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Spice of life

Visiting swanky City Shopping Mall recently, i found myself behaving like a village bumpkin faced with an avalanche of choices. I counted 18 types of organic cheese, 90 varieties of toothpaste, 200 shades of lipstick and 50 kinds of hair mousse. While picking up a tube of toothpaste, i was totally at a loss. Should i choose the herbal variety with added fluoride, the cavity-busting option with baking soda or the original formula with flavoured crystals? What would anyone do if given the onerous task of choosing from 600 kinds of coffee and 400 brands of shampoo?

The other day, i peeked into the laptop of a junior colleague who seemed totally lost switching between matrimonial websites. Grilled, he said he'd 'shortlisted' some 50 responses in an exercise he later confessed to be bride-hunting. He had also put an advertisement in the matrimonial columns of a few national dailies. The result was astounding. Among some 'prospective' choices numbering no fewer than 300, he zeroed in on 40 applications. "But you only need one soulmate," i mumbled. To which he replied, nonplussed, "That's precisely the problem. I can't have a swayamvar like in the days of yore. Nor is polygamy allowed in India!" For those hapless and harried enough not to be able to find a suitable spouse, picking one through the market is even more brain-racking.

Likening myself to a village bumpkin overawed by the ways of the city, i feel quite intimidated visiting posh restaurants. The first difficulty is not what to eat but what not to, that is, if you decide to go beyond the regular fare. A friend of mine left the dinner table of a chic restaurant in a huff because one of the randomly picked exotic-sounding 'specials' among 20 suggested by the waiter did not work well with his girlfriend's tummy. That cost him the relationship.

I know of a simpleton who, on visiting a rich man's house, was struck by the ordeal of making a simple choice of what to drink. The reason: the host believed in customising service to a fault. When the poor guest opted for orange juice, he was asked if he wanted it to be organic or regular, with or without calcium and, finally, with minimal or maximal pulp. That's when he swiftly switched to tea. But then he had to choose between Ceylon tea, herbal tea, bush tea, honey bush tea, iced tea and green tea. To have his Ceylon tea with milk, he had to choose between goat milk, camel milk and cow milk. To have his tea sweetened, he had to choose between beet sugar and cane sugar.

Tired of such bizarre if 'meticulous' hospitality, the guest finally settled for a glass of water. Mineral water or still water, he was asked. Mineral water, he replied. He was then asked to clarify whether he wanted it flavoured or non-flavoured. The matter was finally settled when, unable to take it any longer, he burst into a fit of rage and exclaimed: "I'd rather die of thirst!

None of us wants to make a wrong choice or be a sucker. Yet, this isn't just about our dilemmas when making serious choices like selecting a pension plan or an insurance plan, a holiday destination, an educational board for one's ward or a doctor to consult. Why, sometimes it gets so difficult simply to decide which pair of jeans one should buy. There's slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit and, of course, baggy and extra baggy. Choose among them, but there's still the fabric: should it be stone-washed, acid-washed or 'distressed'? Finally, will it be button-fly or zipper-fly? My conclusion: we've become addicted to variety, which is really many, many versions of the same thing. And they call this variety the spice of life!

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