Free Will Deception and Flooding

Last Friday, I was dining with friends at Khan Market in Delhi, when the talk turned to “free will”. Many eons ago, I used to be cock-sure that all my decisions were mine and mine alone, because of my “free will”. I now know there is no such thing…all decisions we make are in the context of nature and nurture and completely influenced by the situation we are in and the people around us. If at all, it is only the Gods who would have any kind of “free will”.

Our ability to make decisions depends on our culture, our friends and the society around us. The more diverse the people around us, the less narrow our thinking and the more likely we will have a wider world-view and tolerate different opinions. And what better era for diversity to thrive in than the one we are currently in!

Someone from just 100 years ago looking at our times would see us as Gods. “We fly across oceans in airplanes, we eat tropical fruit in December, we have machines that sing us songs, clean our house, take pictures of Mars. Much the total accumulated knowledge of our species can fit on a hard drive that fits in our pocket. Even the poorest among us own electronic toys that millionaires and kings would have lusted for a decade ago.” This statement by Tom Streithorist, from the article “Post-scarcity economics” in the Los Angeles Review of Books, reiterates a thought I have always believed in, though he uses this in a different context and then goes onto discuss why stimulation of demand is the best way to get a depressed economy going. But then Mr. Sen and Mr. Bhagwati are already debating this for us, ad nauseum.

And while we could seem like Gods to yester-people, we really aren’t, and yet continue to harbor illusions of entitlement to some degree or the other…even when it comes to nature.

The next day in Delhi, it rained for over 3 hours as if it was Mumbai. Some major arterial roads were soon flooded and a few parts of Delhi came to a standstill. The news channels went berserk claiming a crisis worse than the Uttarakhand floods, continuously blaming the Delhi administration for being useless. Earlier this week, Mumbai too saw serious rains…on Tuesday, one papers had this headline, “Rain Horror in City. Again”.

Seriously! We may think we have free will, entitled like the Gods of old, but we can’t hold our own even for a second against the fury of nature if she decides to get nasty.

I wonder what people want when they blame the administration for the rains and flooding. Shoo away the clouds? Create an umbrella over the city? Push back the high tide?

We are so blind to our own faults. Why does it flood during the rains? Because the drain openings and grills are clogged. Why are they clogged? Because of litter and rubbish. Who litters? We! So again…who is to blame when it floods?

We litter because everyone does and we don’t have the free will to be different from those around us. If we don’t have free will, we are not Gods. And if we are not Gods, we cannot seriously believe we are entitled to anything.

Yes there is quite some stuff that the authorities can do over the year to prevent flooding when it rains. But we need to start taking responsibility as well by not littering! And that perhaps might just about be all that is needed to start reducing flooding!


  • Norman wrote:

    For once u have hit the nail on the head by stating that it is we the people who are to blame for most of the problems that we face here in this lovely Country.
    Who runs the country, but people like us, who we voted to power. People who are unable to take care of a village are given metros to run.
    Trust me at the present moment in the present day, even if God were to come down and rule us, there would be no change.
    We are the most uncivilized lot with no discipline whatsoever. We litter, mess, spit and do all kinds of uncivilized stuff even harass the public at large with noise pollution. We have no mercy on the roads, with such expensive vehicles…. No need to spell out as we all know what is happening here.
    It is only when we change ourselves, that we will be taking that first step….
    We tend to blame Tom Dick and Harry for our miseries, but never ourselves.
    It is not only the uneducated who are responsible for the above issues.
    I may add that there are many of us, who cannot be counted in the above category, and it is because of this that the Country has some hope.
    I beg to differ, when u say that we do not have any free will to be be different from these misfits, who have brought the whole country to such a low…
    I know many families, including yours truly who train and bring up their children to be civil, respect the land and always do the right thing, even at costs…
    Training should start from home. Parents should not only fatten their kids and only look to their interest. They have to learn to care for their neighbour (not necessarily in one’s place of residence)
    Could write more, but it it is like throwing water on a ducks back.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Norman is absolutely right- WE the people are responsible for the messed-up country.

  • Armaity Patel wrote:

    Just yesterday while returning from Sherdi, I put my chocolate wrapper in one of our bags, when my son said, why did you do this? I asked what did I do? He replied, why did you throw the wrapper in our bag when you could have just thrown out of the car windos!!!! I reminded him about the Moral Science taught in the schools! He laughed, yeh you and your moral science topic mom, forget this is India!!! So when in Dubai they dare not throw wrappers out of the car window but in India it is different?
    When teaching Moral Science in Dubai to Std I students, the same topic was discussed and I Told the students that whenever you see somebody, even your family members throwing things out on the road you should stop them and request them not to do so. Next day, one of the students told me. “teacher, my Dad was throwing a paper out of the car and I told him, “dad please do not do so, as we have just learnt in our class” the child said, the father retored “What’s wrong with you son”? Forget your class this is not a classroom”!!!! I felt so sorry for the student who was trying to put into practice what he was taught and the parent on the other hand dissuade his son from practicing what he was taught!!
    Now whose to blame???????
    As Dr. Abdul Kalam said “we are on our best behavior when in foreign lands and follow the rules but when we returned to our own motherland we throw our best behavior to the dogs.”
    This has been repeated over and over with no good result!!!!
    I too agree with Mr.Norman that it is we, who are responsible for the messed up country. Where corruption is galore every thing is possible!1
    In this case too, we need a “Messiah” to steer us clear !! Ha, Ha!

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    Since I have been reading your column, I have tried to do the following
    Not to honk-90% success,
    Stop before zebra crossing-60% success
    Allowing old, children, woman and handicapped to cross first-100%, not to throw things out of car window & not allowing others riding with me to do the same-100%. I must say this has given me peace of mind. And I carry canvass carry bag with me, so decline plastic carry bags offered. This has made me unpopular at times, but can live with that.. One point though about media, they all are crying about pot hole but no one in media is asking why they appear in first place. There are stretch of road which are smooth since many years, why not ask IIT to investigate and suggest solution?

  • Satish Rao wrote:

    I entirely agree with the comments about the rain and the reason for flooding – no use to blame the authorities entirely for it. However what about the potholes on the roads even on roads which were built/resurfaced only a few a months before the rains? Either we do not have the engineers with expertise to build roads of quality or it is sheer corruption where contractors make money by building substandard works which also provides them a lifetime work to repair year after year. I am sure there must be someone who accepts and certifies the finished road as ‘work done satisfactorily”and approves the payment to the contractor. In every work of sub standard the person who has approved the work should be brought to task for incompetence if corruption cannot be proved.

  • Chandrashekar wrote:

    Very good article and I fully agree with all. But Norman states, this is all like throwing water on a duck’s back. I have seen drains choked with plastic bags. Who throws them? Not the authorities surely!!!

    So next year and the all years after that it is going to rain and flood. And we will blame the Govt.

  • Sujata Morab wrote:

    Methinks the saying “With freedom comes responsibility” is not taken very seriously by us Indians. We are an example of too much too soon when it comes to freedom. Do we litter in our homes? No. Why do we do it on the streets? Is our country not our home? Why do we think it is somebody’s else’s work? Its time we “grew up”.

  • Norman wrote:

    @Chandrashekar. If u read carefully. The throwing of water on a duck’s back is pointed out/refers to those irresponsible citizens, and not the authorities, as there are so many good souls working on these cleanliness schemes, road safety etc. to no avail.
    The authorities too come out with schemes like fining, doing community service, but they cannot implement them, due to lack of will, chalta attitude, that even many of the big names take for granted.
    As far as the authorities are concerned. They should use their brains,if they have any. But guess their interest lies elsewhere.
    We are supposed to have the best Engineers/Techies and what have u in the world. Why can’t they use these entities to sort out the various problems the country/city is facing. Understand we citizens have to stop messing the place, period.
    Why can’t they put their heads together and think in terms of saving/harvesting the rains, as 90 to 95% of which in the city is literally going down the drain.
    Here in Bombay we are facing this problem for ages. It happens every year without fail….

  • Avdhut Jyotsy wrote:

    Chalta Hai attitude is to be blamed for all the mess. Educated people who are supposed to put an example before the masses are to be
    blamed for carelessly littering, spitting and doing all unwanted things.There was a humorous email saying that even HELL was fade up with Indians and sent them back to world,fearing that Indians will spoil the atmosphere of HELL,.

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