Sulagna Chattopadhyay
Geography and You, New Delhi.

Free will has been subject to coercion and manipulation. Whether it is submission to the Lord, the ruler or even elders in the family, human conduct has been based on the sublime quality of being a devout ‘follower’. For example, we believe today that the conduct of elections, not necessarily the outcome, is based on the free and fair will of the citizens of India. But neither is the will free and nor is it fair. We all are essentially followers, allowing ourselves to be organized, with communication as the key attribute in controlling our wavering thoughts. Voting is our sacred duty—or so the state would have us believe. It really does not provide any tangible rewards—just a collective voice that helps place another human upon our heads. What makes a human decide whom to place on a pedestal? Is it a momentary call or is it based on long reasoned contemplation? Does the candidate belong to your community, caste, region or religion—the classic ‘outsider-insider’ appeal, or is the leader exceptionally well-read and promising—the ‘development’ deal, or does he sport a demi-god persona with lineage to bag—the ‘bloodline’ charm, or finally has he simply bought you off—the ‘corruption’ contract? Schisms exist and free will is only a partial truth. Every voter decision is a ‘like’ and a ‘follow’ based solely on societal diktats—especially visible in the context of the social media, where ‘trolls’ exhibit interesting culturally diverse mindsets. So complex is the process of free will that two juxtaposed states behave in a completely opposing manner—one topping the voter turnout and the other falling to the bottom. I wonder how Bihar and West Bengal have managed to occupy similar realms, yet created chasms so wide that free will itself stands to question.