Then came the first day of the New Year of the Rabbit. Despite it being a public holiday in Singapore, I had to be at work for a few hours. (As I said, I expected life to be tough in the year, I plodded along without complaining)
Post work when I was walking back towards home, an old Indian gentleman with a long grey beard stopped me and said in impeccable English 'Sir, you have a lucky face, and destiny shall smile upon you soon'. I was taken aback and asked him why. He told me that he was an Astrologer, his name was Yogi Singh, and had studied Vedic astrology for 21 years under the guidance of his Guru in the Himalayas. He also mentioned that he was visiting Singapore for a short while, and it was destiny which had lead us to meet here on the footpath.
Having some time to kill, and being curious, I stopped to listen more about what he wanted to say, and get some idea about my future.
The Astrologer first asked my date of birth, and then looked up towards the sky, pretended to mumble something, and then he took a good look at the lines on my palm and the creases on my forehead (did I have any?). After this he made the following statements about me: (which in hindsight were generic statements which could be applicable to anyone)
(1) You have big thoughts, but are unable to implement them. You are capable of far greater success, than what you have achieved in your career. (Hmmm, I guess every person might be thinking on the same lines, whether or not they have achieved in excess of their true talent and capabilities)
(2) You are open hearted and often speak your mind. You blindly trust others, but those you trust are secretly plotting behind your back, and bad mouth you in front of others. (again a statement one might like to believe about yourself being the nice simple hearted naive person. I may not be Machiavelli, but I am surely not the simpleton he suggested.)
(3) The last few years have been tumultuous and volatile for you. (This is another generic statement, could be applicable to anyone. Yes I have had my fair share of ups and downs, and worked in 3 different countries for 3 different employers in the last 5 years, but that could be applicable to anyone working in the Financial Services Industry in the time of the 'Credit Crisis' and the 'Great Recession')
(4) You are an easy going person, and money comes and goes easily from your hand. You are generous but lot of people exploit your generosity. (Though anyone would like to think of themselves on these lines, people who know me would say I am more of a stingy bas****d, but for this trait i blame my conservative brahminical upbringing in a middle class, Gujarati household)
(5) A girl whom I have hurt in the past, has put me under an evil spell, and this is the hindrance in my career ahead.
(Who could this lady be? I couldn't think of anyone, but by now I was almost hypnotized by the astrologer, and would have believed any more generic statements he said)
This suddenly sounded a lot like the protagonist in R.K. Narayan's short story that I had to study for my ICSE, An Astrologers Day'
But at that point of time I was actually falling in the trap.
He then asked me to think of the first thing that came in my mind. He wrote down something on a paper chit, and told me to hold the chit in my hand. I don't know why, but I thought of a Blue Lotus (may be inspired by the Tintin comic by Herge of the same title). Mr Yogi Singh then took the chit from my hand, clenched it in his fist, chanted a small prayer and then asked me to do the same. Lo and behold, when I opened the chit, it had the word 'Blue Lotus' written on it. (It could have so easily been switched when he took the chit in his fist and chanted the prayer. But till then I still was enchanted by this mystic seer)
Then finally he said, that to ward of the hindrances in my life, for me to climb the ladder of success in my career, to find one true love, live a long age and have two healthy children (his words stated verbatim) he would offer flowers to the Shiva Ling in the Himalayan Temple (how would he do this while he was in Singapore is a different question altogether) and pray for me daily. This would be done once I paid a fee of S$1000.
This is when I suddenly woke up. Now if you learn anything in a Conservative Middle Class Gujarati household in suburban Mumbai, is before spending money, take a deep breath, and count till 10. If you still think your purchase is worth the expense, only then do you go ahead and buy. For once I heeded to my parents advice, and then I understood the generic phoney statements. As soon as I refused to pay, the guy said for a fee of S$500 he would tell me the first letter of the name of the lady who was casting an evil eye on me. I joked back saying I have broken hearts of more than 26 women, so this wouldn't help me narrow down the list (Like most of my jokes, even here no one laughed). Now he got flustered and said that I had spent his time, and used his expertise and I owed him S$100.
Now finding myself in a sticky situation, I walked away seeing the closest bus stop tried to board a bus (as one might know, you never get a taxi in Singapore when you want one, and I boarded the first bus I saw, even though it was the wrong route number, and was going in the opposite direction). The guy chased me on to the bus, and told me that I could contact him on his email
This pestering almost created a scene, and the other passengers in the bus were staring at me as if I had done something wrong. I tried to get rid of him by offering ten dollars, but this was refused. Seeing a bus stop approaching, I finally said 'Please read your own palm again, and see if you had some money destined for this day' Saying this i quickly alighted the bus, and jay walked across the road and caught a empty cab (rare and lucky phenomenon in Singapore) and headed home.
Only after I reached my apartment I felt a sense of relief. It was then I thanked my stars I didn't fall for the phoney astrologer. So after all this Year of the Rabbit wasn't so bad after all.
Wish all my readers (yes both of you) a Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit. Gong Xi Fa Chai ! and hope you don't fall in traps laid by phoney astrologers.