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Vikas Swarup’s Q & A tells the story of a young orphan who miraculously transforms from being penniless to possessing more money than he could ever imagine. It seems Ram’s ability to answer all of the questions on a quiz show correctly is the result of destiny, or at least luck. However, the theme of Swarup’s novel suggests differently. Best articulated by the hero himself, the moral of Ram’s story is “luck comes from within,” meaning a person’s actions create the lucky or unlucky situations they experience (Swarup 318). Swarup’s lesson is an applicable one, since successful people know that a person makes his or her own luck.
Due to the way Ram acts, he brings luck into his life. Though his lifestyle is not one that would be envied by many people, Ram is quite fortunate in his unfortunate conditions. One example of this occurs when Ram is saved from the police station by Smita. It seems incredibly lucky that a lawyer would come out of nowhere to help Ram. Luck is based on chance, and lucky things happen when the odds are in a person’s favor. But it is revealed that Smita’s appearance is really not a chance occurrence at all when she tells Ram, “I am Gudiya. I am the girl you helped in the chawl” (Swarup 313). What appears to be a favor of luck is actually a direct result of Ram’s willingness to help other people. Smita promises, “I will fight for you, just as you fought for me” (Swarup 314). Ram made his own luck because good things often happen to good people.
Another example of Ram finding luck within himself is his story about Shankar and the rabies antidote. After Ram acquires the four lakh rupees that will buy Nita’s freedom, he runs into a man in the hospital who says, “This money is yours, but I entreat you, brother, please lend it to me… The doctor says [my son] will die tonight unless I can buy a vaccine called RabCure” (Swarup 290). This forces Ram into an extremely difficult decision: use the money to free the woman he loves, or save a young boy from the disease that just killed his friend. In the end, he gives the money to the teacher for the vaccine. By doing so, he again makes his own luck. Since the money is no longer on his person, the policemen who confront him outside the hospital cannot frame him for the robbery at Swapna Devi’s house. All they find in Ram’s pockets are “a small packet of bubble gum, some corn kernels, and a one-rupee coin” (Swarup 293). Ram’s charity saved him from being arrested. It may be considered lucky that Ram knew the police would not bother him if he spoke gibberish like Shankar, which he does to clear all their suspicions (Swarup 292-293). Really, this is not so much good fortune as it is Ram’s cleverness and intelligence — his luck from within. The effects of this incident continue to aid Ram when he is faced with the Shakespeare question on the quiz show. In his pocket, he is “surprised to brush against the edge of a card… that says, ‘Uptal Chatterjee, English Teacher’” — the man to whom Ram gave the four lakh rupees (Swarup 296). Chatterjee helps Ram correctly answer the quiz question as a repayment for Ram’s generosity. Because of his good heart, Ram again creates his own luck.
The phenomenon that luck is made, and not simply a result of chance, is not just a fictional element of Swarup’s novel. A Psychology Today article titled “Make Your Own Luck” discusses just this phenomenon. The article states, “People who spot and seize opportunity are different. They are more open to life’s forking paths, so they see possibilities others miss.” Maybe if Ram was more closed-minded, he would not have remembered that Radhey had told him about Neelima Kumari and therefore would not have taken the opportunity to work for her. A person who considers himself unlucky might think Ram has all the luck. In reality, Ram is just astute and more open to possibility. The article goes on to say that when it comes to “lucky” people, “if things don’t work out the way they’d hoped, they brush off disappointment and launch themselves headlong toward the next fortunate circumstance.” This describes Ram as well. He works for an Australian family, for an actress, at a bar, as an unofficial tour guide at the Taj Mahal; whenever one job ends, he finds another. He takes advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. He never lies down, resigned and defeated. Instead, he continues to take action.
In a self-help book by David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big, the author says that successful people are those who take action. He writes, “You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses. But the fellow who has gone nowhere and has no plans for getting anywhere always has a bookful of reasons to explain why. Persons with mediocre accomplishments are quick to explain why they haven’t, why they don’t, why they can’t, and why they aren’t” (Schwartz 29). Ram is an orphan, he never had any money, and the only person he ever considered a father was murdered. However, he does not use any of these misfortunes as excuses. The Magic of Thinking Big explains, “A lot of passivationists got that way because they insisted on waiting until everything was 100 percent favorable before they took action… to wait for the perfect set of conditions is to wait forever” (Schwartz 166-167). Ram’s conditions are far from perfect. How unfortunate is he to be taken in by someone like Maman and almost blinded? Despite this, Ram seizes opportunity, refuses to make excuses, and takes control of his life.
People who believe in luck are often those who are unsuccessful. They think that if they only had more luck, then they could make something of their lives. Ram starts out unluckier than most people. However, Ram is more successful than most people will ever be. This is not a result of the planets being aligned or his one-rupee coin. Judging by Ram’s story, the actions he took, the generosity he showed, the openness and cleverness he possessed, it is clear that Ram’s good fortune came from within. Because of the way he was, he created the seemingly lucky circumstances that led to his success.
Swarup, Vikas. Q & A. New York: Simon & Shuster, 2008.
Schwartz, David J. The Magic of Thinking Big. New York: Simon & Shuster, 1987.
Webner, Rebecca. “Make Your Own Luck.” Psychology Today. 01 May 2001. 19 Oct. 2010 <http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201005/make-your-own-luck>
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