Updated: Aug 13, 2022
Do you believe that destiny exists?
Do you think that everything is pre-written even before we realise it?
Do you agree that we all walk our defined paths in this life and the universe aligns things for you to achieve it.”
Here's an incident from my life that proves that the above questions hold value.
I was a child at that time. We were living in Block 6, House Number 707 in Lodhi Colony, New Delhi. It was a house on the ground floor.
One evening, I was playing with my friends in front of my home. My parents were sitting in the veranda of the house. A wandering fakir was passing our lanes.
As he approached our group of young children, he suddenly stopped. He stood near me and looked intently at my face. I was confused and a little scared, I must admit. Then he placed his hand on my head and looked deep into my eyes. My mother and father rushed towards me fearing that the fakir might harm me.
He looked at them, raised his hand and asked them to stop. He looked towards the sky and finally spoke. He said, 'this boy will make his own destiny. He will dine and wine with the kings, presidents and prime ministers.'
My mother, a highly religious person, bowed before the fakir and asked him to bless me. She offered him alms, which he gracefully accepted and went his way.
I stood there confused as my mother and father went inside the house. That was the perfect indication for my friends to tease me. "Wow, Harish, go and wine and dine with kings. Why would you care for lesser mortals like us."
They started whistling and dancing around me. I became a butt of jokes for my friends. I ran into my house hiding my tears and cursing the fakir. My mother admonished me saying, beta, have faith in god and his saintly men. You never know when their prophecy may come true.
We were lower middle class people and it looked like impossible that I could rise to such a level to qualify to dine and wine with kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers.
But his prophecy did come true within the next ten years.
I was twenty years old, a commissioned officer in the Indian army. 30 Light regiment was my first regiment. I joined it in 1964 as a second lieutenant at Burdong in Sikkim.
Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim. When I joined my regiment there in August 1964, Sikkim was a protectorate of India. Sikkim was a princely state of British India since 1890. The kingdom of Sikkim was founded by the Namgyal dynasty in the 17th century. It was ruled by Buddhist priest kings known as the chogyals.
Following the Indian independence in 1947, Sikkim continued its protectorate status with India. In 1975, monarchy was abolished and Sikkim became the 22nd state of India. Palden Thondup Namgyal was last chogyal of the Himalayan kingdom. He married an American Hope Cook in March 1963.
Indian army had good relations with Chogyal, king of Sikkim. Chogyal visited our regiment on its raising day in 1964. He attended the dinner hosted on the occasion. I was one of the hosts and raised a toast for our regiment along with king of Sikkim. Prophesy of wandering fakir had come true. A boy from lower class family was dining and wining along with king. Strange but true.
At that time I was in the army. But destiny and luck were writing another script for me about which I was totally unaware. I left army in 1969 after completing my tenure of five years. I joined Indian Information Service and within one year luck pushed me towards All India Radio.
My dining and wining with higher-ups started again as AIR correspondent. I started travelling with presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries to different countries, interviewing heads of state, covering various events, as well as dining and wining with them.
During my first foreign trip to Pakistan in 1980, general Zia ul Haque invited Indian press for evening tea, where he personally served kebabs to us. He also presented a box of Havana cigars to journalists.
In another instance, Amir of Qatar invited journalists, accompanying Indian president Zail Singh over a cup of traditional kahwa. Kahwa was served in finest quality bone China cup plates, along with gold spoons. One of the journalists jokingly asked if it was a gold spoon. Should I pocket it. Another journalist said in equally serious note, no problem, you can, but punishment for theft is simple. Your right hand would be chopped off.
In 1988, I accompanied the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China as part of his press delegation. Relations between the two Asian giants China and India were not great. Visit of the last Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru to China was 34 years ago.
Rajiv Gandhi took the bold initiative to thaw the deep frozen relationship between the two countries. We reached China during the severe winter month of December, when temperature at times, goes sub-zero. Outcome of the visit is now history.
Here are some interesting titbits from the visit
Rajiv Gandhi was accorded grand reception by the Chinese side. The major attraction at the official banquet was the exquisitely carved vegetables in the shape of a dragon symbolising China, a peacock symbolising India, and two doves symbolising peace. I attended this bouquet .
During Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to a famous restaurant in Beijing, he tasted a much coveted Chinese delicacy, Peking duck, served with much fanfare. And I was part of this historic visit.
So, I say with confidence and respect that destiny and fate control our life. Anything that happens in our life was meant to happen. I was destined to have the life I had and I don't have any regrets.
In 1989, I was posted in Kathmandu as AIR Nepal correspondent. It was a reward for my good and hard work . My boss told me, Harish, go to Kathmandu and relax. It is easy posting and nothing much is to be done. But my fate had other plans. The moment I landed in Kathmandu, news-fall from Himalayan kingdom really became heavy as movement for restoration of democracy picked up momentum.
Once again, I was busy filing my despatches. But yes, silver lining was I made some real good friends and Prime Minister Kishan Pratap Bhattarai was one of them. Movement for restoration of democracy finally triumphed. Age old monarchy surrendered and Nepal became a democracy.
The Nepali congress, which spearheaded the movement, gave Nepal the democratic government and my dear friend, Kishan Pratap Bhatt Rai was chosen as the Prime Minister of Nepal.
We all called him Kishan ji with affection. My destiny had brought me closer to a Prime Minister. During the movement, we had endless number of tea on roadside tea stalls discussing Nepali politics. I was first to interview him when he became the Prime Minister.
He was so simple and straightforward that he would stop his official car whenever he saw me on road and dropped me home. I was the only journalist in Nepal who got permission to import a Toyota car from Japan. Kishan ji attended my farewell party at the end of my tenure in Nepal. What would you call it , fate , destiny or luck.
There are several such instances which are strange but true. I will quote one of them. I was part of press party which accompanied former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to attend first SAARC summit at Dacca. On our way back, Rajiv Gandhi came to the cabin in the plane where journalists were sitting and all of a sudden, came to my seat and sat on its handle. I tried to get up and offer him my seat but he pressed both my shoulders and made me sit down. No formalities, he said, keep sitting. I could not believe it. Prime minister of India sitting on the handle of my plane seat and talking to national press.
My life has been full of turns and twists. Some forward and some backward. But overall, I always got more than I deserved. We could only call it destiny, luck or fate.