I came across this passage while reading Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss”. The context is of a young girl, who, because of a new found romance suddenly becomes conscious of herself.

“But how did she appear? She searched in the stainless-steel pots, in the polished gompa butter lamps, in the merchants’ vessels in the bazaar, in the images proffered by the spoons and knives on the dining table, in the green surface of the pond. Round and fat she was in the spoons, long and thin in the knives, pocked by insects and tiddlers in the pond; golden in one light, ashen in another; back then to the mirror; but the mirror, fickle as ever, showed one thing, then another and left her, as usual, without an answer.”

I found that I could also identify with it in the context of our encounters with the social platforms around – Orkut, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.. and how slowly the ‘Like’ and RTs seem to be defining the interactions and affecting even perceptions and understanding of the self. Its not as though people and comments never existed before, but the sheer mass of people we come into contact with, thanks to the social platforms is unprecedented. Through the conversations and responses, we see a bit of ourselves, a self colored by the other person’s perceptions. As the voices around us continue to increase, at some point, is there a danger of losing touch with what we really are? Yes, you could ignore or be selective, but then we’d just get back to an objectivity argument.

“The biggest danger, that of losing oneself, can pass off as quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. is bound to be noticed.”

I read that, thanks to @aanteadda‘s share on Twitter – an excellent take on the Ramayana,(do read it) and in a completely different context – that of dharma, it happened to arrive around the same place. Rama, having lived his entire life by what he considered his dharma, is distressed by what he must do with Sita after the end of the war with Ravana, irrespective of what he personally wants. The author thinks that this is Rama’s tragedy, and that of every person who lives by ‘impartial and abstract principles’, which don’t take into account ‘individuals as persons,’ and can’t see the difference between a situation and a personal situation’, and it can only lead to the destruction of the self.

And so I wondered, whether its people, or a moral code that one follows, whatever dictates what we do, is there really a difference – between the reflections from others and ourselves? Is there one right answer for what should define us and the way we live. I think not.

We must prioritise, I guess, based on what we think will give us happiness, and just like this neat article on addiction (the internet in particular) ends, “we will increasingly be defined by what we say no to”, all thanks to an abundance of choices, from within and without.

until next time, you always have a choice, but do you always want a choice?