Though Saroo asserts that being raised outside of the Hindu religion he was born into means that he grew up believing that fate and destiny aren't actually real, he does take great pains to acknowledge moments when destiny appears to have been at work throughout his life. Personally, Saroo is much more invested in a belief in chance and luck rather than divine destiny, believing essentially that events in his life are the result of random coincidences rather than something preordained by a higher power. By considering both of these seemingly opposed ideas as equally valid, Saroo suggests ultimately that the differences between the two are little more than a matter of perspective.
Saroo, who is ostensibly the one most affected by his experiences of being separated from his birth family and then reunited with them as an adult, sees everything that happens to him as either chance, luck, or a conscious choice on his part that led him unknowingly to fortuitous circumstances. Saroo conceptualizes his meetings with all the people he meets during his time in Calcutta—those who are kind and helpful, as well as those who mean him harm—as being chance encounters that just so happen to lead him towards a better life. He supports this idea by stating again and again that his story is the exception, not the rule: thousands of children who roam the streets of India die or are sold into slavery, and one wrong move could have sent him to a similar fate. Though he never says it outright, he essentially suggests that though his story is special, he isn't special—the fact that so many children's lives end tragically early or are otherwise corrupted is reasonable proof that the benevolent conception of destiny as espoused by others at best doesn't exist for everyone, and at worst doesn't exist at all.
Opposite Saroo's belief in chance and dumb luck are the visions that both Mum and Kamla experience that, as far as they're concerned, guide and dictate how they live their lives, and ultimately how and when Saroo enters their lives. Mum initially decides to adopt after experiencing, at twelve years old, a vision of herself with a dark-skinned child. The vision was so vivid that she could feel the warmth of the child next to her. More than twenty years later, when she receives word that her and Dad's adoption application has been accepted and Saroo is on the way, this vision helps her remain calm despite her excitement: she knows, thanks to the vision, that this moment was always going to come. Similarly, Kamla spends the 25 years that Saroo is missing praying for him, and on the day before he returns, she experiences a vision of him returning to her. She believes that his appearance the next day is very clearly the work of a higher power and exhilarating proof that destiny absolutely exists. For both women, their visions and belief in destiny provide them a sense of comfort and a lens through which to view their respective situations. Essentially, their visions allow them to ascribe more weight and meaning to situations that might otherwise be read as simple happenstance.
For everyone involved in Saroo's story, including Saroo himself, the way that they engage with either a belief in destiny or a belief in chance and luck shows clearly that it's not necessarily a question of which belief system is right or wrong. Rather, the important thing is whether or not a person can find meaning and comfort in their chosen belief system. This suggests, ultimately, that the power of either worldview lies in individuals' abilities to use them to effectively add meaning to their lives, and in turn to tell stories that make the most sense and provide the most comfort to themselves and others.
Destiny, Chance, and Luck ThemeTracker
Destiny, Chance, and Luck Quotes in A Long Way Home
This episode stayed with me as an example of my mother's courage in turning to face down her pursuers, and also of the vulnerability of the poor in India. Really, it was just luck that the crowds backed off.
Of course, I can't be sure what the railway worker's friend had planned or what happened to the children who were grabbed from the station that night I slept nearby, but I feel pretty certain that they faced greater horrors than I ever did.
The types of people who had tried to capture me when I was on the streets clearly didn't let walls and gates stop them...I know now that few are taken off the streets, and many of those who are have a lot of suffering ahead of them.
What happened to Mantosh exposed the harm that the bureaucratic adoption system can inflict. When I learned about his past, later on, I couldn't stop thinking about the nights I'd spent in the Liluah juvenile home, and how easily I could've experienced trauma similar to what Mantosh had experienced.
Because of all she'd been through growing up, Mum had decided that there was nothing sacrosanct about families formed only by birth parents.
Mum was delighted when the word came through but also calm: somewhere inside her, she'd always felt that the vision she'd had at the age of twelve had meant it was her destiny to have an adopted child by her side.
I began to realize that just as my search for my mother had in some ways shaped my life, her faith that I was alive had shaped hers. She couldn't search, but she did the next best thing: she stayed still.
I am astonished at the miraculous turns in my story—my mum's vision that led her to intercountry adoption, My Indian mother praying and seeing an image of me the day before we were reunited...It is sometimes difficult not to imagine some forces at work that are beyond my understanding.