Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee seems to illustrate the role that fate plays in Hindu religious faith. She frames Jasmine’s story, start to finish, constantly reminding the readers of the astrologer’s prediction that foretells her “widowhood and exile” (Mukherjee 3). Jasmine, neither a strong adherer to Indian faith nor superstition often questions both, never more so than when she attempts to change the fate the astrologer assigns her. However, she seems to vacillate in her convictions on the “life assignment” that God has given her. Upon the death of her father, the notion of his life assignment having been fulfilled consoles her negligibly, about as much as the Book of Job would console a grieving Christian family (it offers an explanation for suffering but not a reassuring one). Sometimes she contemplates whether her previous “husbands” have set her up for her current one, only to act so impetuously as to look as if she’s trying to escape her assignment. Regardless of her life assignment, it really does seem as if the predictions of the astrologer seem to dog her whether she accepts them or not.
On several occasions in my life I can speculate that fate has directly resulted in an event taking place. However, like Jasmine, whether or not I accept these events as fate (specifically divine plan) leads to some more difficult, perhaps unanswerable, questions. Going into high school I faced the choice of what private school to attend. It was not a choice per say though, it was more or less assumed that I would be attending one school in particular. It was the private school my father, all of my uncles, and all of my male cousins had attended. A very white-collar school, it was the logical choice for Catholics from white-collar Dundalk. I visited and it was about what I had expected. I was satisfied. However, when final applications to schools were being turned in, I began to have nagging doubts. I would consider myself fairly religious or spiritual, (I do not pretend to understand delineations between the two) but up to this point in my life had only prayed for things I badly wanted. To pray over doubt was new. Despite having no other considerations really, I decided to pray over my school options.
My dad told me the next day that the head of admissions at Loyola Blakefield had called to see if I wanted to shadow there. Before finalizing the applicant list he was leafing through transcripts and had seen mine (when I took a placement exam it was mandatory to write down the names of three prospective schools, I had chosen Loyola dead last just to fill it out, this must have released my transcript to them). He wondered why I hadn’t visited and gave us a call. I took the day off school and went, with misgivings about Loyola’s exclusive prep-school reputation, the popped polo collars and the rugby crew shirts that the boys in the brochure wore. I immediately made friends with Steve, the student who showed me around (Steve is studying philosophy at Yale and considering the priesthood). In short, the misgivings I had going in could not have been more wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at Loyola.
The chain of events definitely points to some kind of intervention, but the implications bother me. It seems cocky to think God favors me enough to pull these kinds of strings. Am I destined to accomplish something? I would hope so. Would I have still been on the right track to accomplish this had I ended up at the other school? Probably, the education still would have been well above average. What about all the people who do not get these opportunities? Many of them may be more deserving than me. Does this place a greater burden on me to succeed academically? This is the most troublesome of all. I hardly feel that I live up to potential sometimes. For now, I really cannot conclude much from it. Good fortune, I feel, should not be questioned anymore than bad fortune can be explained. To attribute the admissions head’s phone call as a stepping stone to a life assignment is no more reasonable than the implication that Pitaji’s one role in life was to crush a pebble and die.