Do life experiences affect our decision making? I thought as I looked at the waters below. The bridge on the creek on which I was standing was an old bridge. Bluish waters below were calm as if it was not flowing. Fishing trawlers were far away, and looked like a tiny dot near the horizon. Everything seemed as if it had come to a standstill.
Lulu, my parrot circled and descended on my shoulder. “Lost in deep thought! Sunset makes everybody so reflective” he said as he glanced at me.
“I am thinking of the great Marathi poet Narayan Surve. He was left near a trash box, and a poor textile worker picked him up and brought him up. Obviously, the worker did not take time to decide otherwise the infant would have left this world. What made him take that decision?”
“That’s a big puzzle. Hmmm…. Such a coincidence with poet and saint Kabir’s life. He was also abandoned as an infant, then found and brought up by a Muslim weaver. Why were you thinking of Surve?”
“The textile worker who picked up Surve and the Muslim weaver were men of modest means. How did they make such a life changing decision? That too instantly?”
“That’s a good question, and a good question has no answer. We can only guess and think deeply. In some way I feel the life experiences affect our decision making.”
Sun had set and it was getting dark. The waters below were reflecting the city lights and the full moon in the sky looked like a yellow dish.
“That’s exactly what I was saying. No sooner than my father was declared dead, he was on a ventilator, my mother told the Doctors that it was his wish to donate eyes. What gives courage to mention it when grief overtakes all, and loss of husband was a big blow.”
“She was a trained as a nurse. Training conditions your responses.”
“Do you mean professional training conditions mind? Maybe. Maybe not.”
The traffic on the bridge had more trucks than cars now. And the swoosh sound of fast-moving cars was replaced by the whirring engines of trucks.
“Some of these decisions are taken on-the-spot. Not much time is allowed for thinking, it’s almost as if they are taken on impulse. How does that happen? Surely you have heard of many good Samaritans putting their life in danger to help the corona patient.”
“And we know Sonu Sood who organised big help to migrant workers.”
“It is subconscious mind at work, I guess. Sachin Tendulkar says that he would constantly guess what kind type of a ball, like a googly or inswinger, the bowler will bowl next so that he can play well and score runs. He would not be right all the time, but he would train his mind constantly, doesn’t it sound like machine learning?”
The fishing trawlers were returning and the tiny dots had become more recognisable boats. Heavy truck traffic was causing the bridge to vibrate lightly but perceptibly.
“My friend’s son found that his laptop was stolen by his hostel room-mate. My friend rushed there. He did not lodge a police complaint, but asked the room-mate’s parents to intervene and persuade him to return the laptop. It worked.”
“Looks like he prevented a young man from becoming a criminal. Very unusual response to the situation. But one that produced relief and satisfaction. Yes, you are right, how do people decide on such actions? What makes them take that step? Is it upbringing? Or is it training mind constantly like Tendulkar?”
“On another note, reading makes a huge difference. Reading makes us open to others’ experience; it builds empathy.”
“And great authors like Hemingway exploit this ambiguity of decision making. Have you read ‘The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber?’ In the African jungle where he goes for hunting with his wife, a buffalo charges Macomber. His wife shoots at the buffalo but the bullet hits Macomber and he dies. Whether she wanted to kill him or the buffalo is left to the interpretation of the reader.”
“I wonder if we can ever discover the truth. Subconscious mind quietly drives the choices. Freud tells us; perhaps parental messages too.”
“Haven’t you heard of Albie Sachs?”
“Albie Sachs was a South African lawyer who defended mostly black people. He was declared outlaw. SA agents placed a bomb in Albie’s car, and he lost one hand and an eye in this attack. Later when SA gave up apartheid, he became a judge in the Constitutional Court. In his 15 years on the Court, Sachs made some path breaking decisions regarding human rights.”
“What a story! A so-called terrorist became a Supreme Court judge! Truth is stranger than fiction, indeed. What about him?”
“He asked himself this question which we are discussing – ‘How do life experiences affect decision making.’”
“And the answer?”
“After a long discussion, he concluded, ‘In unexpected ways!’”
Lulu rubbed his head on my head. We crossed the bridge.
Vivek S Patwardhan
Feature Pic Courtesy Pixabay
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” **** “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”