Putting the palm leaf to the test

Thomas T. Abraham | Updated on November 28, 2013 Published on November 28, 2013


A fun encounter with a fortune teller

There are at least three people assessing me as I enter a large veranda and take my seat for my first encounter with nadi jyotisham (astrology based on palm leaf). I have my camera with me, and I am wearing a floppy hat.

“The camera must be costly,” says a voice from behind me. I escape economic profiling by saying, “Yes, new cameras cost a lot, but second-hand ones are cheaper.”

“You get them cheap in Malaysia and Singapore...” The voice from behind is exploring my travel range. I play it vague with a half-nod. The youth sitting in front of me hands over a printed ‘menu’ and explains to me that the opening gambit will cost Rs 150, something like a minimum entry fee; each of the 15 additional areas of insight (wealth, love, etc) will cost an additional Rs 150. I confess that my budget for the evening is just Rs 150.

A little while later, my left thumb’s impression is taken thrice on a sheet of paper, my date of birth noted, and I’m taken to an adjoining cabin. The jyotish is in a white shirt and dhoti, and has a palm leaf ‘book’ with wooden planks for covers. Interspersed with slokas come his explanation of nadi jyotisham’s origin but he firmly stops me from taking notes. “Where do you live?” is his first question, in Tamil, and I say, “Chennai”. “You were not born there,” he intuits. Big deal! This is obvious to anyone, from my shaky Tamil. He keeps asking me whether I have lived abroad, articulating the idea differently a couple of times, maybe influenced by my ‘touristy’ floppy hat and the camera.

“Are you a Brahmin?” he asks next. I say “No”.

“Are you a Hindu?” I say “No”.

“Christian?” I say “Yes”.

“Your name is D Souza, Fernandez, Alfonzo, DeCruz...?”

With that, his armoury of Christian names is exhausted. Perhaps he’s mostly had Goans and Mangaloreans among his Christian customers. Or maybe just a bad day in the office — he has been yawning repeatedly throughout, reacting sheepishly to my solicitous enquiry about sleep lost the previous night.

“Your father’s age is 75 to 80, 82, 83, 85 ...”

He is clearly on a fishing expedition, but not getting my nod, gives up at 85. Then he states/ asks that my father’s name starts with J-K-L-M-N-O.... Clever! Any empathetic subject will involuntarily nod when the right letter is mentioned. But bad luck — ‘A’ for Abraham is too far away.

“Both your parents are alive...” he states, and, as I instantly begin to disagree, gives his last syllable a twist that makes it an enquiry. This becomes standard operating procedure. If his statement is right, I agree and he scores a point. If he is wrong, he was only asking, not stating. Very clever! So each time, I start asking him whether it is a question or a statement. He doesn’t enjoy the demand for such precision. Our eyes meet and stay locked, like wrestlers in a stalemated combat.

“This is what the leaf says. I think this is not your leaf”, he says as he steps out. He returns in a few seconds, saying, “Your leaf is not with us now. Try again some other time”.

It is an honourable draw. I can say that he got it wrong in most cases and feel smug about it. He can say that he didn’t have the answers because he didn’t have my leaf.

Yet, I gained my first experience with nadi jyotisham, that too, for free — the jyotish was gentlemanly enough not to ask for the money, treating it as a cancelled game.

It suits me that I got nothing to nail my credible friends who swear by their experience of accurate predictions. Meanwhile, my leaf must be stuck somewhere in a haystack of 7.1 billion-plus leaves, covering the entire human population growing by the second.

Also, a draw is not bad; it keeps interest alive in a return match…provided that’s written on my leaf.

Published on November 28, 2013

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