Sunday, 16 June 2013

[] Fortune-tellers and their craft


Fortune-tellers and their craft...

This is just another one of my pieces penned in a lighter, humorous vein… Take it or leave it, please.

Fortune-telling is all about predicting the future events in a person's life and is a catch-all phrase for astrology, numerology, psychic reading, tarot reading, palmistry, naadi jyosyam, palmistry, crystal gazing, prophesying and prognosticating and even the parrot predictions offered by the lowly road-side peddler. None of these practitioners can claim superiority over the others, although they sometimes may snipe behind the other, usually they all believe in live and let live policy like the Tamil adage – after all they are all birds of the same feather. And every independent branch of these varieties of fortune-telling profession has its own votaries and followers who swear by them: It's like to each, his own. Tarot reading is big business in the North and the biggest Bollywood stars consult them routinely. Every politician regardless of his party affiliation has his/her favorite astrologer too – to get to know the most propitious time for swearing in or on when he is likely become a minister if not a CM, or when he will be able to humble a rival and pip him to the post.
Numerology, of course, every knows about: the practitioners tell you the best configuration for you all things considered; the foremost in the field is the mathematical wizard Shakuntala Devi operating from her plush Pedder Road apartments; she wrote several books on the nuances of figures/numbers, then switched to the (more paying) profession of numerology. If any votary of any other branch of prognostication were to tell her that numerology is just a numbers' game, one can very well imagine what her reaction would be like.

Naadi is pulse in Tamil, but naadi jyosym has nothing to do with feeling your pulse and predicting your future. A couple of years ago, I saw an interesting programme on Naadi Jyosyam in a Tamil TV channel where its practitioner predicted one's future events from some ancient manuscripts, on the basis of the information supplied by a respondent.

I have also happened to read a book by one of the leading crystal gazers in the US some two decades ago (I believe her name was Jane Dixon) – the object is about 3 or 4" clear spherical crystal and the practitioner concentrates on it for long before pronouncing her predictions. The book also recounted some of her predictions that proved right – of course no-one ever talks about the other hundreds that turned false. By the law of averages, a couple of predictions have got to turn right.

The tarot reading is the spookiest – attributing magic, mystique, occult and what not to this craft, all this mystery may be the reason why the practitioner is so much sought after by the glamorous film folks. The card deck, similar in size to the usual playing cards, has some 56 cards in 4 suits of 14 in each with images printed on one side e.g. The Fool (!), The Moon, Queen of Wands, The Sun, Ten of Cups (?), The Magician, The Hanged Man (!), The Lovers, etc. (And this is the latest update: after I had sent this mailer to a large circle of my pals to elicit their reaction, one of them at once responded saying his daughter is seriously thinking of chucking up her masters in science mid-stream and switching to tarot reading as a profession as it offers name, fame and easy money without much sweating it out – so you know the kind of magnetic attraction this profession has for people wanting to get rich quick and a earn a name for themselves without really trying)

In the parrot prophesying, the lowly pro has two or three dozen pre-printed dog-eared fortune cards. When a harried client approaches him to know what lays ahead for him, the pro lets out the caged bird and barks at it to pick out a card from one among the pack, and the poor parrot, more often out of fright if not anything else, randomly selects one.

The palmist of course interprets all those unintelligible lines crisscrossing your palm. Of all the branches of fortune-telling, this one does seem to have some logic: remember the fingerprints are so unique to each individual that it is the most widely applied technique to nail a criminal. I recall in my childhood a middle-aged mute (dumb deaf) middle-aged lady palmist visited our hamlet, read the palms of several women and to their astonishment revealed many of the PAST events in their lives. I was too young then and am not sure whether the palmist actually did communicate by her hand gestures the events they thought she did or the eager-beaver female clients, in their excitement, merely imagined that is what she was trying to convey by her hand gesticulations.

Then there is gemology: any morning you tune in to a TV channel and you invariably find a pious gemologist waxing eloquently to viewers what gem stone would free them from all their mental woes.

The automatic weighing machines at railway stations also contributed (and still contribute at a few stations, one believes) their mite in vending instant predictions: you stepped on the base and inserted a coin (it used to be 10 paise back then, I think it is one rupee now) into the slot, the machine whirred for a few seconds and popped out a railway ticket-like card with the kilos you weighed in printed on one side, and your fortune for the day on the other side; if you were to double check it with another coin, you would be doubly blessed: one card might say you are going to be a lakhpati in the next few days and the other, you are going to meet the prince/cess charming you dreamt about, soon… 10 paise or one rupee, it's paisa wasool… in no way is it a bad bargain…hai na?

The Oxford dictionary defines astrology as the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as an influence on human affairs. I am sorry but I will strictly go by this scientific definition and not by any others given in astrological books or magazines because these have a vested interest in perpetuating and propagating its own version of what astrology is all about.

The definition is self-explanatory, but in simpler terms, the moon and certain other celestial bodies orbiting around the sun, like our own Earth does, have a bearing on our the life of earthlings. The planets that are taken into reckon are Mars (Mangal in Hindi, Chovvai in Tamil and Mandi in Malayalam) hardly brought mangal and happiness and a manglik girl became an accursed one; Saturn (Shani) portended ill-luck and worse, so people were exhorted to take measures to propitiate Shani and counter his effects; Jupiter (Guru) became the personification of goodness; Mercury (Bhudh or Brihaspati), the one closest to the sun, hence hottest of all planets, is credited with wisdom and knowledge; Vinus (Shukr, Velli) came to be associated with beauty though the planet we now learn to be one of the most inhospitable with extreme temperatures and an atmosphere - dense carbon-dioxide – that can never sustain any living things. In fact all celestial bodies are inhospitable for humans or for that matter even any other simplest of living organisms, yet we still take them to be Gods who are actually supposed to be our Protectors. The other planets in the solar system viz. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were not considered for all these calculations only because they came to be discovered centuries after Astrology was born. More, if the assumption that all planets and stars do exercise their influence on earthlings is right, logically shouldn't the zillions of star systems and their planets that exist in the Universe also have a bearing on our lives?

Time of birth is of essence if the surmise that alignment of Planets that could mould your fate is to be believed. In point of fact it's not time but place of birth that is of paramount importance for the prediction to come true; it's like this: you are born in say Bangalore or Patna, the alignment of the celestial objects with reference to the person's birthplace is important for greater accuracy of forecasts.

Now what is time? The Indian Standard Time (IST) is actually the time that would prevail at 73-deg. East latitude, an imaginary line that fall almost at the centre of the West-East divide of India. Though for convenience sake the IST is made applicable to the entire India, the actual time difference in relation to sun between Calcutta or Shillong on the east and Mumbai on the west coast would be as much as one hour. In other words if the sun rise for the entire country is 6.15 a.m. IST, the time in actual fact in Calcutta or Shillong will be 6.45 a.m. and the sun would have already risen in Calcutta a goodly 30 minutes earlier! In contrast in Bombay the sun will actually be rising only at 6.45 a.m.

So what accuracy can one expect in the forecasts when the planetary positions at one's birth are themselves not certain or are incorrect, given the uncertain nature of the actual time of one's birth?

Of course with the advent of computer-aided horoscopes, the otherwise inherent lacuna in arriving at the correct time of birth is taken care of, somewhat – I say somewhat because only the correct time is zeroed in only in case of kids born in certain cities.

What shapes up our destiny or Fate is our character and outlook towards life and the efforts we put in or otherwise to make it a success, which factors are determined by the genes/DNA passed on by one's parents, but only to a certain extent; these aspects have more to do with the environment one grows up in. In other words, attributing our successes or failures that are caused by our own good deeds or our own omissions and commissions, to the alignment of lifeless, totally uninhabitable planets hurtling through deep space hundreds of millions of miles away from earth is preposterous in the extreme.

Now the question is why do we turn to fortune-tellers at all? That is easily explained. Almost every one of us have some or the other not-so easily resolvable domestic problem – these, according to those in the profession, are Sathru Dosham, Marriage Problems, Vidhya Dosham, Santana Dosham, Job Problems, Business Problems, Mental, Health and Family Problems. And every one is anxious to get out of it as quickly as possible or anxious to know how soon they will be delivered of the curses bedeviling them. Here the fortune-tellers come in handy soothing their jangled nerves and mental stress by offering some plausible palliative, assuring better, happier days ahead, even if they don't come true... Many a soothsayer, especially those from Kerala and their manthrawadis, you consult blandly point to a dosham as the chief mischief maker and tell you to perform an expensive pooja and lo, all your problems would vanish into thin air.

Anything ancient and we hasten to bestow it a halo around it as something great, but fact is old is not always gold. Philosophies that were propounded centuries ago were in consonants with the times prevalent then, but they are not infallible for all time to come. Times change, science and technology march forward with it too. Look at the advancement in information technology – even the most grandiose or wildest sci-fi writer would have imagined or visualized the internet age that has taken the world by storm in about 15 years. We have taken to this technology with gusto, so shouldn't we jettison the garbage of superstitious beliefs?

The bottom line is, NO FORTUNE-TELLER can predict the future course of events with any degree of certainty, and if it were possible, all the countries would have happily nipped their problems in the bud, before they turned to monstrous proportions, and we all would have been living in Utopian Ram Rajya for centuries now. Carefully read their prognostication and you will find all of them with lots of ifs and buts and couched in vague terms. However renowned a fortune-teller and whatever his rich famous clientele list be, predicting the future is at best a guessing game.

I would like to recall a hilarious episode that took place a couple of years back. Some 25 years ago we had the horoscope of our son cast by a fancy Kerala astrologer; he had a plush office and he saw people only with prior appointment. He gave it to us in a booklet form. A couple of years ago when the time arrived to look for a suitable alliance for my son, we took his horoscope to a Tamil astrologer; the venerable man took just one look at it and said it wasn't made properly saying some dashas or balance dasa was missing and that we get it made again through a computer. How are we common folks to distinguish a genuine practitioner from a fake? When we went to meet him a few days later to collect the horoscope, the astrologer mentioned about some dosha in my son's kundali and that we install a pure crystal lingam that he will have endowed with anti-dosha elements with a special pooja performed at his residence or ours, the option being left to us, at a particular place at our home to ward off the evil effect. On another lighter side, the astrologer was 40-something and still a bachelor and his aged mother called my dharma patni aside and privately pleaded with her if she (my biwi) could find a suitable girl for her astrologer-son! As we heard the man's pitiable plight of not being able to find a mate for himself with all his ability of predict his future, we beat the hell out of there resolving not to visit him again realizing this physician desperately needed some healing himself… (I must however tell readers that in these matters - consulting an astrologer - I usually go with my sahadharmini for the sake of domestic peace and harmony)

When my piece, Comics or Astrology, appeared some 3 or 4 weeks ago in a forum, a very senior gentleman, about 85 years, having retired as a cost accountant in Calcutta and now settled in the South, sent me a mail saying that he had studied astrology in depth but has now turned almost against this "science". His contention is more credible and has the stamp of authority as he is a knowledgeable yet disinterested person and has no bias towards or against astrology.

Of course, India is a free country and every citizen is free to ply his own profession to eke out a living. Like it is said about religion, believing in fortune-telling is a matter of faith.

Another name for fortune-telling is soothe-saying! Very apt, hain na?

Cris Iyer
Read every day
Lead a greater life.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.Fun & Info @ Keralites.netFun & Info @ Keralites.netFun & Info @


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