Written in the stars | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2019

Written in the stars

TAKE ONE

Most rational human beings like to hedge our bets, minimise risks, whatever you call it. In my usually hare-brained shopping, I do like to check for the expiry dates on the juice packs and such, and the “actual” sale that the markets offer, whenever I remember to. You get the picture, I prefer to not be completely unprepared, in my own disorganised way. But the biggest bet of life has had me flummoxed since I remember... the question of how long do I have here? Should I just give all up and start travelling now or is there still some time? Decisions, decisions. I really do wish I came with an expiry date, knowing how long I will last would give me a semblance of control. There is no such date, but there are those who promise capabilities to unravel our futures, the mysteries and such, so to speak, so you can well imagine how curious I would be to try those. But being a kinda-sorta-trying to be good Muslim, I didn't try the forbidden arts of fortune telling, regardless of the allure. But when opportunity struck in the form of work, I definitely took it, and did not grudge the hours spent in looking for readers, or getting the reading done, albeit with a twist. False names with real dates, and a combination thereof.

So off we went in a team. I opted to see one palmist, and one astrologer, there was a budget constraint after all, no service comes for free!

For me, the palmist was an absolute disappointment. He just sat there poking and prodding my palm for the longest time, and said some generic stuff about me being inherently lucky but with a “shani” or Saturn sitting on it, not letting my luck shine, and how wearing a certain gem would make it all better, which I “could” buy from him right then. Meh, little did he know, I wear the colours of the rainbow in the gems on my fingers, changing frequently as I like my bling. If lady luck wanted one, she could have picked one.

The second person we went to was at least better at his interpersonal skills. My friends thought he read me like a book, but I beg to differ, as I have a semi-decent poker face! After all, it made him ask, “are you testing me?” Some of his revelations hit the mark well too, some were so far off, the entire solar system would fit in between. I did learn about having a different Indian astrology sign than the usual Aquarius that I had known to be mine so long. He started off with asking for my full name, birthdate, and time of birth. The name and date I am certain of, but the time was a bit iffy as I had never bothered to ask anyone about it. So a random guess sufficed. This info was used to create my very own “lagna” chart. Turns out, I am “manglik,” so beware any possible amours, I could ruin your life simply with my dazzling presence (notice the grin.) He also said I would be married twice, so that means two people will go through that non-enviable fate. No wonder the husband count is still at zero, even at my midlife.

The fact that I am on the chubbier side did not go unnoticed, and he predicted I will get diabetes and face trouble in losing any weight. Duh, I like my cheesecake in doubles, no secret that. Also, the family history doesn't help either. Moving on to more shaming, the sun spots on my face, rather than being there due to my extreme laziness, and complete disregard to sunblock, was apparently due to the placing of my waste-basket in the wrong cardinal direction. So I should, according to some feng shui principle, move the waste basket to the south, or west, I forget. I keep it as always, under the kitchen sink.

He did say there is scope for travel in my life, and I wholeheartedly accepted that bit, for sure. This girl likes to travel. Did I come back a believer? Meh. My logic says there has to be some element of truth in it if God took out valuable time to forbid it. So I better listen, and let the future remain the mystery it is supposed to be.

By Sania Aiman


TAKE TWO

Palmistry is the claim of characterisation and foretelling the future through the study of the palm, also known as chirology, or in popular culture as palm reading. Those who practice chiromancy are generally called palmists, hand readers, hand analysts, or chirologists. And astrologers do nearly the same thing, except they do their predictions through a person's astrology. Got it? Great. Now try explaining that this is a 'claim' to the people who blindingly worship, and pay lumps of money to have their life and personality being unravelled like some weird thriller novel.

Now, let me be clear, without going into too many specifics, palmistry, or any other kind of 'istry' that involves 'unravelling your fate/destiny/future/ what to have for dinner' is prohibited in Islam. Unfortunately, like all things deemed prohibited, the allure of having your 'future' laid out in front of you like a tapestry is too good to pass off, our own version of the apple from the garden perhaps. While I can't say much for the other stuff, I can understand the appeal of being able to know when you meet your end, for example by being hit by a ridesharing bike, and simply not go out and kick back and binge watch FRIENDS instead. And I can't even begin to imagine the curiosity that someone with love on their brain would have regarding their future love life. Let's face it, no likes the uncertainty of being forever alone, and having a jyotishi, sporting 14 different necklaces and 15 rings with colours more than that of a rainbow, tell you that you will meet your special someone while screaming your lungs out asking a rickshaw to go to Mirpur, is more validation than having pushy friends trying to set you up on blind dates.

On the other hand (pun unintended), I also understand how nonsensical it may seem to the slightly stiff, sometimes unimaginative, members of the populous that your future is somehow written in the folds of your hand. “How the heck is my destiny, my supposed girlfriend, or my next promotion in a month, written in my hand when I am unemployed, living on daddy's money, antisocial, and just lost a round in Candy Crush,” you could be thinking. And I completely understand. It's hard to imagine all of this written in a place that's hard to clean when you spill ink on it.

I am decidedly on the borderline of things related to palmistry. While I get the incredulity, I can also understand that some things in life can't be put on a weighing scale and measured and explained away. So, for the purposes of this article, and for your reading pleasure, I had decided to go on a little 'market research' and have my 'destiny' revealed to me, minus the theatricality you normally see on TV shows involving destinies. Like any good journalist, I decided the best way to get results would be to use a fake persona as well as my real identity, so it makes it easier to sift through rubbish.

So, without further ado, let's get down to the good stuff. We went to three separate people to have my fortunes read. The first one got my fake credentials, after which, he did an incredibly lame version of numerology with my fake cell number. With that done, he started with the palm reading, after which, I got my destiny forecast, which includes glorious fortunes yet to come, endless opportunity for travel, and weirdly, jumping from one relationship to another, without ever being able to settle down. Oh, and I apparently do not have the 'life line.' The second palmist/astrologer rang my 'hogwash' bell the moment he pulled out his laptop and started doing a weird survey style reading, where he took my name, date and time of birth, all real this time. After what seemed like an eternity, he pulled up some lagna chart, which looked like the outline of that origami folding paper fortune game that girls in our school played, yet to be folded. I also found out that I have two other zodiac signs, Aries and Scorpio, in addition to my original Aquarius branding.

The session suddenly turned from utter nonsense to definite shocks. He started to point out certain facts that were definitely on, or near the mark, and not the vague stuff that most people latch onto. While I wasn't a big fan of the doodling he was doing on my hand, some of the more intimate knowledge he was coming up with was more than enough to distract my annoyance. To keep things interesting, I vehemently denied just about everything he was getting right. However, as all good things in life, it was also coupled with some nonsensical filler, such as being told not ride on bikes, a near non-existent life line, getting into arranged marriage, my wife's apparent miscarriage and sons, being told to keep a healthy distance from the future mother-in-law (an advice that comes naturally), somehow becoming famous when I have a non-existent social life, and not mature enough (fair enough). I walked out, slightly shaken from the experience, wondering if all the believers actually are onto something. Thankfully, the third one brought me back to reality, with the astrologer/future predictor team back on form, spouting the same nonsense that makes me distrust them more than expired milk. This palmist spent more time poking and prodding my hand than actually reading what is supposedly on it.

As I walk out of this entire experience, I am still left feeling somewhat unchanged in my opinion. So, if I were to take all of this seriously, I am, according to the astrologers/palmists, a very famous ghost who can't find love, with severe road rage, and not allowed to ride a bike, in a country predominantly reliant on Ubermotos and Pathaos, and very good at marketing, so perhaps I can put out a good word for us ghosts and the astrologers/pamlists that made me so.

By Intisab Shahriyar


TAKE THREE

You would think that being raised in a Hindu household would make me quite the expert when it comes to understanding the religious connotations and practices in relation to how astrology and Hinduism coexist. Heck, that was exactly what made the biggest sceptic in my own family.

Before you start hurling chunks of dhoop at me, it is important to clarify that I acknowledge the privilege that came with my birth right. A big part of Hinduism is allegorical, focusing on human nature and celebrating womanhood. But the astrology and palmistry practices related to the faith are ones I barely tolerate, even with endless vats of salt.

A quick google search, and I managed to find one near my workplace, located in a shopping mall in one of the busiest hubs of Dhaka. Being recently married, the astrologer I was going to could base whatever claims he had to make on my very visible shidur, shakhas and wedding band. So, I washed it off, and took off my shakhas and ring.

The astrologer's shop took some time to be found. You see, the forefront for these shops are usually selling what they claim as semi-precious stones in the form of jewellery. The setting is very similar to that of visiting any local general physician's chamber; pharmacy up front, doctor out back! The authenticity of these stones are pretty suspect if you ask me. But for a mere Tk 500 there is an expert sitting in the back of the room, claiming to be an astrologer and palmist. I sat down, and the old man took out his “prescription pad”. He asked for my phone number, place and date of birth and full name. I confidently fed him “tweaked” information, just to prove a point. He did some calculations using the wrong digits of my mobile number and the correct date of birth. I smiled politely as he drew some conclusions based on his 'numerology' scam. He informed me that my zodiac sign was Gemini, ruled by the house of Mercury, and people under this sign are naturally studious and of high intellect and usually inclined to focus on technical subjects like science. “You are from a science background, right?” I saw through the persistence. He was trying to put words in my mouth. Of course, I am a student of science, because essentially, every discipline is a science in its own way. I nodded in agreement, resisting a strong urge to roll my eyes, and said, “Yes, in social sciences”. He went on to tell me that if I wanted, my educational career could progress further down and am destined to go abroad if I choose to. That led him to inquire whether I had anyone living abroad. Everyone has someone living abroad. Such vagueness in his question was astounding.

Wealth wise, I would always be fortunate, and apparently, already am. The confidence with which he kept repeating about this non-existent wealth had me speculating his enthusiasm. Turns out, I had forgotten to take off the solitaire diamond pendant around my neck that he had probably caught a glimpse of and the matching studs on my ears.

He then turned towards reading my right hand, because apparently, whichever hand is the most dominant should be read, as it carries all the brunt of everyday work done. Disapprovingly, he commented that either Shani or Rahu had entered my fate, hence prolonging or causing delays in my plans. He asked if I was married, and when I told him that I wasn't, he was awestruck. “You should've been married by the age of 28, or at the very least, last year for sure!” I looked at him innocently. He already knew I was knocking on 30. What amazed me was the correlation he made between not being married to Lord Shani. He also added that it had an effect on my luck line as well. “It is of utmost importance that you start wearing an emerald ring to ward off this negativity in your life.

In terms of romance, he had the best advice to part. Apparently, the love I would have to give to my partner would be unconditional and unreciprocating. Meaning, I was setting myself up for disappointment and regret every time it was not returned. Post marriage, I would still develop feelings for other men, for which reason, I would never really ever have a love that lasts.

 At this point, you would think that I learnt my lesson, but no! For the sake of authenticity, I decided to find another one, and this time, be as authentic as possible. The shidur, shakhas and ring had made a comeback in search of my next quack!

The next one was a sight for sore eyes. He reminded me of Bappi Lahiri, with all the necklaces that still couldn't hide his double chin. He started off with spraying some cheap perfume on my left hand. Staring at my palm for a while before asking me in English if I spoke Bangla. Confused and curious, I replied back in full Bangla “Why wouldn't I”? See, this is the play they make. They talk you up so that you are mentally open to whatever they have to say, because after all, everyone loves to hear themselves being praised. He said my life and luck line were good, in fact, I could settle abroad very easily! Asked if that was why he had questioned my proficiency in Bangla, to which he agreed. He essentially went the same route, but with the added knowledge of my marital status, and said that my husband would treat me right and that we would have three children. He held my fingers up, palm facing towards him and said that there was a slight tendency of shani in my fate. My inner sceptic and pessimist was rolling on the floor in tears! At this point, shani was my next-door neighbour! Only a dodo would fall for his trap. But I wasn't finished with adding fuel to the fire. As he went on, he told me I would do business. A baffled me, clarified that I had never felt the need to start a business and thought would fare better at a service-based job. This dance went on for a while. He was literally throwing random things at me, only to quickly change his words the moment he sensed rectification in my words.

I saved the best for last, when I told him what the previous astrologer had told me, claiming that he was the family's designated astrologer. I even went as far as to say that my marriage was predicted to not work out either. He dismissed all the previous claims, telling them they were wrong, starting from reading the right hand to no new romantic developments.

Here's the thing. Every time you read the attributes of your own zodiac sign, you start thinking it is true just because of how relatable it sounds. It is the same with these astrologers/palmists as well. Assessing quickly and efficiently from what you are wearing to how you speak. You do have to give them credit for being experts in just how well they can read people.

They start by telling you random things; things that we all wish or are concerned about. Travelling abroad, education, wealth and love. Some of their “predictions” are more contextually social than actual prophesising.

So, if you expect me to believe that my fate was sealed even before I could utter the word “No”, then no! No, no, no. Maa Durga give me the strength and patience to break through this façade with 99.99 percent confidence intact in my attempt to prove today that these so- called astrologers/palmists are nothing more than con men trying to get you to do buy these questionable stones at their stores.

 

By Supriti Sarkar

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

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