Dilemmas are part and parcel of life. They generally vary in their importance and eventual impact. We are faced with hundreds of them everyday, some so trivial that we don’t even realize them and some quite serious where we have to stop and consider them.
Here I’ve listed three instances which I have either experienced myself in my life so far or have been a close spectator to in other’s lives. At the end of each I would like you, as a reader, to put yourself in the situation, decide and make the all important ‘choice’.
1. A matter of religious beliefs
You love trekking and are on one of your excursions. You are walking along a narrow mountainous jungle path with a high cliff on one side and a deep valley on the other. You’ve travelled about 3 kilometers on it. So far so good. Just as you are cutting across a bend, you find a religious symbol on the path in front of you which is not supposed to be crossed because it is sort of a taboo (many Hindus believe it is a bad omen to step over / cross a symbol made of Lemon and Green Chillies, readers from other religions too might have similar taboos).
You have two options –
a) Step over and cross the symbol and carry on along the same path, or
b) Turn back, travel the 3 Kms and search for a new path circumventing the ‘controversial’ place, which will waste time as well as energy which is always at a premium during treks.
You are neither much of a god-fearing person nor an atheist (non-believer), but you have had a few experiences amongst your close relatives who had (accidentally or intentionally) stepped over a similar forbidden religious symbol and had quite soon experienced extreme bad luck in their business and personal lives – and there didn’t seem to be any other reason for the unfortunate events to happen. You yourself have a relatively long journey ahead of you on the current tour and you need every bit of luck on your side to tide over unknown adversities which you might come across.
You’re in a dilemma. Would you step over / cross the forbidden symbol on the path in front of you to continue on your journey, or you would not?
2. A matter of ideals
This might seem straight out of an old Bollywood Hindi movie script, but believe me these events can really occur.
You are married and have a son who is about 20 years old. You are a honorable person and have lived a respectable life so far. People look up to you as a man of high ideals. You hate high-handedness and detest corruption and pangs of bureaucracy. Along with other like-minded people you have successfully conducted drives against black-marketing of food, drugs and other essential items and have even forced a few corrupt storekeepers to shut shop.
Unfortunately your son meets with an accident one day on the road, and is severely injured. Luckily help is at hand and he is taken to the hospital where they administer first aid, but sadly that is not enough. He needs to undergo a complicated surgery if his life is to be saved. The trouble is that few of the drugs required for the successful surgery are on short supply. The hospital stocks have already been stretched to the limit. Problems, as we all know, never come alone. There is a transport union strike due to which the supply of even essential items to the city is severely hampered. The hospital authorities contact you and brief you about the situation. Shaking off the panic, you try your luck at a few chemists and druggists you know but they too are out of stock for the particular drugs.
They guide you to a shady storekeeper on the other side of the city who may have the drug you are looking for. You contact him in the earnest. He turns out to be one of the persons whom you had forced to shut shop earlier. He has the drugs, but sadly, does not conform to your ideas about a respectable life. He asks exorbitant amounts of cash for the drugs, something akin to black-marketing which you just yesterday had fought so vehemently against.
You have two options –
a) Buy the drugs from him, indulge in corruption yourself, save the life of your son but loose your self-esteem in the process, both in your eyes and the eyes of the others who look up to you, or
b) Don’t buy the drug, stick to your ideals and risk the life of your own son in the process.
You’re in a dilemma. Would you buy the drugs and kill your self-esteem, or you would not?
3. A matter of relationships and careers
You are a paleontologist. You are passionate about your work and always put in your best efforts towards research. You have also worked on a few findings and discoveries of your own, but haven’t yet got a platform to share them. After years of working in the Geology department of a local university, you get the big break to appear on TV in an interview on the National Geographic Channel which will almost certainly give you a chance to meet with the who’s who of the circuit, and will probably open up bigger and better job opportunities.
You’ve held back this big news from your close friends because you want to give them a surprise when the show is aired. The day the interview is to be recorded you drop by one of your closest friends’ place on the way to the studio. There you learn that she has had a freak accident in the house and has broken a rib which is making even the slightest of movements extremely painful. Unfortunately there’s nobody else around to help her that evening. She’s feeling cold and asks you if you could make her a cup of coffee.
You’re getting late for the interview, but can’t turn down the request from your closest friend. You make her the coffee. You can see that she’s really feeling down due to the injury, and lonely too. She asks if you could spend some time with her that evening so that she feels better. You know that the TV interview is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that your entire professional future depends on it. One part of you tries to be practical and cries out that you have to turn down her request this time. But one part of of can’t. You want to be there for her when she requires you the most. Isn’t that what friendship’s all about!
You have two options –
a) You firmly say ‘no’, dent your friendship, but cash in on a chance to take your career to the next level, or
b) You say ‘yes’, sacrifice the once in a lifetime opportunity in your career for the sake of your friendship.
You’re in a dilemma. Would you prefer breaking her heart and fuel your career, or you would not?
What would I have done in these circumstances?
Now, I’m not a movie scriptwriter, so please excuse me if you spot any gaping loop holes in the stories. Here are my choices for the answers –
1) (a) – I would step over the forbidden religious symbol and carry on along the same path. I would take my chances with the ‘bad luck’ (if any) rather than backtrack.
2) (a) – Boy, that’s a tough one! I would buy those drugs from the person, don’t know if that would be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I won’t say that I would regret the decision in later life but I will surely loose my self-esteem and will never be able to look straight into other people’s eyes after that.
3) (b) – I would sacrifice the TV opportunity for being with my friend, at a time when she needs me the most. For me, relationships are paramount. Professional opportunities come and go.
If you have faced / come across any other dilemma situations, please feel free to write about them.