By chance, I saw the movie, SlumDog Millionaire this weekend. I say “by chance” because I wasn’t planning on seeing it. Since it got so much “buzz” at the awards ceremonies, I was somewhat resistant to see it and therefore neatly “filed it” into my mental archives of over-rated Hollywood films. Within 10 minutes, I realized this masterpiece will probably be remembered as one of the top 100 movies of all time due to a great script and powerful storytelling. It’s my new favorite movie and one that revolves around the story of a young man’s defining moments and how they liberate him from the prison of his life.
I walked out of the theatre, I grabbed the the only scrap of paper I could find in my purse and began furiously scribbling notes about my own defining moments. I couldn’t wait back to become the “objective observer and look back at my life.” I wanted to know if my defining moments were actually defining me or defying me? My husband looked at me rather strangely, but has learned not to question these fits of inspiration.
Slum Dog Millionaire is the story of two brothers (Salim and Jamal Malik) orphaned early in their lives. They struggle daily for survival and learn about life through a series of compromises, challenges, and the occasional small triumph. One brother ultimately chooses a path of corruption and destruction and the other chooses a life of love, purpose and hope.
The story is simply told from the point of view of Jamal, as he sits center stage under the bright lights of scrutiny on the Indian version of the game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Each question he is challenged to answer, forces him to recall one more of the defining moments of his life. Through this mechanism, the movie unfolds.
I drew an interesting parallel to my own life as I realized that some of these events were thrust upon him by fate, and others he created through his own choices. I began to consider the age old question of whether our lives are more influenced by free will or destiny. Is our destiny written, as Jamal believes in the story, or do we “sit in the driver’s seat”, shaping our lives through a series of choices, good or bad? Who really knows? I certainly don’t, but I am ever fascinated by that question and I change sides of the argument as often as I change my clothing. But, by witnessing the recount of his Jamal’s life’s defining moments, I began to lean towards “destiny”, at least for the time being.
IF so little is directly in our control, aren’t we better served by focusing our energy on creating an empowering meaning for the events of our life rather than assigning blame, feeling shame or wallowing sense of failure when things go horribly wrong? I can see why people so often turn to prayer or a higher source for faith and strength. I can also understand why discovering our own sense of purpose in life, can help guide us through good times and bad, and better cope with the challenges we might be presented as our life unfolds.
Back to Jamal….
In a strange twist of fate, the last question of the game show happens to be an unanswered question lingering from his childhood—a question to which he has never known the answer! Instead of crumbling under the pressure, he smiles in disbelief that his entire fate is hinges on this unfortunate question. He throws caution to the wind, trusts his instincts and chooses the answer required to secure the grand prize!
I believe this is a powerful metaphor for our own lives. Sometimes no matter how well you are prepared, you just don’t have the answers. There is nothing left to do but to relax and have faith that things will work out. If I may borrow a phrase from the movie, “It is our destiny—it is written!”