Excursions

by Amit Gawande

The Conscious Subconscious

One’s subconscious wakes up pretty frequently, at times during events not that significant in grand scheme of things. This was one such incident.

It was raining outside. I was, however, in a rush to come out of the building. I had already gotten late to leave my desk. Not that I had a bus to catch; rather I had buses to miss. I had to hit the road before the swarm of office shuttles poured on to the roads. That was my best, may be the only, chance to reach home unflustered.

I was trotting along the road, with my mind preoccupied with the thought to reach the parking lot sooner. Shall I take a straight route to the parking lot with just a turn or one with many arcs and twists? I had already started hustling on the straight route.

I, then, felt an itch on my left hand, just beneath the watch I was wearing.

I removed the watch and held it. I was lost for a moment, looking for a replacement place for the watch to reside. I realised I could wear it on my right wrist too and I went ahead to strap it there.

But my subconscious mind, fast asleep till then, woke up making me aware about what I was doing. That is when it dawned on me.

I never wear a watch on my right hand. Never.


The incident got me thinking why was it so? Why was it that strapping a watch on the right hand was such a taboo for me? When did I decide it should always be on the left hand? I looked around me, none of the people had the watch on their right hand. None. No one.

I could come up with some quick answers as to why that might be the case. But I was not after a particular, rational, answer. I was curious about the pre-programmed behaviour of mine that makes me do, without much thinking, many of the chores I regularly do.

I knew there would be a lot of such wired decisions I keep making, and I went on to identify some of those. It didn’t take much time for me to compile the list.

  • I prefer even numbers, for any and every thing. Counting, stop-watch, timer, alarm, volume rocker. Every number settles on an even number.
  • I hate characters, in alphabet, with pointy triangles in them. V, N, Z. I hate them.
  • I prefer path which is straight, with lesser turns, even if longer.
  • I pick a pen up when I want to note down something closer to my heart, for reasons I wrote about earlier.
  • And many more..

The alternatives just don’t feel right to me. Rather I do not even think about or look out for the alternative.


I might assign reasons, possibly scientific too, to each one of them. But I would go back to doing the things, liking them or hating them, just the way I am programmed to do.

And I feel every one of us, if he or she decides, could come up with one such list. All we need to do is keep our mind open and question.

One might wonder what would he/she gain from the exercise? Well, it is good to know the always-awake, the conscious, subconscious is looking over, making small decisions for you, always.