The stars don’t always foretell

Some weeks ago, I was fascinated to read my colleague Pankaj Vohra’s account, on his blog, of astrologers and diviners who mostly got it right. But I have not been so fortunate — I have yet to meet one who doesn’t go wrong!

Perhaps New Delhi has the genuine variety but, in Bombay, I have noticed these ‘raj jyotishis’ hovering around politicians are mostly charlatans and astrological quacks. One of them quite turned the head of one of my friends who ruined her life and career waiting for things to happen to her as he had promised they would. They never did.

So, at one of the numerous post-election parties in Bombay, when another friend came to me excitedly to say that one of these jyotishis had `predicted’ that he would soon be travelling in a `laal batti waali gaadi’ (car with a revolving red beacon light), I asked him if he had been either lobbying with his party high command or been assured by any of his leaders that he would soon have a job in the new government.

“No,” he said.

“Then don’t believe him. Or, at least ask him to put that down on a piece of paper for you. You can hold him to it if he goes wrong. And, if he is right, I will take you both out to dinner!”

I hated to burst his bubble but, over the years, I have got to know how these so-called astrologers operate. They hang around reporters and politicians in the know and keep fishing for information – like who might become the next Chief Minister, who might be in or who might be out of favour vis-à-vis the party top brass, etc. And then, armed with this information, they descend on potential candidates and `predict’ that they will soon be in positions of power.

Much of the importance these kind of astrologers are being accorded is because many local television channels in Bombay routinely programme them into their daily schedules, for they get the maximum TRPs and callers during those shows. Never mind that the astrologers are mostly wrong more than half the time!

This particular astrologer my friend was raving about, I had noticed, had `predicted’ before the election results that no force on earth would be able to defeat Poonam Mahajan, Pramod Mahajan’s daughter, whose stars, according to him, were so strong that ‘nothing would come between her and victory’. She was contesting against one of her father’s own former confidantes (who was on Raj Thackeray’s ticket) from a Bombay suburb. He knew all the tricks of the trade better than she did and I knew as a matter of fact that she would face an uphill task against him. Nevertheless, I waited to be proved wrong. I wasn’t. Poonam lost and she was not even the runner-up, having to take third position in that race. So where did her stars all disappear on counting day?

Then, again, another astrologer had said Ashok Chavan was so badly in the grip of rahu and ketu that he could/would never return as Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Once again, I waited to be proved wrong. Five days later Chavan was designated the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. So where had his rahu-ketu disappeared, again? Perhaps the same place as Chavan’s detractors who had fed that information to that astrologer in the first place!

No wonder, then, that Chavan had no time for the likes of these quacks and this particular one was not to be found at any of his celebration parties. Instead, Chavan decided to felicitate and honour quite another quantity – the Sathya Sai Baba — at his official residence at Varsha last week. Of course, the jury is out on the Sathya Sai Baba — while I am a disbeliever, I have loads of friends who swear by him; so I hold my silence for their sakes.

But, seriously, while I know Sonia Gandhi’s reasons for doing so, I would have liked to ask the Sathya Sai Baba how he chose between Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan this time round. Both are devout believers. Both had appealed to his higher office and sought his blessings. Deshmukh once even chose to disappear from a tea party he was hosting for the opposition on the eve of an Assembly session – unprecedented in the history of Maharashtra — to pay obeisance to the Sathya Sai Baba who came visiting his home in Latur. And, of course, ensured that Deshmukh lasted all but the last eight months of his term as Chief Minister (he was supposed to last the full term but obviously terrorists have no respect for the Sathya Sai Baba and so Deshmukh got derailed).

I would not wish any similar derailment on Chavan and would want my friend to be sworn in as Minister. But I would rather their success be based on quality and performance than just some divine intervention!

But just for the record, speaking of divine intervention, I remember I was tickled pink in 1995 when, soon after the elections, Manohar Joshi trotted off to Tirupati to pay his respects to Lord Balaji. Joshi did not inform any one and, in the era before mobile phones as that was, Bal Thackeray was left looking for him for days. When he returned and told his supremo about where he had been, Thackeray said, quite sternly, “The only ‘Balaji’ you should be praying to is me. Only ‘Bala’ saheb can determine if you will be Chief Minister!” Joshi burst into tears and fell at his leader’s feet in a full sashtang pranam. He was Chief Minister a few days later!

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