Nothing annoys me more than questions that involve this phrase
If there is anything – or more accurately, anyone – I can’t stand it is the Either/Or people. You know the kind I mean, don’t you? They are the ones who are always peppering their conversation with Either/Or questions and trying to analyse your personality on the basis of the answers you give.
Of these questions, the most annoying is the one that is usually at the top of their list. Are you a beach person or do you prefer mountains? Apparently, if you say ‘beach person’ it means that you are open, fun-loving, sunny by nature and entirely wholesome. If you say you love mountains, then you must be a closed-in loner who revels in isolation and has little time for other people.
No, the psychobabble makes no sense to me either. But what makes even less sense is why we should be expected to choose one destination or the other? Why aren’t we allowed to say that we like both? That each one fulfills a different need in our psyche. That there are times in our lives when beach holidays are just the ticket, and others when the call of the mountains is hard to resist.
Speaking for myself, I can’t bring myself to choose one over the other. Both the beach and the mountains appeal to me at different times of the year and at different times of my life. When the Delhi cold is seeping deep into my bones, I dream of setting off to a sunny beach somewhere, walking barefoot on the warm sand, and letting the sea waves ripple against my ankles. When the summer heat is getting me down, there is nowhere I would rather be than at some hill destination, losing myself in solitary walks among the mists and fogs that give the landscape a certain dream-like quality.
So I don’t see an Either/Or in this equation. And I really don’t understand people who regard this as some sort of binary choice.
The other Either/Or question that gets asked a lot these days is: Do you prefer a Kindle or do you like An Actual Book.
Well, first of all, a Kindle contains An Actual Book – or rather Several Actual Books. So, I don’t understand this bogus distinction. Oh yes, I know all that stuff about the feel and smell of physical books, the actual sensation of turning a page, and so on and so pretentious. But if you are a genuine lover of books, a committed reader, then frankly, it should not matter to you in which form the book is actually delivered to you. Whether it is a hard copy, a paperback, or an ebook, the story remains the same. And a genuine reader’s enjoyment would not be debased in the least just because the means of delivery has changed.
At least, this is the way it works for me. I love dipping into a physical book at home, nestled on my couch, with a cup of steaming coffee close to hand. But when I travel, I find it more convenient to download a few books on my Kindle. Not only does this make for lighter travel, it makes for easier reading on planes and in hotels, where reading lights are often less than optimal.
Do I enjoy either experience more than the other? Not really. All I am interested in is the story. And that doesn’t change whether I am reading it on paper or on a backlit screen.
The other perennial question that comes up all the time is that old chestnut: Do you prefer Delhi or Mumbai? This is usually posed to people who have lived in both cities. And the correct answer depends on where you have spent your childhood. If you have been brought up in Delhi and moved to Mumbai, then you are supposed to declare your undying love for Delhi and your distaste for Mumbai. And vice versa.
Well, that makes zero sense to me. As someone who has, over the years, divided her time between the two cities, I have discovered different virtues in both cities. If Delhi has beautiful parks strewn with historical monuments like Lodi Garden where you can stroll on a winter’s afternoon, then Mumbai has the beautiful expanse of sea at Marine Drive where you can watch a beautiful sunset every day. If Delhi is the ultimate outsider’s city with no one community being in a position to lay claim to it (no, not even Punjabis), then Mumbai is the city of dreams where people from all over the country arrive to find their fortunes. What’s not to love about either?
The only Either/Or question that actually elicits an answer from me is: Are you a Heels person or a Flats fan? On this score, at least, I have no doubts at all. I am a Flats Person all the way. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against heels, or the women who choose to wear them. But the older I get, the more ridiculous I find the notion of spending life balancing on a tapering five-inch stick and teetering around precariously, while my knees and back spasm with pain.
Give me a pair of ballet flats or even some comfy loafers any day. And please, for God’s sake, stop with the Either/Or questions.