The Right and Wrong Conundrum

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TO DO or NOT TO DO

Seldom does the heart know what it really desires: at one point it knows every hidden dream we ever dreamed; but once we are closer to achieving that ‘dream’, it starts generating mixed signals which usually makes us question every single step we take in achieving that dream. Does this then, involve morality, propriety or worse still, sobriety?

We are brought up with a sense of righteousness, which usually borders on a strict conditioning governed by a strong sense of morality, which involves right and wrong paths. Get waylaid from the laid down path and you are a rebel, immoral and even wild; if you follow the rules, you are moral and deserving. But, who I daresay laid down these ‘ideas’ of morality? Sure, some things are plausibly wrong like taking a life or hurting someone knowingly; however, can the right and wrong be really compartmentalized by the society? Can all the wrongs and all the rights be labeled accurately? It would have definitely made this world a better place, if it were possible.

Different people perceive this conundrum differently; for Muslims eating beef is commonplace but consuming pork would be a sacrilege, on the other hand; Hindus consider eating beef blasphemous. Mind you, both the sides have very legit arguments and you are left wondering, what could be the right side. Ask a vegetarian why he refuses to eat meat and he will drone on about cruelty to animals; ask a meat-eater and he will rant about the circle of life and the animals taking over the world if not curtailed. Is it sufficient to claim then, that the right and wrong dichotomy is solved by people’s feelings; they project these feelings on the choices available to them and internally justify their actions to themselves? They are after all born in a society obsessed with right and wrong; how can they not choose one side over the other.

Interestingly, as we grow older the ‘right’ compartment of our emotional banks tends to expand and widen, the things which were wrong before suddenly seem right and moral. So, should I daresay that morality is flexible, but wasn’t it supposed to be rigid and water-tight? We find ourselves doing things that seemed immoral and downright wrong a few years ago but perfectly acceptable in the present. What causes this shift in perception? Does one start perceiving the gap in the right and wrong labels as one grows older?

Is there then a possibility of a grey area; the area between the societal right and wrong, which is perceived differently by different hearts. After all, hearts dwell in divergent heavens and fear diverse horrors. This grey area can be acknowledged as people’s choices: to do or not to do. People are faced with two choices every time; their choice will then determine the right and wrong. Hence, I can safely presume that right and wrong is not predetermined but depends on choices people make.

The basic question we are faced with everyday is usually on these lines: the rightness of our actions, the rightness of our thoughts and rightness of our lives. But why are we so stuck up on being right or rather doing right. Is being right just a state of mind then, since one person perceives rightness doing one thing and another person feels right doing something exactly the opposite. A murder is downright sinful as it involves taking a man’s life however it becomes right and even justifiable when it is resorted to in self defense. Does that make killing a man more acceptable?

This web of choices will never cease to entrap our sensibilities; it is completely upon us to salvage an escape route. The trap of stereotypes and clichés lulls us into a false sense of security because it feels familiar territory, something we have lived with since forever. Shedding our inhibitions and venturing outside into the unknown is akin to walking into a jungle with no sense of direction, however, this territory needs to be chartered and traveled into. How else will we grow as a person? There is nothing like falling down to teach us how to walk and there is nothing like making mistakes to teach us ‘right and wrong’. The society can’t do it for us.

We have to fight our own battles, this is our battlefield and we are the warriors.

The_Road_Not_Taken_by_joannakuang

CHOICES

 

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The Meeting

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

 

In the dead of the night she was thrown forward as the bus screeched to a halt. As she recovered from the shock she looked around herself and realized that she was the last passenger on the bus. She could have sworn that five minutes ago she had noticed three girls sitting behind her. Maybe, they got off when she had dozed off. The braking of the bus had startled her. She noted with satisfaction that she had not missed her stop yet.

She had not taken her usual route today.  She joined this office yesterday and didn’t  want to start off on the wrong foot with her boss so she had not mentioned that this meeting was in a part of the town she had never seen before. She had not wanted to sound like a lightweight. The meeting had been in a dilapidated building and the woman she met had looked unhappy and grim. Like she had nothing to laugh about.

She noted that even the ticket collector had got down from the bus. The driver, an old man, was driving the bus at a normal pace but kept glancing at her nervously. Something about his look made her edgy. Suddenly, she heard a bloodcurdling and hair-raising scream, the bus stopped. Thinking that she had imagined the sound she looked at the bus driver.

“Ma’am, you will have to get down here, I am afraid. I can’t drive further”, the driver said nervously.

“But… but… I don’t live here. How will I get home?” she stammered.

“Can’t help you, sorry”, he looked harassed but determined. Knowing when she was beaten, she reluctantly got down and looked around herself. It was dark and the street was empty, it was lit by one flickering streetlamp. She inched further nervously and calculated that she was fifteen minutes away from home.

There was a chill in the air and the air was oppressively gloomy. Suddenly, she heard a rattling sound behind her. She turned and saw a car moving towards her, a car without lights on such a dark night. It was a broken car and the windows were smashed roughly, it stopped when it reached her. She was amazed to see the person behind the wheel. The woman was wearing the same black dress and looked grimmer than she had done before, during the meeting.

“Do you want a ride”, the woman declared, as if she wasn’t asking but telling.

Nodding she moved towards the passenger door. Something told her not to get in the car but the alternative prospect of a long walk on this eerie night did not seem attractive either. As if on cue, the door opened without her even touching it.

She gave directions to the woman in black.

“Was your car in an accident recently”, she gathered enough courage to ask.

Her answer was a nod. She decided to abandon her attempts at conversation and looked outside.

Ten minutes later the car stopped. She didn’t remember giving the woman her house number but maybe, she had.

She formally thanked the woman for her help.

The woman gave her a blank look and left.

As soon as she entered her room her phone was ringing.

“Where have you been all evening. I have been calling you since forever”, her boss thundered.

“I am sorry. My phone had no battery”, she explained stiltedly because the bizarre events of the evening were still on her mind.

“Mrs. Postwalla, the woman who you had to see today met with an accident this afternoon and died”, he continued, “So where were you”?

The pounding in her ears made it impossible to form a coherent reply.

 

The Inner Precipice

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“Why do I always hurt the people I love the most?” he had cried passionately after she stormed off. The compassionate stranger who had witnessed the scene playing out in the middle of the street had kindly tapped his shoulder and left.

“You make it impossible to love you, Neil”, Priya had thrown at him.

Even today, weeks after the incident he could recall the episode in Technicolor. Every word, every look exchanged was still fresh in his mind. Somehow, this parting had affected him more than anything he had felt before. He felt like he had lost a part of himself. Not because he had lost Priya, he was certain about that but because it had finally dawned on him that he destroyed whatever was good in his life. He was his own enemy!

Suddenly he had felt trapped in his own skin, he was certain there was more to him than this cruel bastard who butchered dreams. The next day he had stormed into his boss’ office, “Sir, I need a month off”, he had declared. Mr. Wania had been visibly shocked at this unusual behavior but something about the look in his eyes had warned him off and he had merely nodded, “Okay, you can do that. But, explain everything about the project you are working on to Rajesh, before you leave”.

A month, trekking the Himalayas was what he needed he had told himself. He needed this rigorous physical exertion to douse out this inner storm. He didn’t want to get swallowed into this chasm of self-doubt and misery.

Two weeks here had done nothing but raise more doubts and questions, he had discounted the importance of silence. Wasn’t this something he must have avoided at all costs?

Sitting on a precipice, he could feel the vast and elusive sea beckoning him. How could such beauty be so perilous? If he jumped into this rapidly flowing maelstrom, could he then be able to start afresh? A new life and a new him, was this the answer?

It wasn’t just his relationship with Priya that had been marred by him. His parents, who had died last year in a car wreck, had been troubled by the change in him. They had never mentioned it, but he knew how much he had hurt them with his indifference and elusiveness.

Why was he intent on destroying the things he cherished? In hindsight, he had annihilated all his relationships after losing his best friend; they had been together since they were five. He had seen him die, seen the life suck out of him, it had been the hardest part of his life. Getting used to his absence had been worse. He had frozen inside.

But hadn’t he done the same to his life? Yogi never had a choice but he did… or did he?

Was there really a destiny mapped out for him or did he have a say in that? They all had said when Yogi died; he was destined to go like this. So, did he also have no choice? Maybe his fate had decided that he would live alone and die alone…. Maybe all this was destiny. What were the odds of him fighting that?

But the major question was what was he really scared of? Death?

Did the end of existence and the nothingness scare him? But what if this life was the abyss and death the real thing? What if Yogi was happier than he had ever been here, surely, he couldn’t be certain. So why fear the unknown?

He was intimate with death, had seen it riding around many times. Wasn’t he still alive and kicking? Didn’t that mean something?

He did have a choice, a tiny voice in his head whispered. He had the choice to live; he had the choice to live his life any way he wanted to. Who was stopping him from forming loving and healthy relationships with people and most importantly with himself? When had he started dissociating from himself?

Armed with this knowledge, he could see where he had gone wrong in all his relationships in the past; he had tuned the world out expecting it to lash at him, harm him. But, hey, the whole wide world wasn’t out to get him, why couldn’t he see that? He realized the more people loved him the more he pushed them away. So this had been his self-defense mechanism, yes. But who was he defending and from what?

He was safe. He had always been safe.

This short story has been written for the Daily Post Challenge.

Photo- Cheri Lucas Rowlands