“Devki’s eighth son would kill you Kans”, came a voice from the sky, just when Kans was leading his recently-wed sister Devki and her husband Vasudev to the decorated chariot. Enraged and with the intention to prove the prophecy wrong, he rushed towards the couple to kill them. Devki fell to his feet “this is not true brother, please leave us and we will make sure that you will not be harmed by our children”. Kans stepped back and spared their lives but ordered to put Devki & Vasudev into prison so that he can wait and keep watch over them till Devaki gives birth to her eighth child and he gets to kill him. If he could kill his future killer, not only he would cheat death but would become immortal.
The day Devki’s first son was born, Muni Narad with a puzzled look, something that was rarely seen on his face, happened to pass by Kans’s palace. Kans welcomed him and asked the reason that made him look so lost. Narad showed a lotus flower that he had had in his hand and said “I am just unable to figure which of the eight petals in this flower is first and which is eighth”.
“Is it possible that Devki’s children could change the birth order resulting in eighth one actually getting born ahead?” Kans had this worried thought. This would not only be a risk on his plan to be immortal, but would also make it tough to kill the one after he has grown adult. He decided not to spare any of Devki’s children and immediately ran towards Devki-Vasudev’s cell, and killed the child by smashing him on the wall. Devki and Vasudev were shocked at this sudden change of heart and cried helplessly. They could do nothing but live to see the similar fate of five other children born in later years.
When Devki was pregnant with seventh child, Vasudev’s other wife Rohini visited the cell and transferred the embryo from Devki’s womb to her’s and left. The seventh child was then reported to Kans as miscarried. Devki-Vasudev as well as Kans were feeling the anxiety with the event of birth of eighth child getting closer. On the day the eighth child was born, the guards fell unconscious and a voice directed Vasudev to take the child to Gokul and swap him with the girl that was just born to Yashoda & Nand. Vasudev complied and later returned with the girl. Next morning when Kans tried to smash the girl on wall, the girl slipped from his hand and disappeared, a voice then declared that the child who would kill him had already born in Gokul.
For the next few years Kans put all his efforts to trace and kill the child Krishna in Gokul itself. Later, thinking that Krishna was escaping his death due to home-advantage, Kans finally invited him to Mathura. The two had an encounter and then Krishna, Devki’s eighth son, killed the Kans.
“OK I thought I would make it brief, but looks like I could not closer to it.” Prof. Verma said as he moved to the center of the class. “Anyways, can anyone point something unusual in this tale?”
“Sir!” Chirag raised his hand after after a short while when no one else seemed to volunteer to answer the question. “If Kans already knew that Devki & Vasudev’s eight son would kill him, he should not have put them in the same cell”. The rest of the class chuckled. Professor smiled and continued “Good logic, but we are talking about a setup where a woman could transfer an embryo without assistance from a medical expert. May be even putting them in separate cell could not have worked !! May be they were more capable than what we are today.”
“Professor, did these events actually happen or the writing is a fiction?” asked Kalpana, who was sitting near the spot where professor was currently standing. “Depends of what you believe” replied professor. “We humans have a flaw called WYSIATI – What you see is all there is”. He walked towards the white-board and faced the entire class. “We cannot believe what we have not seen, and sometimes we don’t want to see something because that will contradict something that we already believe. He will discuss this sometime later.”
“For now let’s get back to this tale that started with a Prophecy, a voice from the sky that declared a FUTURE event.”. Professor had stopped moving when he emphasized on word FUTURE. “Do you think the events that followed the prophecy and its end would have been the same if Kans never knew that Devki’s eighth son was going to kill him. Would he have imprisoned the couple and kill their six children? If Kans did no harm to Vasudev-Devki and their family, would the eighth son Krishna kill him without any reason? Would he?”. Professor paused for few seconds. “Was Kans killed only because the Prophecy said so?”
“This is called, as 20th-century sociologist Robert K. Merton.termed it, a Self fulfilling prophecy - a prediction that causes itself to become true”.
We behave according to our beliefs; and our behaviours is what gives the end result. Change the belief and our behaviour will change and would lead to a different result similar to what was predicted in prophecy.
Take the example of Macbeth. He was a loyal general of the King of Scotland. He believed that he was a servant of the King and acted likewise. Hearing the prophecy by Witch Trio that said he would become the King of Scotland, his behaviour changed and he eventually ended up murdering the king and becoming the king himself.”
It is not that just the King of Mathura or Scotland who can be subject of prophecies. Anyone of us can be. In a study performed in a single school in California, a group of students was given an IQ test. After the evaluation a list containing roughly 20% of the participants was released to the teachers, citing that these were the students who would learn and perform better than other. The list was however prepared randomly instead of picking students on merit, as the teachers thought. Another test was taken after a few months later and it was found that the students in the list did perform better than the others, thanks to the special individual attention that the teachers gave these students. This is “Pygmalion effect”, a phenomenon whereby the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform.
Negative effect of self fulfilling prophecies can be seen in a Bank-run, where a number of people withdraw money from a bank with a false belief that bank is turning insolvent. As the fear of insolvency and news of people withdrawing money spread, more and more people rush to save their money by withdrawing it. Bank having invested the money in loans feels a sudden liquidity crunch and thus faces inability to honour these large number of withdrawals, and the panic grows ending in Bank facing the insolvency.
“Sir I have a question” came a voice from the back.
To be continued