Saturday, March 24, 2007

Leap of faith

I always admire the picture that shows on my fone when I get a call from home. Mom's chilling out in the sofa with my cat Puchoos happily snuggled on her lap, lifting her head and enjoying the caresses. One such time,right in the midst of the picture-gazing, my mother's excited voice from the other end made my ears perk up. Quite cat-like.

My parents had, with a new found business contact, visited an astrologer, a specialist in the field of 'nadi jolshiyam' or 'astrology that is sought'. Apparently, centuries ago, the period when every village happening was later made into a legend, a Goddess wanted to know about the people who would be born on earth. Her following of saints took up the task and wrote down the life histories of every human being who would ever be born on this earth, each inscribed into a leaf. Wars and natural calamities destroyed a lot of these but about a few hundred years ago, the remaining inscriptions were recovered and translated into a more recent comprehendable Tamil. These were then auctioned off by the British and bought by rich Tamil families who maintained it for years before handing them over to different astrologers. These little biographies are said to be matched to a person by his/her thumb print and not the date of birth unlike other forms of astrology. This because they believe that a human is born when it is conceived and not, like the rest of us swear by, time of delivery. So even though the saints might have written the futures of thousands of people, each astrologer only has the leaves of those 'destined' to go to him. I patiently listened, waiting for the twist in the story, the critical point where my semi-sceptical mom would have fallen hook, sinker and line for this too-good to-believe faith. I didn't have to wait long.

After giving their thumb prints, the man brought sets of leaves that matched them, she said. He started off not knowing anything about them, even their names. He would ask 3-4 basic questions to find out which leaf was yours and once all the answers matched, he would declare your leaf found and write down the matter into a notebook and then explain it to you. Hmm. Mom was stunned out of her seat, she said, when he found her leaf and told her my grand mother's rather uncommon name. He also mentioned some unusual details of our family which he could never have guessed otherwise. Details of her siblings and children followed, complete with marital status and location and even the age at which she would seek out this form of astrology. My dad had a similiar leaf found and read out to him. Both were even told, much to their amusement, what they were and where they lived in their previous lives.

I got back home in a few days and the more I heard about it, the more curious I got. I don't really believe in astrology but this one seemed too entertaining to miss. And maybe disprove. I thought of all the ways they could have found out the details, like how much the business contact knew and how much my parents would have absently relayed. There was no other way to find out than to book myself an appointment.

I went to the small house, tagging behind my mother. There were pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses all around. After awhile we were called in to where the astrologer was seated. I pressed my right thumb into an old Camel stamp pad and made two impressions. There was a young boy, an apprentice who stood by. I keenly observed the astrologer, trying to keep my eyes on him and my prints to see how he was going to match them. He wrote down numbers beside them and gestured to the boy who went in, without as much as taking a look at the notepad. He returned in a few seconds with a bundle of long rectangular palm leaves bound together with white rope.

Sometimes you genuinely try to look at these things with an open mind. Something about it could be genuine, how else would they unearth so much of personal information. A faint glimmer of hope that this man and his bunch of leaves could perhaps get me hooked to this and actually believe in it. I waited with bated breath.

Are you above 20? Yes. Above 22? Yes? Born in 85? No. 84? No. 83? No. 82? Yes.

Ok. Not much rocket science in there, I thought. My eyes focussed in and out of the dull picture of an unknown deity behind him.

How many letters in Tamil does your name have? Five. The first letter of your name begins with R? No. V? No. P? No. L? No. S? Yes, I said.

My left eyebrow was now slightly above the normal level. What next, I wondered.

Is you name Shyamala? No. Sangeetha? No. Savitha? No. The last letter of your name, Na? No. Tha? No. Thi? No. Ra? No. Pa? No. What is it? 'Ya'. Is your name Sathya? No!

How did I even think this would be genuine. I crossed my legs, folded my arms and sat back. I glanced at my mom. Was this how he guessed Grandma's name?, I asked with my eyes. She returned a disappointed look that told me even she thought this was unusual.

Now the second last letter, he said. Concentrating hard and trying to figure out, I guessed, what normal Indian names could fit the given pattern. A baby name book would help, I mused, rather than ancient palm leaves. The session went on for awhile. He 'told me' my mother's name and my name after a letter-by-letter guessing game. He knew my dad's name so we were spared of the ordeal of going through his rather long name. He then proceeded to again' tell me' what line I was in. Since no astrologer can ever guess HR, I took my ex profession, software, as a valid answer. After all with more than 80% of the educated youth there, it was a safe guess for him. Then on seeing my mom's doubtful face, he made some quick calculations with my age and said that I have now studied further and could possible be either in the same line or in an administrative, managerial line. Wow. Smart.

It was a smart business model. Yet, my parents insist that for them he didn't do much guessing. He apparently took their parent's names out of thin air. With no prodding. Some of my mom's friends testify to this too. One of them even had their future husband's name accurately given at a time when they hadn't even met. How could so many people stick by this unexplained foresight?

Either my astrologer didn't get my leaf and just pretended to or the whole thing is a big sham. The former, in my humble opinion, would anyway mean the latter. I later looked up 'nadi astrology' on the net. Several interesting pages appeared with many good-looking testimonials and pictorial proof that there is some sort of truth associated with this. After many discussions with others who have had this experience, mine seemed the most bogus of them all. Without even an ounce of stun power. Yet, there's something about this mysterious way of foretelling that still keeps my questioning. Maybe some day when I have the time and patience, maybe I would try another astrologer and get some answers. Till then I can recount the way he guessed my date of birth and smile.

Jan-Feb? No. Nov-Dec? No. April- May? No. . . . . . . June? Yay!!!

Before 15th or after 15th?


Akshay said...


Too good....... But I bet nothing can change the belief of our parents in these people....

Didnt he try to guess where are you these days and where will u be in next six months?

Anonymous said...

Pitiable!!How can you be so superstitious?

Use what you have learnt and try guessing my name!!Or-lets just play some hangman?

Sachin said...

Ha ha :) Nicely Written...But wont comment more till I find my own "leaf"...On a totally different note this Poochoos the Original or Poochoos the "Nth"...or is this really the cat thats actually a dog? ;)

Sreekanth Menon said...

I didnt this in Bangalore and I strongly believe that it is a hoax.. If it worked for some .. I believe thats coz they were too co-operative in his data collection questions or is it the eagerness in wanting to believe in something which is clost to a miracle.. I will never know..
I also noticed the name guessing game.. and all I can say is ..cute :-)

Anonymous said...

The poor guy must have been stunned by your beauty.

Admirer said...

i read ur Nadi astrology..
but i fully respect that science.'
coz. i was dead against tht..and how can a man tell 20 days before looking at my thumb impression tht my eldest..if it is a going to have a heart surgery..tht too.a new kind one will feel tht he had his heart treated..
even Dr Chockalingam of Kovai Medical Centre in coimbatore is the man who was really surprised..coz..i had a recorde tape of the same made 20 days before...something still i cant really belive..but belive it or not..

Y said...

Hi Sandhya

I found your post by doing a Google search on 'Nadi Shastra' because I feel strongly about this entire thing - which incidentally, I believe is a complete hoax, too!

I had an experience very, very similar to yours, but parts of it were even more ridiculous.

The smart guesser (they are obviously well trained), amongst his zillion questions, also asked my husband 'have you come here with your sister'??

Now, the significance of this is - my husband's sister had come the previous day and had her 'leaf found miraculously' - so once the man established they were siblings (the resemblance between the two is striking, and we had anyway walked in all together), it was much simpler and quicker for him to figure out my husband's parent's names!! What other relevance could this question possibly have to the entire scheme of things in finding the leaf?!

I also noticed that, in our case, after one bunch of leafs had been exhausted, the man would disappear for around ten minutes to 'get the next bunch' - which would invariably contain the details he had gathered during his interrogation (for those ten minutes, he was possibly scratching the details into a leaf which he would then 'find').. Not that it mattered much to me, I don't know Tamil anyway...

The only reason this gets to me so much is that so many people really seem to fall for it so wholeheartedly. I agree with the earlier comment by Sreekanth, it is possibly because they unconsciously supply information trustingly.

I have no possible explanation for those who have indeed had a miraculous experience with this process - all I know is, MY personal experience was definitely a hoax.

What a well orchestrated racket...incidentally, we were charged Rs.1400 per person. As a family of five, we shelled out Rs.7000 on this thing that day, and still argue about its authenticity vehemently ( my sister in law swears by it to this day...and as you can, not quite so!) . live and learn...

Anyway, sorry for such a long comment, and that too on a post written in March. I think I will do my own post on this now :-)



Liquid Oxygen said...

Came here via Y's blog post.

I have a mixed opinion actually, though I don't really believe in Nadi as a concept, but to some extent I think I do believe in astrology, or may be its just a emotional dependency...

Anonymous said...

hello thr...jus type the words "nadi" and "blogspot" and google it ..i have read atleast a dozen startlingly positive posts.....urs a bit diff..

Kiran said...

I believe he played a game of statistics with you. I haven't tried this and I wouldn't even want to try...

Nicely written. I didn't really have an insight of this before.

Tamil astrology said...

i was read your Nadi astrology..its science , astrology one of the science , i am a astrologer , i tell one information Astrology is good but you believe 55% only so this is fate ,,


Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience as Y and Sandhya. And I feel its a complete hoax.
In my case, I was not forced by my parents or relatives for nadi astrology. On the other hand, it was a casual conversation with my colleagues that made me wonder if this coule be actually true. So, I wanted to try it and I'm sure my mom would not be very happy to know that I spent moolah over thi stuff. She has her own list of trusted and knowledgable astrologers.
This guy actually found out my parent's name by asking similar questions. If it begins with R, S, m, N, K, etc. etc....
I am engineer by qualification and by profession. My would be better half is engineer by profession and into marketing by profession.
The guy guessed by profession , which must not be a difficult task considering the fact that 80% of junta in metros is software engineer. But, he couldnot guess my would be better half's profession correctly.
The next day, when I went for the complete reading, he tells me the same information that I had given him which he had extracted from me through his process of eliminating the leaves.
I missed some of it and he guessed that which was completely wrong. I had told him that I was preparing for MBA and he heard it as ' i have done engineering and MBA and now working in technology sector'.
Similarly, there was some inconsistent info about my past.
The future predictions were completely based on my horoscope that he drew in front of me.
My mom's astrologer is actually better at that as comared to this guy.
If Rishi Agastya had actually written my past, present and future on palm leaves, I think it would not have been so off the track from reality..
A smart business venture in the name of ancient Rishis. :)