By Suma Varughese March 2011 destiny and not random events determine the circumstances of our lives. therefore, why worry? The Sathe family was well into their dinner, and Dad was right in the midst of a rather funny joke when the phone rang. With an impatient click of his tongue, Dad got up to answer it. “Hello,” they could hear him say, then a long silence and a shocked “What!?… This was followed by an agonisingly long silence and a few soft words no one could catch. Every one knew the tenor of bad news when they heard it. What had happened? “Sonia has just passed away,” announced Dad and everyone’s faces registered shock. She and her husband had been their neighbours and good friends. A couple of years ago the family had moved away and they were no longer as much in touch. But they had come over only last month and Sonia had looked large as life. A motherly soul, she had brought home-made carrot halwa for the children and as always, was eager to know about their activities. And now she was dead! Mom recovered her voice enough to ask, “How?” “Malaria,” said Dad flatly, and a frisson of anxiety ran across the table. Malaria was turning out to be a killer disease in the city this past one year. It had killed several people they knew, including Dad’s office assistant, Prem, and the father of Ashish’s friend. “Mom, there seem to be so many horrible diseases waiting to prey on us. I am so scared,” wailed Alka. “I just read of something called the Congo disease that has killed the woman suffering from it as well as her attending doctor and nurse,” said Ashish, darkly. “Maybe we should start wearing masks all over again,” brooded Nisha. “Sssh, children,” soothed Ajoba, “There is a solution.” Three pairs of eyes turned to him. “Are you aware of the concept of karma?” asked Ajoba. “A little,” said Nisha, “As you sow, so you reap.” “Yes, precisely. What this means is that each of us creates our own destiny by virtue of our deeds in the past, not just in the past of this lifetime, but other lifetimes as well. Karma determines everything about us, our character, circumstances, family, personality traits, what we like, don’t like, what we are good at, what we are not…” “Ajoba, what does that have to do with malaria, or Congo disease?” cried Ashish impatiently. “Just this. Unless it is your karma or destiny to get it, you will not get it. Do you remember reading in the papers during the train bomb blasts in 2006 or the terrorist attack on 26/11 of people who had miraculous escapes? They were supposed to have boarded the train or to have dined at the Taj, but something prevented them. That something was their destiny. They were not meant to go that way. Events are not random, we have to be eligible for them, so why worry about malaria?” The children chewed over this thought in their minds. “But what if it is my destiny to get malaria, Ajoba?” cried Alka, making a pitiable face. Ajoba patted her on the back. “Well, if so, we will face it when it happens. Why should we worry about it right now?” “I think this is kinda cool,” said Ashish judiciously. “So I don’t have to study for my exams, any more, right? I mean, if I am meant to pass, I will, right?” “Oho,” broke in Dad, “I am not having that. Baba, I hope there is some answer in your Vedanta to counteract that!” “Of course there is,” said Ajoba serenely, while wagging his finger at his grandson, “Ashish, you can’t get away that easily. The word karma itself means work. Your past work (effort) has created your present destiny. If you do not put any effort now, your future destiny will suffer. The only way we can control our lives and our destiny is through effort. That is the only power we have been given.” ‘Oh, yes,’ said Dad, interested, rattling off a Sanskrit sloka from the Bhagavad Gita. Ajoba translated it for the children, “The Lord tells Arjuna that we have control over our efforts but not over the outcome. This means we have the power to take all the steps possible to ensure we pass our exams or do not get malaria. After that we have to let go and let our destiny unfold, because we cannot control outcome.” “So in the case of malaria what does this mean?” asked Alka anxiously, determined to keep as far a distance between her and malaria. “It means that we ensure that we keep our windows closed at dusk, that we use mosquito nets and that we build up our immunity.” “Ultimately it all boils down to having more palak paneer, sweetie,” said Mom, ladling a generous helping on her plate. “That I can do,” said Alka happily, humming Que sera sera under her breath.
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