Monday, October 20, 2003

A date with fate

Call it curiosity or quirk or just plain cessation of thinking, but yesterday I went to fortune teller.

Up until now my attempts at discerning the future had been limited to reading Marjorie Orr’s predictions in the Sunday newspaper. But something irrational took over when I walked past the palmist on the pavement three days ago. Dressed in dhoti and kurta, he could have passed for a vegetable vendor. But for the board which said ‘PALMISTRY AND ASTROLOGY’ in a chalky scrawl. A few sheets with complex geometric patterns completed the picture. And on a whim, I turned back.

I found him watching me patiently as though he EXPECTED me to turn around. Clairvoyance? I wondered.

‘I want my palm read,’ I said, squatting on my haunches and peering at his paraphernalia. If he was surprised, he masked it well. He solicitously pulled out a crumpled plastic bag for me to squat on. I felt a little foolish, but gamely complied.

He opened a tattered book with pictures of deities. ‘Pranaam karo’, he said. I cast around for what that meant. He coughed softly and clarified, ‘50 rupees’. I fumbled in my purse feeling like the person in the corner of the classroom with a conical cap.

What’s your name, he asked and then flipped through the well worn pages of an almanac. He stopped at a page and nodded as though it all seemed to make sense.

Traffic roared by. I leaned in so as not to miss a single word.

‘Your stars are good,’ he said. ‘You’ve got determination and can do things you set your mind to.’ Well, that’s a good start, I thought.

‘When you were born, you brought your parents good fortune.’ That part was partially true. I arrived on the same day as their paychecks. Unlike my siblings who chose the inconvenient end of the month to make their appearance.

‘You’ll get a good match,’ he continued. ‘In fact, you’ll be married into a raj ghar.’ I translated that to mean royalty and a vision of Prince William floated into mind. I had to stifle the urge to giggle.

He took on a more serious tone then. ‘But your mind is not at ease. You work at things but they don’t seem to work out. Even your body grows weaker by the day.’ A mild alarm gripped me as he continued. ‘There are certain influences at work. But they can be countered if you wear a certain ring.’

The counters finally tumbled into place. ‘How much for your ring, I demanded. He dismissed it with a wave of hand, ‘Not much, just one hundred and fifty rupees but…’ The roar of traffic drowned out the rest. But it didn’t matter. I knew I’d been had.

As I walked away ruefully, I realised he’d scored a bullseye at least on one count. He’d said, money doesn’t stay for long in your life. I thought of my fifty rupees and marvelled at his soothsaying.

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