Choices

Image used for representation only

 

No one can avoid choices.

Our choices express what we value, and what we are willing to bear for that which we value.

They shape our lives. They also define who we are. They display our character for what it truly is.

To know someone, all you need to do is see the choices they make. For it is not what they say that matters as much as what they choose to do. To those who understand this, every choice is about being vulnerable, showing who they are, and what they value.

Yet few know how they choose, even fewer why they choose whatever they choose.

There are many stories I could tell about choice and maybe another day I will. But today I will narrate three stories of choice, to share with you about choice. Or rather for you to see the choice. To understand the choice. And to observe how those in the stories choose, or why they choose what they choose.

Then, perhaps, you will have your own insights about choice. Most importantly your choice. And, perhaps, that will help you to experience a better world, and share a better world with all those who are part of the systems within which you choose.

Story One

He looked at the stream. It must be about 60 meters wide, he thought. At least 15 meters of either side were covered with lush green vegetation. 

The hum of the crickets filled the air. There was a rhythmic drumming sound of a barbet in the distance. The sound of a hornbill calling out to its mate playfully filled the air. The babblers had rounds of noisy babbling between bouts of silence. The moorhens were noisily walking up and down the stream. A lapwing went “did-you-do-it” in the distance. A kingfisher flew overhead surveying the stream. Dozens of munias flew through the bushes. A mongoose family scurried past.

He noticed none of this.

His mind raced. A 300 meter by 70-meter land was a good resource he thought. At the market rates this would mean he could earn a significant profit every month if he created a sports centre. There was much demand among the upwardly mobile techies of the neighbourhood for sports centres. It was fashionable to sport tennis, why not make a tennis playground here. 

The public land was the easiest to take over. Especially the land of freshwater streams and rivers. The Municipal bodies rarely interfered. If they did, they were easy to silence with small bribes. 

For him, the land was just a space he could exploit. The plants, the animals, the greater community of life, did not even enter his perception. 

In just a few weeks there was no sign of the vegetation. There were no crickets singing anymore. There were no more the sounds of the barbet drumming, the hornbill calling out to its mate, the babblers’ excitement, the moorhens’ cacophony, or the lapwings’ questions. There were no kingfishers, munias, or any other birds. 

The sound of tennis balls and shouting at each serve replaced the spiritual music of stream. And of course, the sound of his son’s motorcycle beating loudly without a silencer as it announced his ego of doing public service as the proprietor of a sports club on public land. 

Our story stops here, though this is not the end of the story. We do not talk about three years later. Or the time he looked at his son with tearful eyes. We do not talk about whether or not the son had become a drug addict because of access to the easy money. Nor whether he was a physical and psychological wreck. All this may or may not have happened as a consequence of the choices he made. We shall leave it to your imagination about the consequences that resulted from the choices he made. All we are concerned about is the choices he made.

***

Story Two

He looked at the stream. It must be about 60 meters wide, he thought. At least 15 meters of either side were covered with lush green vegetation. 

The hum of the crickets filled the air. There was a rhythmic drumming sound of a barbet in the distance. The sound of a hornbill calling out to its mate playfully filled the air. The babblers had rounds of noisy babbling between bouts of silence. The moorhens were noisily walking up and down the stream. A lapwing went “did-you-do-it” in the distance. A kingfisher flew overhead surveying the stream. Dozens of munias flew through the bushes. A mongoose family scurried past.

His eyes saw it as land waiting to be occupied. Real estate. And opportunity. That is what he saw.

A year later the Municipal Body was collecting taxes from apartments that stood on what was once a stream on their own Development Plan. There was no sign of the vegetation or the biodiversity that once thrived in them. The stream had been bound within a one-meter-wide channel of concrete. A broken sewer within the channel gushed out sewage furiously.

With money in their accounts, the real-estate developer and the engineers from the Municipal Body had now set sight on new projects on other public spaces and moved on. 

Again, our story stops here although you well know that it does not end here. 

We leave it to your imagination or experience to decide if each year the residents complained of mosquito menace and sprayed DDT. Or whether they saw any connection between the sewage they emptied into what was once a stream with fish, frogs, and birds that regulated the mosquito population.

You can also imagine whether each year, every time there was a cloud burst, whether the rainwater mixed with sewage flooded the apartments and the roads around them. You can imagine whether they saw the connection between their apartment standing on the land of what was once a stream with lush vegetation that buffered all the rain it ever got and the floods that they experienced.

You can also imagine what consequences, if any, the builder or the engineers from the municipal body experienced from the choices they made.

Whether or not things happened differently, all we are concerned about is the choices he made.

***

Story Three

He looked at the stream. It must be about 60 meters wide, he thought. At least 15 meters of either side were covered with lush green vegetation. 

The hum of the crickets filled the air. There was a rhythmic drumming sound of a barbet in the distance. The sound of a hornbill calling out to its mate playfully filled the air. The babblers had rounds of noisy babbling between bouts of silence. The moorhens were noisily walking up and down the stream. A lapwing went “did-you-do-it” in the distance. A kingfisher flew overhead surveying the stream. Dozens of munias flew through the bushes. A mongoose family scurried past.

What a paradise, he thought. 

He heard about the builder who planned to raze the vegetation and cover the stream to make apartments. This was just like when he heard about the local landowner who decided to encroach on the stream to make a sports club. 

He rushed to explain to those in the neighbourhood the importance of protecting the stream and all the life it supported. He talked to the municipal body. He explained to the builder what public interest was, and why it mattered. He went to the courts to seek protection of the stream. He wrote about the stream.

This story too stops here but does not end here.

You can take your pick about how many people in the neighbourhood understood the importance he talked about. You can take your pick about whether the builder was polite to have a conversation or threatened him for questioning his project. You can also take your pick about whether the consequence of his choice resulted in the municipal body protecting the stream. You can pick whether the courts understood, cared, or gave justice to the cause of protecting the stream.

All that concerns us today, is the choices he made, his vulnerability, and the values he expressed.

***

These are not parallel universes. They are simply stories that could be from your neighbourhood and about you.

These are the story of your choices, and what that says about you. They are the story of the values you choose to drive your actions. They are the stories of the how you choose and why you choose what you choose.

Your choice may be clever. It may be street smart. Or it may be wise. Your choice says everything about who you are. It says everything about your character. And, yes, of course, it will decide the consequence you experience. 

Do you know how you choose? Do you know why you choose what you choose?

~~

#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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