Nothing is written

Amal Chatterjee
5 min readJun 4, 2023

Source: Google photo of Lawrence of Arabia

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Synopsis: The courage to overcome challenges of life by taking actions through hard work and sacrifice determines who writes his own destiny. The blog looks at some examples of such people.

The title of this blog may be misleading unless I complete the sentence here to understand the full meaning of it. To understand it, you must go back to the epic scene in the movie Lawrence of Arabia where Ali tries to discourage Lawrence to go back to search for one missing person in the middle of the Nefud desert in Arabia that is still known as the devil’s anvil. Ali said that no one can cross Nefud in the 50-degree Celsius heat at noon to which Lawrence answered that Moses did. This angered Ali who was a devout Moslem and called him blasphemous for giving Moses as an example because Moses was a prophet.

Lawrence ignored Ali and went back on the trail to look for the missing person who was found exhausted, dehydrated and pitifully waiting for his death but as an angel, Lawrence arrived on his camel and a compass in his hand to save the dying man and carried him back to the camp on his camel. The camp followers had all given up hope when Lawrence slowly appeared on the horizon with his rescued person, so they all rushed to him with water because Lawrence himself was terribly dehydrated. They all rejoiced at his extraordinary rescue mission at the risk of his own life but no one more so than Ali who said “really for some people nothing is written because they write their own destiny (like Lawrence).

Lawrence was an extraordinary person who spoke fluent Arabic among other languages and was extremely self-confident and daring so he rewrote the history of Arabia when he organized the rag tag Bedouins of the desert into a potent force to defeat the Turks and established King Faisal as their legitimate ruler in the newly formed kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The rest is history.

This scene of Lawrence going off to save a person in the desert like Nefud remained with me although the cinematography of David Lean probably had something to do with it along with superb acting of Omar Sharif as Ali and Peter O’Toole as Lawrence. Lawrence’s extraordinary courage and his ability to turn a great challenge into success defined him as a person who did write his own destiny, so he became a part of the history that he helped write in the Middle East.

I often think of the idea of destiny but cannot accept a fatalistic mentality most people have when it comes to define destiny. Granted, not everyone has this ability in him to turn challenges into success, so they take the easy route and say it is my destiny to remain poor and downtrodden or to live a miserable life with no hope or respite.

This fatalistic attitude in people is what separates them from the Lawrences of this world. When I visit India, I see this fatalism in some people who have given up on the idea that they can overcome their difficulties if they try harder but giving up seems like an easier choice when their mind is set that it is their karma or destiny, they cannot alter no matter how hard they try. It is not limited to Indians per se by any means. I have seen it in other countries as well.

There is a true story of an extraordinary man in China who married a woman he loved and moved to live in a very mountainous region where he built a shelter and grew corn and other crops for their sustenance. His wife had to go down to the valley every day and bring back heavy loads of water to climb up the steep slope that was very risky. So, he started to carve out of solid mountain side the steps to make it easier for his wife to go down or climb up using his primitive chisel and hammer day after day, month after month and year after year. His love and his determination were extraordinary that has made him a legend in China. He did not wait for the government to make roads into the mountains, so he took it upon himself to do what was needed. Such people write their own destiny.

They are called courageous and determined people, but they are also willing to take great personal risk like Lawrence. This willingness to take great risk is not found in most people so they blame others for their conditions or call it their fate or destiny.

A Hindu soldier called Mangal Pandey in India one day decided that enough was enough of the British colonialists who enslaved his country, so he shot dead a British officer. This incident started the revolution in 1857 that spread like wildfire all over the country that took many lives and was the first struggle for Independence in India. Thousands of British died in many parts of the country but eventually the struggle failed when loyal troops of the British Empire crushed the freedom fighters ruthlessly. Mangal Pandey was the first casualty of the revolution when the British hanged him, but it also ensured his place in the history as a hero.

This victory allowed the British to rule for 90 more years until a new leader called Subhash Chandra Bose emerged and forced the British to leave India in 1947. Bose took great risk in taking on the British forces. His INA (Indian National Army) soldiers suffered hunger, lack of medical facilities and ammunition but they carried on the fight and sacrificed their lives. Thus, Bose wrote his own destiny to become the hero who brought independence to his country.

To take a country by military force and kill the inhabitants of that country to take over their land in the name of Manifest destiny of the invaders is repugnant but a part of the history of the mankind.

But when some people use their courage and steely determination to liberate people and bring them a better future, they are remembered as heroes who wrote their own destiny. Just look at the steely eyes of Lawrence and you will know what I mean.

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Originally published at on June 4, 2023.