescue mission to save a pigeon. Third was an illness that revisited me after a long time.

In each of these incidences, choices were made by those involved. Swamy was obviously part of all three, and made a choice in each! And made another choice to share the incidences, choices and their consequences with dear readers J

Thinking1Incidence 1 – Mento Meeto. This was the bi-weekly meeting with my Mentos (aka cool mentees). As always, we discussed at length about heart & mind, good & bad, right & wrong, human & divine and conscience & awareness (oh don’t worry, we do discuss the boring BAU stuff too, occasionally). The discussion sprouted from a point one of them made about doing things and feeling bad about them, after they are done. The question was whether being conscientious good or bad and why is it that the conscience kicks in only after the action has happened!

Matchstick7Smoking cancer sticks can be an easy (not good or bad, just easy) example for analyzing this conundrum. One usually does it with a bunch of friends (aren’t friends supposed to care about each other’s wellbeing) or even complete strangers. All those who do are fully aware of the consequences of their action (which is why I’ve stopped advising even my friends against it a long time ago). When I feed stray dogs in front of tea shops, hundreds of them light up, then just stand and watch, amidst swirl of cancerous smoke. Who knows, those dogs might get cancer too, but at that point in time they made a choice to focus on their hunger and naturally the biscuits to sate it! Some of the smokers feel guilty after they’re done and some don’t. Some suffer the pang of guilt due to their inability to get rid of the habit. Getting drunk and substance abuse feature in the same league too.

Indiansweets2Same goes for food. We mostly eat food based on our craving for taste. The stomach never is particular about having lip smacking biryani or ghee masala roast or tandoori whatever or Grand Sweets ghee halwa or strong Coffee with extra sugar to sate hunger.  When there are options to choose, the tongue, needless to say driven by the mind, takes over. It doesn’t care a hoot about cholesterol or fat or how the human digestion system is not designed to handle the orgy of meat eating that humans have developed over time. Poor stomach (and in turn the whole body) ends up suffering due to the tongue’s insatiable appetite for unhealthy food.

Banner3aWhen one’s at the half-way mark of Life – which in today’s conditions is just around 40 – suddenly the conscience wakes up with a jolt and starts warning you on many things, usually done in excess, until then. The trigger could be a master health check-up or the sudden illness or even death of someone known or close to you or some glitterati. Some listen to the warning signal and take a diversion from the known path to live better lives. Some even become spiritual and wake up to an altogether different possibility of Life.

Rajinikath4When Kollywood superstar Rajinikanth flipped a biscuit or chewing gum in air instead of the usual cancer stick in Chandramukhi (he’s wildly popular for his style after all, besides spectacular one liners), his raving fans hardly noticed it. When he ended up in a Singapore hospital for treatment and his new movie hasn’t shined on the silver screens for almost two years now, everyone’s left wondering about his health. He made choices that resulted in consequences.

A friend of mine took the master health checkup recently. The doc told he had high blood pressure (anyone who knows him will laugh at it and find it incredulous) and was promptly put on a strict diet by his worried spouse. He chose to stick to the diet, doesn’t waver one bit from it and isn’t tempted by whatever others eat. He’ll most certainly get better soon due to the choice he made. There are others in the same group who are unable to make such a choice about what they eat!

PigeonRescue4Incidence 2 – Operation Pigeon Rescue. During the weekend, several individuals from diverse background tied only by the apartment complex they live in got involved in the act of rescuing a pigeon stuck in electric cable. Birds get stuck in the complex maze of electric wires near our home occasionally (why can’t these cables be laid underground is one of those questions sans answers). We instinctively know about such incidences when suddenly there’s a whole flock of birds flying around the one that got stuck, kawing and cooing loudly. Most die, almost instantaneously. This one was obviously an exception. It apparently hung there – upside down – for several hours, when I noticed it. I thought it was dead and was about to offer a prayer, when it appeared to flap its wings. Whoa, I thought, and immediately alerted my better half, who in turn rushed quickly to the apartment security guard and launched ‘Operation Pigeon Rescue’ in right earnest. Some of our neighbours joined soon. I also sent Jr. with a ladder. Eventually I too joined the rescue mission (the reason for delay is the third incidence).

PigeonRescue3bTo our horror we found that there was a baby pigeon too – most probably a new born – and their legs were entangled in the cable with a small rope, tied either by a heartless idiot or picked up by the bird somewhere to build a nest. A long stick was soon made from dry branches, with a cross shaped tip to pull or shake them off. We could see a bloody leg, but didn’t know if it was the mother’s or baby’s. They probably hung in there upside down for half-a-day in the scorching sun. And they were surprisingly still alive. When we tried shaking the wire, the baby cried in a feeble voice. After trying hard for nearly half-an-hour, the baby came off first. But it didn’t survive for long. While it was probably blessed to leave this world within a short duration without suffering an agonizing life of day-to-day survival with just one leg, we were left pondering why it had to endure such a painful ordeal soon after its birth L Another 10 minutes passed by before the mother came off the wire. It couldn’t walk, but managed to crawl into a nearby bush. We took it to the shade, splashed some water on it (thinking that would cool it off a bit after getting baked in the sun) and offered water and some grains. It was in a deep shock and didn’t take any, staying still instead. Eventually it flew away in the evening. It’ll hopefully recover from the shock of losing its baby and probably a broken leg and live to chirp the tale. It made a choice to live, not die on that day and help came its way – a bit late probably – to make it happen.

The incidence also showed how people make choices – alone or in a group – and how those choices could destroy or save lives. Everyone involved in it had the singular purpose of saving the bird(s). Situational leadership came to the fore and larger than life egos were subdued and social status was forgotten, at least for a short span of time. The choice we made on that day saved a Life, but couldn’t save two. Are we to feel good or bad about that remains a point to ponder for some!

Pills1bIncidence 3 – An illness and a process. The reason why I joined the rescue mission late was my illness, which is like a flu or viral fever, minus the temperature associated with it. I’ve suffered from this for a long time in this Life, time and again (almost once in a quarter). Several doctors were consulted, including a hematologist, but none figured out the cause. After I started walking the spiritual path through Isha Yoga with my Master’s boundless grace four years ago, it left me for good. Or so I thought. Until, it came back with a vengeance, a couple of days ago. The condition usually starts with cold and sore throat, then rips the body apart with pain from head to toe and saps away all energy. Paracetamol and cold medicine, combined with complete rest usually helps recover in about 3 days. So, I was obviously not in a shape to join the rescue mission. The situation was a bit more complicated by a new spiritual sadhana I’m undertaking.

ShivaThandavam6The Shivanga sadhana is a 42 day process I’ve chosen to go through. It started on Thaipoosam day and will conclude on Mahashivarathri day at the Isha Yoga Center. It requires strict adherence to multiple conditions such as waking up and doing a process called Shiva Namaskar before sunrise in empty stomach after taking bath. One must also take bath twice and do a chanting. Other than a few pepper and neem leaves soaked in honey, a handful of groundnuts soaked in water overnight and lemon juice with honey, no food – liquid or solid – can be consumed till noon. And only two meals can be had during the day. One mustn’t smoke, drink or eat meat during this period, which anyway isn’t a problem for a non-smoking, vegetarian, teetotaler like me. There are also a few more actions to be performed during this period, but these are the daily ones to be adhered to.

I had to make a choice to continue the sadhana (which pretty much tests each joint in the body and its overall flexibility), despite my body being not in the best shape to perform it. And I did. There was obviously much pain to be endured, but there wasn’t any suffering, while being part of this dance of Life. Pain is physical, directly related to the body and can be endured by the will of mind. Suffering is in the mind and the choice to suffer is made by us. Chances are, we combine pain with suffering and are left confused by the consequences.

Sadhguru_DevotionRamana Maharishi suffered from arthritis. He endured the physical pain but didn’t suffer. The Paramacharya of Kanchi is said to have underwent a cataract surgery, while being fully conscious. He would’ve certainly endured the physical pain but wouldn’t have suffered because of that. my Master Sadhguru once met with an accident that required multiple stitches on his leg. When the doctor in the nearby health center told him that he didn’t have the wherewithal for anesthesia, Sadhguru asked him to proceed with the stitches anyway, assuring him that the pain to the physical body will be endured without any suffering. I’m nowhere close to these illustrious enlightened beings, but could certainly relate to what they must’ve gone through.

Life is full of choices. Every one of us has to make those choices at each stage in Life. Many even each day of Life.

The choices made in personal Life will chart the course of the entire Life, in this lifetime. The choices made in professional Life – a generous mix of decisions and risks – will determine the arc of one’s career graph.

The choice of where and what you study – usually the dad’s – determines whether you live and prosper doing what you love to or end up pushing mails, staring at documents made with the ubiquitous MS Office endlessly and doze through countless BAU meetings, till you retire someday, by chance or choice.

OMG-MonkeybI made the choice to let go of a chance to do B.Arch in REC (now NIT) and joined a private engineering college (very good one, of course) in my home state instead. For a long time I blamed it on an uncle, who usually made choices about everyone’s Life in the family, until one fine day I realized it was my choice after all. Who knew at that time that I was destined to meet my lady love (who has been my better half for over 17 years now), who lived just a street away, while still in college!

In the college, I made another strange choice to study electronics & communication, instead of the new buzz called computer science that was offered to me on a platter. Friends can easily be blamed for that, but by now we know that it’s pretty pointless, don’t we! I still occasionally visit my alma mater for recruitment and joke about my choice!

KashGarden5sThe choice of who you marry – usually the mom’s, at least in this part of the world – decides how the rest of your Life is going to be. While moms are usually endearing, they nevertheless test your endurance almost unfailingly on this choice.

I, thankfully, chose who I’ll marry myself (and cajoled my parents to agree to arrange the marriage ;-)) and thereby don’t have any regrets. That she turned out be the better half of the whole made it sweeter! That my parents aren’t too amused by the fact that three of my four younger brothers took the love route for wedding bliss, following my lead, is a an altogether different matter! :O

Growth3The choice of who you work for or what you do for a living – usually the dad’s or an uncle’s – at least the first employer or business, decides how your career will shape up. The employers I chose to skip or the ones I decided to work for were all my choices. And I don’t regret any of my choices till date as each one had enriched my Life in their own way!

Sujatha1My first (and only till date) story was published in the Ananda Vikatan magazine in Dec 1990. It was a simple 1 page story about a caged parrot and a youngster’s (naturally, yours truly) angst against its suffering and his inability to do anything about it. I got a copy of the magazine and Rs.75 (a big amount at that time) for it. Another one was accepted for publication in Dhinamalar Kathai Malar, but the magazine itself didn’t get published. A poem also got published in another magazine. The significance of that achievement – especially for a small time youngster like me – didn’t register well in my mind to make me focus on my writing skill to emulate my idols such as the prolific, versatile and popular Sujatha. I didn’t have a mentor to guide my pursuit in that path (that I didn’t listen to many didn’t help either). I made a choice not to continue trying to get my writing published (I didn’t stop writing though), an obviously poor choice.

Bucket-list1Decades later, I made another choice to rekindle that fire within and started writing again, as a blogger this time. I also made another choice to stick to a schedule (that’s completely unlike me) and publish a post regularly, which earned the moniker of ‘Monday Morning Post’ from one of my avid readers. Those choices and the response my posts have received so far has motivated me to start the pursuit of getting my book(s) published, sooner than later. In retrospect, another choice I’ve made when I was very young – to read a lot (pretty much anything and everything) and watch Hollywood movies (of all kinds) helped shape my linguistic skills to such an extent that I can write and speak impromptu and express myself freely, when I want to, without pre-selecting a topic or preparing for it. Now, it won’t be preposterous to say “I write, therefore I am!

All the choices naturally have consequences (Merovingian’s speech on cuasality in the Matrix is a must watch). The choices that result in celebratory outcomes are hailed as wise and labeled good. The ones that result in failure or ignominy are howled at and branded bad. But good or bad are just subjective perspectives based one’s limited knowledge accumulated through the five senses in a given social milieu.

Gandhi3Mahatma Gandhi made a choice on a railway platform in South Africa that not only made him the Father of the Nation of his motherland, but also gave hope to many a leader world over such as Mandela that it is possible to gain freedom sans violence.

Abe Lincoln made a choice to abolish slavery that changed the course of history. Several decades later, another democrat named Barack Obama made a choice that elevated him to be the first African American President of that same nation. Two choices that made an indelible mark on a nation’s history and gave hope to a million aspirations.

stevejobsappleSteve Jobs made a choice to not toe the line of appliance makers and decided to make iThings that are an enchanting combination of form and function instead. His company named after a fruit became synonymous to design elegance and eventually became the most valuable technology company on earth. His choice to return to the company he founded (from which he was chucked out unceremoniously) turned out to be the greatest second act in the history of business!

Daniel Pink made a choice to question long standing notions about human thinking and motivation, dared to think different and write about his ideas. His radical and bold ideas have hope to millions of right brainers worldwide who were conditioned to believe that they’re destined to be the odd ones out. Swamy is one of them!

MSDhoni_Sixer_WCFinalMS Dhoni made a choice to hit a towering sixer to score the winning runs in a world cup final instead of inching towards victory safely and went on to become India’s only second captain to win that coveted prize, ever. His ascent to the top and way of play paved the way for many small town lads with big hopes make inroads into the glitzy world of cricket.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made the choice to stick to their original ideas instead of making run-of-the-mill movies, persisted until they got their break and ended up making the blockbusters Jaws and Star Wars respectively, each spawning their own successful series. Later they joined hands and went on to make another successful series with a laid back archaeologist wearing a hat and carrying a whip, going around the world looking for priceless artifacts while fighting countless baddies. Just mention ‘Indiana Jones’ and fan boys the world over will get goosebumps, even today.

The choices made by these distinguished individuals were like the third side of a coin and resulted in consequences that made an indelible impact in both their and our lives.

Of course, there are also those who made poor choices and ended up not only facing the consequences, but also let down millions who held them truly, madly, deeply at the high altar as role models. Intriguingly, many such poor choices are in the world of sports and business.

Love115Lance Armstrong made a choice to win by any means, denied all allegations vehemently, but ended up accepting and regretting it eventually. He let down all those who believed in him and stood by him.

Tiger Woods fell from grace and the top position he held for record time due to the choices he made in personal Life.

The awe inspiring blade runner Oscar Pistorius is the latest addition to this list, due to a poor choice he made a few days ago.

Screaming4Nokia, the world’s top cell phone maker once, made a choice to not join the popular and growing Android bandwagon and instead adopted the then unknown and still uncertain Windows platform and ceded its crown to Samsung, which made a smart choice to make phones for both platforms!

Many successful brick and mortar stores that didn’t heed the wakeup call for becoming click and mortar are now left ruing that choice.

Scores of financial behemoths made choices that ruined their name, fame and ended up in the pool of shame.

Cheering5The choices we make will also result in consequences that’ll define how we’re remembered by the world we live in.

While the choices in Life are many, the chances to make such choices aren’t that many. In fact, Life offers only one chance for each choice, whoever you are and whatever you do. Learn how to know that one Chance for a(ny) Choice!

P.S.: To comment and share this post after reading is a Choice you’ve to make!

Love + Gratitude = @PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer :-)
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4 Responses to “Chance for a Choice!”

  1. Indumathi Baskaran March 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Brilliant post this is, Prakash! Electrifying effect it has… Loved it.

  2. Ekanthalingam Amirthalingam February 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    What a wonderful post to start the week Prakash! Really inspiring and with so many amazing examples!!! I wish to share so many observations on this post but did not want to put another post as a comment to your post 🙂

    Firstly, congrats on keeping up the sadhana despite your physical challenges… Surely, His grace and his grace will prevail over you always… Secondly, I too am partially like you in not making a choice of the B.Arch course (I was selected for) and partially unlike you in being forced to join the B.E Comp Science in Engineering.

    I also could relate to the joy you might have received when you first article was published… Still, you came back big time and now you are doing wonders with your skills in wordplay… Please keep our Monday mornings as charged-up as ever…

    I could relate to the post so well since I too am a strong believer of choices and have made sure to make the BIG one of my life all by MYSELF 🙂 Yes, we do make some trade-off on the choices we have but I firmly believe that it is better to make our choices than to live to somebody elses!

    Great post again and will introspect on this until your next post pops up…

    • Dani February 20, 2013 at 3:37 am #

      A very good and inspiring post Prakash.. How is your health now ?? Are u alright ?? AM sure Shivangam will still chisel u better and make u more hale and healthy 🙂

      Sad that two pigeons couldnt be saved 😦 But the particular point of urs stating that everyone forgot what their social status and joined together for a purpose is nice to know ..

      And the list of choices u have mentioned.. Even i wanted to pursue BA Eng Lit and become a full time writer when i was in 12th, but then chose BE, ECE (Same pinch on that) and here I am.. the desire to publish a book is still a glow 🙂

      And yes thats another reason i started watching Holly wood Movies..

      Loved all the examples u had given, especially could relate to that of Nokia and Spielberg 🙂

      Pls do share ur first published story.. quite eager to read it (especially knwing that its in TAmil)

      All the very best for publishing ur book.. Need an autographed copy from u 🙂

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  1. From Ordinary to Extra Ordinary! | Swamystery - February 25, 2013

    […] Yoga, the magnitude of the message didn’t fully sink in, until I started the Shivanga sadhana (you can read about it in this post) this year. It’s a focused attempt to make us shed the “I” shades to see ‘Life the way it […]

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