The Choice, Revisited

Perhaps out of laziness or simply because I like to revisit things I wrote in the past sometimes, I have been digging into the archives of my writing and coming up with some oldies but goodies to post here on The Ajnabee. This is also from the MissMakeAMovie website, which has now become PopCultureDivas and rocks on even more fabulously. It’s a post about a film that helped to answer a lot of questions at the time but also a thought-provoking film that leaves as many questions unanswered, in a world where I increasingly hear friends say “I wish I was single” or “it’s just so difficult to be in a relationship and be true to oneself”. To me, that’s always a bit sad, a world where people would rather be single and have it simple than fight for love and passion in their lives. But it’s definitely a more uncomplicated path, for sure! Read on and share your thoughts…

Sometimes in life our best questions are pondered in the most unusual of places. Mine – about the struggle all artists face between being true to love and their career – I started to ask myself this week, at a film festival in NYC. The South Asian International Film Festival is one of two Fall events I have looked forward to every year, for the past five years. A collection of features, documentaries, works-in-progress and short films from South Asian directors or even by non-Desi filmmakers, SAIFF is always an inspiration.

But on a gloomy, early Saturday morning in October, as I sat in a dark movie theater, hung over from my previous intoxicating night of Bollywood which had lasted until 2 am, I watched a film that changed my life. Well, at least the way I – the Happily Unmarried Ever After woman – look at my life and the men around me…

The premise of “The Only Thing” is simple enough: An actor, Sid, has a chance meeting with The Man – a well-renowned older actor he quite obviously respects. They end up having drinks together and though Sid asks The Man plenty of questions about his own career,

The Man leaves Sid more puzzled, with questions of his own about Sid’s priorities. The evening puts Sid in a state of panic, re-evaluating his live-in girlfriend and the effects that relationship is having on his career. And ending with the same words it began with, the film leaves the audience wondering what Sid’s choice will be: “Love, work, sex or spirituality”, to paraphrase. Amazingly enough, the film is only 11 minutes long, but within that time does what few other films have done for me, successfully: tell a complete story that does not insult the audience with cookie-cutter endings and easy solutions. “The Only Thing” is the first filmmaking effort of the talented Rachel Greenberger and acted brilliantly by Samrat Chakrabarti, among others.

The concept of “Having IT All” has been on my mind lately. It seems that these days it’s not only women who feel they have to give up something of themselves to compensate for their other choices, but also our male counterparts are feeling that kind of pressure. I know more single men in

NYC – all in the arts – than I know single women. And the funny thing is, those men are purposely NOT looking for a partner; they have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of their respective careers. Most of them mention in passing – at a party, or an opening – the idea of marrying, of retiring early and finally enjoying life with a wife and kids by their side, but they all have deadlines years way into the double digits. I guess the lack of a male biological clock helps. Anyway, I can’t say I do not understand the concept.
It’s a question as old as time itself. Did Adam lose a part of himself – pardon the pun, of course – when he acquired a mate in Eve? Did Siddhartha – on which “The Only Thing” is loosely based – find something of such value on his journey that it was truly worth abandoning his loving family for? How can the man often referred to as “The Happiest Man in the World” – Matthieu Ricard – be a Buddhist Monk, thus free of the option of even having a mate?
My personal experience has been interesting. The more intense and busy my writing life gets, the more men I meet, at events related to what I am writing about. It’s a veritable Smorgasbord of attractive, successful, lovely men out there! But most of them only see me as a self-confident writer and a good contact to know. I have yet to find one who sees me as the vulnerable, loving woman I still am inside, writing or no writing. And for my part, I see myself becoming less and less willing to give up anything at all – the parties I attend for work, the time in front of my computer, the friends I hang out with who are more and more work-related ones – unless someone truly exceptional comes my way. And that in itself seems like an excuse…
I would be really interested in knowing your thoughts about this dilemma… Are we asking for too much when we want it all: career, friends and life partners? Or are we selling ourselves short when we don’t allow the complete package to take over our lives? Is it all due to fear? Do we really have to choose between love and work as one or the other, as “The Only Thing”?
Finally, I’ll leave you with my all time favorite quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
Photos courtesy of SAIFF and
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3 Responses to “The Choice, Revisited”

  1. OK:

    if you haven’t yet read this, then you might want to give a try to “Intimacy” by Hanif Kurieshi – i think you might find the simular questions and perhaps answers that you wrote about today. It came to my mind as I was reading your post :)

  2. Heidi:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Nina. They were so clear to me and I totally connected with what you are saying. My real feeling is that we have lost so much of our need for true intimacy as a culture. A large majority of people are not interested in truly connecting with other human beings or in the quest to find real love. To me, what more important thing is there? I mean, at the end of your life are you really going to look back on work-related social gatherings and deadlines as your priorities?
    Anyhow, those are questions I’ve asked myself and the answer is an emphatic ‘NO”. The rest still needs to be figured out. Life is so damn complicated, but I love it!

  3. Nina:

    Thanks OK for the suggestion. I’ll check it out. And thank you Heidi for the insightful comments!

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