Forks on the road

Cast a backward glance over your life and you will see that the road you have traversed so far is full of forks.

At each fork, one path was chosen in preference to the other and it is this that has brought you where you are today. It is a life-long process, for existence for all of us is a matter of making choices and coming to decisions. 

Some decisions are relatively small, such as what to wear or what to eat. Others are more important and can determine the direction that one’s life takes. Broadly speaking, decisions fall into three categories. The first comprises personal ones and they, do not affect others. The second involves others too and the third kind may impact society, the country and the world at large. It pays then to give thought to the decisions we make, to try and avoid hasty, ill-considered ones that cause pain and suffering.

 There are occasions in everyone’s life when personal decisions have brought about disappointment and regret. Students put off studying till the last minute. Older people indulge in unhealthy habits until they fall prey to chronic illness. Work can take up so much time that we neglect loved ones. Many of our decisions involve family, friends and work mates. Parents often force children into careers they wanted and dreamt of pursuing. The aptitudes and talents of the inexperienced young are not taken into consideration. People quite often marry for the wrong reasons. Marriages of convenience cause misery not only for the partners but also for the children. 

Decisions that cause the greatest harm are those made by people at the helm of affairs. Colonel Dyer’s decision to fire on an unarmed people who had gathered for a peaceful meeting led to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Hitler who decided to establish Aryan hegemony unleashed World War II. 

How then do we make wise decisions? An episode in the Mahabharata throws light on this thorny issue. War was imminent and the leaders of both sides, Duryodhana and Arjuna, went to Dwaraka to meet Krishna. Both wanted Krishna’s aid. Duryodhana went in first and found Krishna asleep. He sat on a cushion near his head. Arjuna entered next and sat at the foot of the Lord. On hearing their requests, Krishna said, ‘I do not propose to fight for either side with arms.

 I shall give one side my army and join the other side unarmed, as charioteer and adviser.  Duryodhana chose the army and Arjuna was more than satisfied with unarmed Krishna. Duryodhana went back triumphantly, but the old King Dhritarashtra lamented, ‘What is Krishna’s army without Him? He is more than equal to all the armies in the world!’ His words were prophetic. 

The implication is clear. Give your decisions thought, keeping in mind that might is not right. Before a fork in the road, motorists encounter the sign, ‘Stop and proceed’. This applies equally well to forks on the road of Life.

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