The worst of all human ailments is indecision

People who use the word anything extensively think they are being so accommodating and demand less of others

By Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

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Published: Mon 25 Apr 2022, 11:16 PM

The headline above is a famous quote by Napoleon Hill. There are a few words that I dislike immensely. One such word is ‘anything’. Sounds innocent yet can be so annoying. People who use this word extensively think they are being so accommodating and demand less of others. But I would prefer a direct answer.

Here goes an example in a typical household (especially Indian) that many housewives would be familiar with. What do you want to eat for lunch? The usual reply is anything. Should we have, dal chawal (lentil rice)? Nah…is the quick retort. Ok, how about rajma (red kidney beans)? No, that makes me feel bloated. Alright, some palak (spinach)? No, yours doesn’t turn out so well. ABC makes it really yum.

Anyway, we somehow manage the lunch, then the same ordeal starts in the evening for dinner. What should we have for dinner, asks the homemaker. Should we have pasta? No, I am off cheese and without cheese it’s no fun, comes the reply. Ok, should we do some Thai curry? The response is although I love Thai curry, I am having a little burning in my stomach, so will avoid it. Indian, asks the homemaker? But we just had Indian for lunch, is hurled at your face. Cook ‘anything’ is like a consolation prize. I might crack the IIT entrance exam, but this one is tougher to get right.

I have heard of an Indian TV serial, Ghar Ghar ki Kahani (story of every household- in English). I don’t know how much reality was portrayed in that, but the exchanges above are live examples in many households. Many housewives would willingly verify the same.

Being a lawyer, I am taught to avoid ambiguity, and to be as clear as possible. There should be no room for any doubt. Then you have “anything” coming at you repeatedly, totally demolishing everything that you have learned. Forget about Covid and uncertain times. There is so much uncertainty in deciding on every meal. Either I say what I want or I am seriously fine with what I am getting. When you are given the luxury of choice, use it please. Or keep quiet with what you get. You were asked, remember!

As kids, we would be treated to a fine dining meal with our parents once a week. The choice was simple — Indian or Chinese. Meals were made, as routine, no questions asked. As students, we were supposed to apply our minds to the more important stuff. The choice is great but creates confusion too. Just like freedom, we should value it. And definitely, not drive others mad.

One hysterical example of anything was at a recent dinner. The guest said the ever-so-common word ‘anything’ when I asked what kind of cuisine she would like. I knew they were vegetarians, so I thought Chinese has some good variety. So, we booked at a lovely Chinese restaurant and when it came to ordering, I was informed by my guest, that she was allergic to mushrooms, and was having an issue chewing vegetables after her root canal treatment. Are you kidding me?

I was in a state of shock. First, you are a vegetarian, which makes it one-fourth of the menu anyway. Then you cannot chew vegetables and are allergic to the most common dish in that cuisine. A margarita pizza would have been perfect. My dislike and phobia of this word increased dramatically after this dinner. I met someone yesterday and she said that ‘xyz’ was her favourite. I don’t even know her full name, but I knew I would get along with her really well. Such clarity and spontaneity were so refreshing. It’s like saying ‘spot-on’. Coming from a profession that demands certainty and clarity, I hope you can understand the trauma I feel when faced with indecisive people.

I just keep revising the Serenity prayer, to suit the situation at hand. My latest version is this — God grant me the patience to put up with indecisive people. Further grant such people some clarity of thought. Because if I pray for strength, I shall definitely beat them up.

I can understand if people need time to decide on their careers, marriages, break ups, or buying a house. These are big decisions that need careful deliberation. You can think and revert. But oh dear, it’s 6pm, I need to figure out what’s for dinner!

Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is an independent legal consultant based in Dubai

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