There are three reasons for my having dithered over this:
a. It is a sensitive, hotly debated issue with a certain branch of my family.
b. I have no real interest in getting into an argument with the assorted folks out in the blogosphere, who may be staunch and fanatic defenders of this fascinating branch of astrology.
c. This post is a bit of a rant and therefore not really in keeping with the spirit of my blog (making light of life)
So, I start with a pre-emptive note:
a. To the Family Branch: if you ever chance upon this post and this gets your blood boiling - remember how much you love me for my many other sterling qualities, count to ten, and then call me before coming over so that I can leave town.
b. To the other Assorted Folks who believe in Nadi Shastra: Kindly chill out. I'm not here to debate the authenticity of your experience. I'm here to expose the clear sham that my personal experience was.
c. To Myself and the Spirit of my blog: Anything as ridiculous as this experience is still in keeping with the idea of 'making light of life'. Plus, it's my blog and I can and should write whatever I want on it, so there.
Here it goes:
NADI SHASTRA: You can read a glowing description of the same here, in order to get the background. Or, you can read the shamelessly lifted excerpts below, from a succint description by a blogger I found who has posted on the same topic recently - you can read her entire experience here.
From her post:
''....'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 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... 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.''
So, anyway, this is how it happened to us:
Vijay and I were living in Bangalore at the time, and the Brother in Law, Ajay, was down from the U.S, staying with us for just the weekend. On Saturday, we got an excited call from two of our family members, who were in Vaitheeswarankoil, near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu - the place that is the epicentre of all Nadi activity. They had been astounded by their own experience, wherein apparently, the 'palm leaf reader' had, on the basis of their thumb prints and a few basic questions, located their ancient palm leaves on which all of their life details were captured. These two members of our family are highly respected and intelligent people, their euphoria was very catching, and Ajay was most enthusiastic about the possibility of us going there and finding our own leaves. On a complete whim, we decided to drive - overnight -for ten hours, starting at midnight -from Bangalore to Chidambaram to experience this miracle first-hand. I was the most skeptical of the three of us, but decided not to play spoilsport because the trip sounded like it could be a fun adventure - I also think I have had a soft corner for Ajay, ever since the Drinking episode.
So we drove there that night, along a totally unfamiliar route in the pitch dark with our trusty Map of Southern India. Since it was such a long journey, we had each agreed to drive a third of the way - so naturally, Vijay drove for 8 hours at a stretch and the last 2 hours were managed by Ajay and me. The whole thing is a now a complete blur for me because none of us got any sleep. All I remember is we were trying to find our way to 'Vaitheeswarankoil', and Ajay at one point, sleepily rolled down his window to stun and confuse a local by asking him how to get to ' Veera Swamy Kaala' or something similar. We somehow made it there at around 10 a.m. on Sunday . And that's when our adventure truly picked up.
Let me dispense with the description of the holiness of the surroundings - largely because I don't remember anything about it. My head was spinning from the lack of sleep and the heat - but the head spinning cleared up soon enough by what followed. I do recall that the holiness of the surroundings were somewhat marred by the presence of a lot of signs advertising the many nadi-reading centers - we were ushered into one of these for our 'leaves to be found'. The deal was that the astrologer would take our thumb prints and then use those to find the right bundle of palm leaves - and then, ask us a few basic questions to ensure he had found the right leaf. Once he found our leaf, our detailed horoscope would be written up and handed over to us.
So anyway- he took our thumb impressions, all right. He then brought out an impressively aged looking bunch of leaves on which there were engravings in a certain dialect of Tamil (I am told) with the details of many people. And then, the astrologer proceeded to flip through these leaves and ask his 'few basic questions', for each of us separately, along the lines of:
'Does your name begin with S? T? R? N? A? V? Y?'...Yes, Y!... I was excited. I really wanted my leaf to be found.
'Does your name have two syllables? Three? Four?'...Umm...4....What was this, now?
'Is the first syllable 'Yo..?'...'Ya?'...Okay, fine. It begins with 'Ya'...
...and so, on it went.
Now, 'Ajay' and 'Vijay' were relatively easy names to find. Yashodhara, not so. In fact, I don't think he actually got my name at all - eventually I just blurted it out in frustration when I found he had arrived at a reasonable facsimileAfter all, maybe Ancient Tamil had a different pronunciation of it?! We then moved on to ...
(Date of birth)
'Were you born in the first six months of the calender year'? Yes.
'January?' No..'February? Yes.
'Before 15th?' Yes!
'4th?.. 5th?.. 6th?... 7th?' Yes!!
'1979?...1982? ...1980?' Yes!!!
This was followed by...
...In similar agonizing fashion as my name, my parent's names were spelt out.
After having gathered this information but still not having found my actual leaf, the astrologer announced that he would have to go and look for another bunch. So he left the room for a full fifteen minutes to look for this next bunch.
And that's when it truly began to hit me. This entire thing is such a brilliant play on our psychology, for a number of reasons:
a. The first thing that you are cautioned about is that you may not be one of the lucky ones destined to find your leaf. Or that it may not be the 'right time' for you to find it. Having travelled all this way to this sacred location for this very purpose, this warning automatically puts a lot of pressure and desire on you to find your leaf. The anticipation levels are really high and you are anxious to supply information about yourself to be as cooperative as possible, as this will assist in locating your leaf. This is why many people don't realize how many questions they are actually being asked in the process - sometimes close to a hundred, I'm sure, depending on degree of difficulty of your details (what thoughtless parents name their kid Yashodhara!)- and they also don't realize how very basic and ridiculous some of these questions are! ( Before 15th or after?..). There's some kind of fervent desire in the air, to truly believe -that hypnotizes you.
b. The 'astrologers' are very, very cleverly trained people. They can make some very impressive guesses about you based on your looks, how you are turned out, who you have come in with, your resemblance to those accompanying you, etc. For example, Ajay and Vijay are clearly brothers - so once the name of Ajay's father was found out, it really didn't take long to find out Vijay's father's name. This is only one of the obvious examples, but there were many other more subtle guesses and tricks along the way, including switching quickly between one line of questioning and another to keep you from figuring things out immediately - This also can cause you to believe that there is 'really something in it'. They are truly masters in this game and also have very sharp memories to remember the details they are gathering in the process - practice makes perfect, I guess.
c. Now, this is a good one: apparently, what is there on your leaf is actually only the details of your name, spouse's name, parent's name and your date of birth. ( Based on this, your full horoscope is then drawn up in detail, outlining exactly what your future will be-as are the details of your past life, in case you're interested. Ajay, incidentally, was Muralidhar of Kerala in his past life. I don't think I bothered to ask who Vijay and I used to be). But the smart thing about this whole deal is that while finding your leaf, the astrologer also throws at you many questions which are unrelated to what is to appear on your leaf (such as your profession, illnesses, financial status, family problems being faced, etc.) - and these details show up in the horoscope that they later write up for you (E.g. you have been suffering from a constant headache since 2001...this problem will get over next year...), making the predictions seem all the more credible and miraculously close to your actual life situation.
d. Finally, it's all rather fool proof, in the end. After all, if they don't get your leaf despite hours of trying - they can just turn around and tell you 'You're not destined to find your leaf..' or 'It's not your time yet...'. So really: it can never fail, can it?
I could go on, but I'm a little tired about this whole thing. In fact, I get tired thinking about how tired we were that Sunday - and how disappointed. We all had to go to work on Monday, and actually hired a driver to take us back to Bangalore overnight.
It happened a while back, but it can still get to me. It gets to me partly because they charge Rs.1400 per person for this beautifully enlightening experience -although in fact, I don't think it's about the money that we spent, but about how they make chumps out of so many, many people, who can probably ill afford it - and also many otherwise intelligent people - whom I should probably try and be fairer to, given that their experiences may be different from mine. But based on this one day, I just see it as a clever, thriving business, playing on the psychology of thousands of believers.
Hey - I don't claim to be a very rational person myself. I don't deny the existence of things like ESP, the possibility of Rebirth, of God or even Ghosts. But I do know that this particular experience felt far from authentic. Perhaps other people have had different experiences, which have been genuinely miraculous. But mine was not so. Clearly, blogger Sandhya's wasn't either.
Anyway: it is good to believe that, as my horoscope said, I will live to the ripe old age of 82, surviving Vijay by two years - he will pop off at 87. What's not so nice is that our two kids, a boy and a girl, will side with him over a rift between the two of us when I am 60 (ungrateful little wretches - turning against your own mother? Just wait till you're actually born!..)- but we will all be happily reunited within a couple of years, so it's okay. That's all I remember from my horoscope.
And, oh - the long life thing seems to be corroborated by my Orkut Horoscope of the day 'You will live to a ripe old age'. (Don't you think that's a bit of a strangely heavy prediction to follow the words 'Today's horoscope'? Never mind, it's a side issue...)
So - any Nadi Believers out there with a vastly different story? Please share, especially if you have personally experienced it. But kindly do not get offended by my version - in other words, don't get your Nadas in a knot.
I promise you all: by the next post I will have calmed down and regained my sense of humour.