***Warning: this piece may engender severe derisive lip-curling in the more scientific amongst you***
Post morning pujah, I have granted myself the rest of the day off to try and reverse my exhausted consumptive state. Sarah ‘Holy Cow’ McDonald’s dicing with death by pneumonia is starting to figure in my imagination. And just quietly: what a killing that woman must be making on her story about her year off in India! I have not been in a single bookstore where it is not pride of place on the shelves, and it is several years old, even now. I’m sure the bold cover featuring a blue-faced Shiva does it no harm. Smart choice Sarah.
Partly inspired by Sarah’s experiences and partly just going with the Indian flow, I decide to get my palms read and my astrology deciphered. Enter Dr RMP Mishra. Dr Mishra is a kindly soft-spoken man with large expressive eyes. I order us both chai and we get down to business.
He pushes a blank sheet of paper towards me and asks me to write my name and date and time of birth. On reading these details he commences counting on his fingers and muttering calculations. He starts writing planet names with lines forking out leading to other planet names.
He finally lays his pen down and smiles benignly. ‘You have good brain,’ he pronounces. ‘This comes from Jupiter, your ruling planet. All your money is coming from the brain, not physical work.’
‘You have verrry strong planning power,’ he continues, tapping his temple with his index finger. ‘Everything you plan works out 100%.’
You can stop laughing right now, you lot. Especially those who have accused me of being an anally-obsessed-planning-freak.
Dr Mishra goes on to talk about my needing to keep a lid on my fiery temper for the sake of my blood pressure. Clearly he has me confused with someone else, but please, do go on.
He then tells me I have a ‘colourful’ brain saying I have an artistic nature and like music, singing and dancing. Yeah right, tell that to the epileptic giraffes.
Then he starts to get down to brass tacks. He tells me I have formally studied three different branches of education and have two ways of getting money (no smirking please) and how many heartbreaks I have suffered in the past. The bad news is I’m going to live to at least 89 and that I never retire (I’ll be speaking to my super fund manager about this one!) although, this is supposedly because I will always have a very active mind and good health.
Even more specifically, the moon is moving in and I will get ‘100% achievement in money and love life’ from 2.2.08 until 2.11.09. Mr Wonderful comes along during this period.
‘See this line?’ he points to the deep line that divides my right palm in half. ‘This is your husband line. See this line here?’ Dr Mishra points to a fainter line angling in towards the husband line. ‘This is your brain line. This line is taking a very long time to meet up with the husband line, but see, you are here.’ Dr Mishra indicates the point just before these lines connect. Well, on closer inspection later, I can see that the ‘brain line’ fades out before it gets to the ‘husband line’, but it’s a nice thought.
Examination of the lines created on the side of my palm at the base of my little finger when I close my hand, indicate that I will have a son quickly followed by a daughter and further, five grandchildren. Looks like my piddly unspent super will be in good hands then.
I will have one big house and one little one. I’m very interested in travel (no shit Sherlock) and I will live for significant periods in three countries other than my own. Dr Mishra then goes on to tell me my lucky colours, numbers and stone.
Bless him, he leaves nothing to chance, telling me all the dates in a month my future husband should be born on not to get the thumbs-down (16 dates). A further six dates will see 70% chance of success and nine dates will spell disaster, Captain Mannering.
Dr Mishra sees Shiva’s Trident on my left palm. This means that I will never go to hospital with major diseases and the end will be painless and quick. Shiva has a strong connection with Jupiter but this trident confirms Shiva rules my life (I can sense Bernie’s tacky flashing Shiva getting closer and closer…).
On the health front he observed that I have ‘neck stiffness problems’, ‘heart vibrations’ from excessive workloads (although I can work 18 out of 24 hours if I’m happy), weak eyesight (yes, I was wearing my specs) and that I need to lay off the spicy food (like, I’m in India) and drink more water.
In summary I live a long time in good health and work my brain till I drop off the perch, and if I get the numbers right will live happily ever after in a number of countries. Sounds good to me. I hand over my 500 rupees for some good entertainment.
Jokes aside, India takes the ‘science’ of astrology very seriously. Astrologers, or jyotishis, are still consulted before an arranged match is sealed and if the prognosis is less than good, ringing of hands may result with both parties walking away. If the match is highly desirable for other reasons, money may change hands for him to ‘recheck’ his work (making it a double farce).
Going back further in time, the average Indian would not tie his shoelaces without consulting an astrologer. Decisions ranging from fixing auspicious dates for funerals and weddings, receiving a guest, buying a new suit, setting out on a trip, cutting a moustache or having a tooth extracted would all need to be determined properly.
This was never more crucial than when the last Viceroy announced out of the blue and without any consultation, that India’s day of partition would occur on the 15th of August 1947. When the astrologers around the country consulted their almanacs and drew lines over their charts, as one they raised their eyes to the heavens in horror.
Mountbattan was determined to show he was master of the event and he spontaneously decided on a date that was sentimentally linked to his campaigns in Burma and the unconditional surrender of the Japanese.
According to astrologers, Sunday was inevitably an inauspicious day, as was Friday. Any Indian could have got out a calendar and told you that the 15th of August would fall on a Friday. As soon as the date was made public it was proclaimed that India ‘would be better advised to tolerate the British one day longer rather than risk eternal damnation.’
Even more intricate calculations were made using a navamsh. This was a large chart of concentric circles plotting days and months of the year, cycles of the sun and moon, the planets and zodiac sign positions and 27 other stars that influence the earth’s destiny, drawn up with a map of India at the centre with lines radiating out in a wheel with all the circles aligned to 15 August 1947.
The results were deemed catastrophic. Not only did this date lie under Capricorn, a sign hostile to all centrifugal forces (and hence partition), the day would also pass under the influence of Saturn, a notably inauspicious planet dominated by a star whose manifestations were all malignant. Further, during this whole period Saturn, Jupiter and Venus would all lie in the most accursed site of the heavens, the ninth house of Karamsthan.
A prominent astrologer, Swami Madananand, wrote urgently to Mountbattan imploring him to reconsider: ‘If floods, drought, famine and massacres follow it will be because free India was born on a day cursed by the stars.’
Sadly, the British had long ago set the horrendous events of partition in train with their deliberate divide and conquer strategies, but I guess it's convenient to blame it on the actual date chosen by the last Viceroy.
Dr Mishra gives me his email address and instructs me to send any further questions and let him know if these things come to pass. Given his specific timeframes I can do this in the not too distant future. As we finish our chai I ask Dr Mishra how he goes with reading his own charts and that of his family. He relates to me a sad story.
After a pujah ceremony another astrologer told him that his son would die within eleven days. His boy, one of four children, was then very healthy, and he agonised over what to tell his wife. He tried to ‘soften’ the upcoming blow by saying that their son would grow up to cause both of them harm and that he had a demon in him. His wife refused to believe this. His son then contracted a sickness and died within 9 days. It was then that he told his wife the truth.
Phew. Well, perhaps I should dump the grain of salt then. If I really am looking down the barrel at another 50 years I’d better start looking after myself. I prescribe myself several fruit mocktails in the salubrious Taj Ganges and settle in for an afternoon of writing and sober contemplation.