Thursday, September 25, 2008

a story about choices in life

Using the analogy in Forest Gump the movie where Tom Hanks said that life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get, I guess he meant flavor, I bring a real life situation to light.

This boy Sameera who I will refer to as Sam and I call him the Samenera as he lives in a Pirivena ( a center for Buddhist learning ) He comes from a poor family of 4 boys with him being the youngest from a village near Anamaduwa where the father who is an alcoholic has some land they cultivate with paddy just enough to feed the family.

As this boy excelled in studies in his local village school, through some connections I am not yet able to confirm, was brought to the notice of the Lokuhamuduruwo (chief priest) of a pirivena in Kurunegala. The priest told the parents who could barely afford to feed this boy, that he would take care of him and would treat him as his own and took him.

The priest through his local influence managed to get him placed in one of the best schools in Kurunegala town and this boy has almost completely lived in this pirivena for the past 8 years going to school from there. He excelled in his O levels and has now sat for his A levels and the priest again using his influence has managed to get him a job at the NDB bank branch in Kurunegala as the manager is known personally to him.

The priest’s intention all along was to make him a monk, especially as Sam has excelled in Pali, which is extremely useful to know if one is aiming to be a Buddhist priest. Sam also is very pious following Buddhist principles to such a degree that he is both vegan and does not even want to harm a mosquito or fly! In addition to his normal school studies he is well versed in the doctrine and also used to the very frugal life in the pirivena, except when lay people provide a dana (food offering) when they get a serious level of good food, from which he does not take the forbidden kind!

I offered Sam the chance of a job as a trainee computer maintenance and repair engineer in a reputed establishment in Colombo, and I would provide him accommodation free of charge. Another local boy who I helped, could share a room together and go to the same job. He was most keen on my offer as computers was an area he was little exposed to but was very keen to increase his knowledge knowing that it is the future for whatever field he sets his sights on even the priesthood. One must also understand that once his A level results are in and he is accepted to a university, then it will be at least a year before he can start, and this job would be an ideal way to enter the private sector working world to get a better idea through practical experience as to what he may want to do either at university or forego a university education for a more rewarding private sector career.

After a lot of thought and discussion with his chief priest who is his guardian and mentor, he decided to take the bank job and he admitted more to me that it was mainly because he was his guardian and he made a lot of effort to get him to this position so he owes an obligation not to disappoint him.

This is an example of an adult, a boy who has just reached 18 where he can make choices for himself independent of others, who has made a life style choice based not on what he wants but on obligation to others. Often parents do not realize that it is the same choice their children make because the parents make it for them and not a free-thinking adult. The comforts of home or pirivena are still there, but the chance to be independent and find ones own way in the world, if a choice is offered, the parents may closet the child from that path the guide them in the path in the parents interest and not that of the child. It is most accurate to state that choices made by parents are often not in the long-term interests of the child. There are always exceptions to the rule, but many parents in the Sri Lankan context live in a world far removed from the world of 2008 and they make choices based on their personal experiences, which are not relevant in today’s context.

Of course I wish Sam every success in his future, and hope he has made the right choice, but we don’t know what is right and wrong as we follow different paths and twenty twenty hindsight is easy to pontificate on, but the choice ought to be that of the person and so all directions thereon can be the person’s to take credit and not someone else to blame if that is the result.

Our whole life is that of choices we make, and choices others make for us. If things don’t go according to plan we have a tendency to blame others and not ourselves as it is easier on the psyche. We are also very poor at giving credit where credit is due especially where we succeed however we measure success. Parents measure success differently to a child, so even there conflict reigns. It is the thinking through of the options, and not the choices that we make that are important.

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