‘there’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
rough - hew them how we will’
- Hamlet to Horatio, (Hamlet, Act V, Scene II)
I do not mean to displace the fact that when it comes to the topic of fate and destiny, we all have our own things to believe and say. And those things are based on our own experiences in life. I however intend to only share my beliefs regarding matters of fate and destiny and how inextricably they have always been knotted in my life. I will vehemently oppose being called regressive or backward because of my belief in fate. My endorsement of fate may not be seen as advocacy for superstition. The two are mutually exclusive though often perceived to be one and same. Superstition involves expectation of a definite result in a certain situations again and again time after time, fate alters and varies and remains unpredictable; while the former breeds fear the latter inspires awe and humility.
When Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India was a Professor, years before he became President, Cheiro had predicted upon looking at his palm lines that he would become head of state but would lose his mind towards his end. Ridiculed and laughed off as a family joke, the prophecy came true one by one. Many of us, I’m sure, have had a chance to experience the unpredictable actually occurring by stroke of destiny. I will share a more personal experience. My cousin often whiles away his precious time with a gang of his mates, not much differently than adolescents of his age. He and his pals often travel to Puri from Bhubaneswar to indulge. There is this ritual, when every time he starts out, my aunt denies. He never listens to her and goes anyway, which I believe is because of the tacit support he enjoys from his father, my uncle, who loves him dearly and never prohibits him from relishing life. In one similar occasion my uncle got involved and was startlingly adamant in his denial to let him go with his friends that afternoon. My cousin cried, pleaded and even got argumentative, but uncle was rigid. It was an unusual scenario. He is usually soft on him, but that day he was someone else. I watched his demeanor change as if he was possessed. Like some force was dictating his rigidity. Later that evening we got informed of the car crash in which my brother’s friends travelled to Puri, one in which he was supposed to travel. All of them landed in hospital with broken bones and shattered limbs. What could explain my uncle’s stubbornness? A calm man, accommodative, generous, supportive of his son’s ways, suddenly turns totally inflexible. That was what saved my cousin. Providence, to me, was at work that afternoon, to save my brother. I never asked my uncle what made him stop my cousin. I wonder what would be his answer. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he simply says “I don’t know”. It’s natural to not know the ways of fate and the modus in which it works its tricks.
To me my inner voice has always been my companion since dawn of reason in me. I have always felt it emanate from the depths of my will and guide me in my course. By its very nature, it neither pays heed to exterior influences nor to counter - logic. It is servile to a certain strong ethereal purpose unbending even in face of overwhelming rationale and argument. I have often encountered disagreement of peers against my perception of fate and its role in our lives. The ordinary opposition is phrased mostly as “that’s pure superstition” and the not so ordinary as “what science can’t explain does not exist”. Well, I never claim that we are capable of knowing all what exists. Things exist beyond our knowing. Under our eyes, immune to our senses, invisible to our sight. Yet felt in the most utterly prominent fashion in moments when it matters, just like that afternoon, how my uncle must have felt when he turned aggressive and unorthodox. Instead of rejecting things that cannot be explained I have always humbly surrendered to their awe. Their inexplicability does not make them cheap rather they become forces worth reckoning.
In all the wholesome determining of life and its course, there is already a plan, to which one has no choice but to fit. As defeated as this may sound to zealous go getters, its infallibility yet remains to be challenged. I do not say that men are born bereft of independence or that free will is a myth. We do own our wills. But there is only an extent to which we can actually exercise it. Admitting my lack of competence to eloquently explain my idea, I’ll borrow Pandit Nehru’s words. He was once asked by Norman Cousins, the doyen of American journalists and a reputed writer, “How do you reconcile free will and destiny ?” Pandit ji answered “Both have a place in our life. The best analog one can think of is to compare life with a game of bridge. The cards dealt to you are out of your control, but the way you play your hand is your free will. Given a good hand, you can still mess up the game and vice versa”. There could not be a more perfect elucidation of the interaction between man’s will and his fate. So are the words of Hamlet quoted above. Shakespeare tells us through Hamlet how God has a plan for us as much as we might criticize it, protest against it, or try to dodge it. I personally interpret this line as one giving me comfort in times of great stress or pain.
For, I have, in my short life so far, realized with firm conclusion that what I want I may not achieve and what I have achieved may not be what I may have actually wanted. I have in unusual number of instances, ended up wanting things which are beyond my scope of achievement. I have endured agonizing pain trying to escape my desire and craving for things I cannot get. And yet the moment I have given up wanting them, providence offered most of those to me. Sometimes I wonder if my not wanting things which I really desire would get me those. I had given up on the idea of love, for example, owing to my experiences during my younger days. Now when I have actually found that one woman, my soulmate, when I feel earth and heaven move, when I feel being held by her like gravity, I realize that it is perhaps too late. I am now in another era, in another dimension beyond her, beyond myself, stripped of my free will to pursue her affections, without risking anguish for others. Without her I’m certain to live my life with a gigantic vacuum in it, a place which will remain reserved for her never to be filled, never to be occupied, like I know I’ll die with regret of not having spent my life with her, the one I truly love. The point I am trying to make is that, when all I ever cared and sought was true love and bonding, I got dejected to the point of giving up. I had then exercised my free will to try and get love but it was my fate not to ever get it. As it was my fate to give in to circumstances and reconcile to the assumption that I am perhaps destined to live with a girl my family chooses. When fate decided to grant me bliss of love, I had already packed my bag and travelled far ahead. I thought I had convinced myself that love is a bygone reality, an unlivable dream. I had to find whatever of it I could find in the life I lived now. And it’s ok if it does not turn out to be what I had read in books and dreamt of living. I believed I had successfully persuaded myself to accept that I must only be devoted to lives that are tied with mine. But so immovable is destiny's hand that no matter what one does, the tricks he employs to evade his fate, he often ends up running into it on the path he takes to avoid it. It's inescapable. I now find myself fated to choose between my dream and my reality.
Believing or not is entirely upto the person who is supposed to experience the influence of fate. He may choose not to. But sooner than later, he is bound to grant a thought in favour of its existence. Perhaps what I have shared has been suitably put in words by Dr. Johnson in The Oxford Book of The Supernatural. He writes “all argument is against it, but all belief is for it.”