Do people make the best choices?

October 23, 2009

Life is always full of choices. At every crossroad, be it trivial like a dilemma over ordering the food or a significant one like switching companies, people are driven to make choices. And at all these times, they choose the best among the options available to them. This is the topic on which this post is based.

When I chose this topic for the assignment, I realized I was the first proof of the statement. In the class, when the professor asked us to pick the topic which we wanted, the alert ones immediately started reeling off the number (of the topic). The sluggish ones like me, who were in a state of mild disorientation, had to choose from the leftovers (no offense meant!).  And the number of topics available was fast dwindling. A quick browse through the list revealed that I was fairly clear about two and totally clueless about the rest. And from the two I chose the one I thought I could relate with (The meaning of a communication lies in the response you get). Relief poured through me and I leaned back in the chair with smug satisfaction.

But as Preethi read out the topics that weren’t taken, I found out this topic was still available and it was more to my liking. But I was not sure if I can change my previous one since I had already confirmed it. A moment’s hesitation cost me this topic as Venkat Raghavan pounced on it. Then followed a series of negotiations and after a bribe of a plate of maggi, Raghav consented to switch topics. Now as I write this piece I feel I couldn’t have made a better choice. But, had things been different and if I had come out of my trance earlier, I might have picked a different topic.

A reinforcement of the above presupposition came when I went to buy a saree two days back. The occasion is my cousin’s wedding. An entourage consisting of my mum and brother accompanied me on this expedition. The first obstacle was selecting the shop where we wanted to go. A lot of things were taken into consideration like the collections available in the shop, area where it is located, price, availability of parking lot, etc. After much deliberation we zeroed in on one area where 2 or 3 good boutiques were situated. Now, it is a known fact, and an object of numerous wisecracks, that when 2 or more ladies go shopping together, the male who has the misfortune of accompanying them will become a tangled mass of irritation, frustration, exasperation, anger and a lot more indefinable emotions by the time it ends.

Contrary to this popular belief, my brother played the role of the perfect shopping companion by pulling out the ones that he thought I would like at lightning speed. There were too many options and each one looked better than the other. Finally, I shortlisted five and tried them on. The shop assistant patiently stood beside me while I was cracking my head. My mind kept jumping from one to the other. My poor mum was more confused than I and all she could say was, ‘yeah, this colour suits you’ or ‘that design looks better’. So went more than three hours and I could no longer concentrate.

It felt as if I was inside a kaleidoscope with all those colours swirling around me and people waiting for me to make my choice. I just had to get away from that. I excused myself and went out of the boutique. I composed my thoughts and made a list of criteria which included the price, colour, the occasion, etc. With that in mind I went inside and again shortlisted two and finally selected one. Interestingly, I realised that the one I finally settled upon was opposite in every aspect to what I had in my mind when I started from my home.

People do make the best choices open to them when they act.