The Life Tree

Life as such can be viewed as a complex tree, with each branch having a thousand other branches diverging from it, with circumstances leading you to choose one amongst them, leaving you at the next level of branching. There are infinite paths that your life could take, each leading to extremely different situations, each chosen by the trivial decisions that we make every day and by chance occurrences that present themselves to us.

Reading Ursula’s story in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life left me wondering about the path that my life has taken. Starting from dying at birth to just escaping death in the nick of time, only to die a few years later of scarlet fever, or by jumping off the window, or at the hands of her uncouth spouse, Atkinson vividly describes how each decision that Ursula makes plays a vital role in how her entire life shapes out to be. The act of something as trivial as denying a kiss makes all the difference in the course of her life.

life tree

A few years back, we were in Kabini National Park, making our annual visit. It was just after dawn, with the sun nuzzling the low clouds and a thin mist like a bride’s veil hanging in the air- an aftermath of the previous night’s rainfall. We are all geared up for our trip into the forest, when my dad suddenly realised that he had left one of his lenses back in the room. We rushed back to get it, and after a delay of hardly a few minutes, were back on the road. A few kilometres into the path, we saw a jeep standing next to a puddle, the people in the jeep visibly jubilant with huge smiles plastered on their faces. They had just spotted a huge tiger drinking water from the very puddle that they were standing next to, and we had missed it by a minute. If only we had not gone back to get the lens; if only we had not stopped on the way to photograph a drongo preening itself; if only…

People believe that our life is a personification of the choices that we make. Having said that, we cannot deny the fact that there are a few things that are completely out of our hands, beyond our control. Unfortunately, these are the things that for most parts spin the threads of our destiny. But this does not necessitate that we succumb to whatever befalls us. It is whether we choose to bring our life back in track after it forces us down a path that we would never have taken if given a choice, that makes us the master or the slave. Like William Ernest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”