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ON LOOKING INTO A FORECAST

Around the New Year every magazine or newspaper that I opened I was sure to find an exclusive column of astrological forecast for the ensuing year. Some confined themselves to international events only, while others took the liberty of foretelling the future of every Tom, Dick and Harry born under one zodiac sign or the other. It is amusing to think that people having altogether diverse temperaments, ambitions, complexions and IQs may still be sharing the greatest common factor – that of having been born under similar heavenly constellations.
Personally I set no great store by any sort of future-peeping whether through a study of one’s palm or from decoding Tarot cards or from the position of cosmic bodies at the time of one’s birth. Most of the time I manage to evade such columns; but one fine morning I was taken in. As I was fumbling through the leaves of an already read newspaper for some leftover news I came across an entire page devoted to predictions for the New Year. Having nothing better to do I decided to while away the time with it.
I singled out the column dealing with the fate of individuals born in the month of October under the sign of Libra, not because I wanted to know what would have been in store for Mahatma Gandhi if he were alive today – my reason was far simpler. It happened to be the month of my birth as well. I find it rather flattering that I am under the same stars which guided the destiny of that great man of all times.
Half-amused and somewhat incredulous, I looked at it. The very first sentence was a striking one. ‘It is characteristic of your type to hesitate about important decisions.’ Is it? I could not help pausing for some reflection. It is rather true, I thought. While going out, I can never easily make up my mind which tie will go better with the combination I have on. Facing a menu in a restaurant, I feel uncertain what to order. In a game of cricket I am always in two minds whether to take a run or just stay in my crease or having played a ball defensively I feel that it could have been easily banged for a four. However, these are not ‘important’ decisions by any reckoning. But then of course I have not been able to decide which profession I should take up after my studies are over. That is a fairly important decision one ought to have made by now. As soon as I see an opening for some competitive exam I send in my application. Sometimes it has been for the Army or the Air Force, sometimes an entrance exam to a Medical College or an Institute of Technology, and at other times just something to take for a test. Now it is the IAS I am trying to get in. Isn’t it rather a haphazard approach towards a vital decision of life?
I proceeded further. After a few vague sentences I paused on another bold proclamation. ‘There is likelihood of money coming in through a lucky gamble or legacy.’ Some fictional themes where the hero discovers a bagful of gold or is left a huge legacy by a whimsical rich old aunt passed through my mind. But I don’t have a rich old aunt and certainly not waiting to quit the scene for the sake of leaving her property to a down and out nephew. Well, this is beside the point.
How about the alternative part of the statement: money coming through a lucky gamble? What a pity, I don’t even gamble. Taking a bet on a billiard game is the nearest I have been to gambling. But this is altogether different. One can’t expect to make a fortune on such bets. An evening in Kwality or at Regal is the utmost it can amount to. Oh, I remember. A friend has lately been talking to me about the charms of Tambola – a somewhat popular game in clubs on weekends. He says one has just to cancel certain numerals on a prescribed ticket to claim the prize. One has to be the quickest, that’s all. Well, with dame fortune willing to patronize me I may try my luck there and make some easy money. Of course, that too does not promise a large sum, but a ‘snowball’ to begin with will be okay by me.
I read on and was led into all sorts of wild fancies by the abracadabra of suggestive proclamations. There was one which perplexed me a little but its significance dawned on me gradually. It ran: ‘A change over in your neighbourhood or in the general situation will bring you opportunities that may seem impossible at the moment.’ What a coincidence! We have a businessman as our new neighbour come over recently. What possible opportunities could this be alluding to? He seems to be well off in his business and has a quintet of charming daughters in his family. Could it by any chance be hinting at a possible… well, you never can tell.
The middle one seems rather well disposed toward me already. She was the first to gain our acquaintance and seems to have gathered all information about our family. Last Sunday, she as much came to borrow a dictionary from me. Having known my tastes, she confided in me that she too was interested in English literature and that she would like to read all the many novels on my shelf. A promising kick-off! Who knows, I might end up as a part owner in her father’s business or in the process land on a lucrative job? A pretty wife and a well-paid job are the two ingredients of a picture of bliss in the dreams of an average Youngman. And I seemed to be on the verge of acquiring both.
My fancy played around these prospects for a while, till the next sentence made me almost jump with joy. ‘Postman is likely to turn into an angel for you in future. He will bring you good news which you along with other members of the family had been looking forward to.’ This is certainly my IAS result he is telling about. I felt, as if, instead of the forecast I had actually seen my result in the paper, and thought of going straight to our neighbours and sharing with them my newfound status. I started visualizing myself before the Selection Board and answering questions smartly and confidently. My fancy was running riot. I saw myself taking charge as a freshly turned officer from the academy, with all the paraphernalia that accompanies a responsible job, not excluding a shining nameplate with the three coveted alphabets decorating the trail of my surname. In the heat of my excitement I tended to make light of the inconvenient fact that I had hopelessly spoiled one of the papers. I waived it aside with the counter-thought that the forecast teller knew better of what he was talking about.
Then followed some remarks which were almost irrelevant to the state of rapture I was led into: ‘As you enter the New Year you will say good-bye to a period of change and upheaval. The coming year should be calmer than the one you have lived through of late. You must keep up with the times and be in tune with new ideas…’ ‘If you are single and eligible the way will soon be clear to a comfortable and happy marriage with one of your college friends…’ Oh, come, who? What? Which? I mean who among my class-fellows I am likely to end up with? Is it going to be the one who partners me in college badminton tournaments or the one who invariably cribs from my tutes or perhaps the one who hasn’t taken very kindly to me so far or the one…? How I wish the fellow behind the forecast had been more specific on this issue. Anyway, if it is going to be a college-friend then what about the daughter of the businessman in our neighbourhood?
There must be a flaw somewhere, either in the prophecy itself or in my interpretation of it. I don’t know where I would have discovered it, had I not been called to the breakfast table. I was still in exulting spirits when I took my seat opposite my elder brother.
“Have you had a look at your forecast?”
“I don’t believe in it. It’s all humbug,” said my brother, cracking the crust of a boiled egg.
I was not to be put off that easily. “Let me read it out for you. You were born in May, weren’t you? That falls under the sign of Gemini. Here it is: ‘Most of us have periods when our luck is in or out. Your type is particularly having it out at this time of the year. A big investment about which you are feeling very enthusiastic at present is likely to let you down in the long run.’ There you are. I always told you that the new shares you have bought would prove to be good for nothing.”
“What do these idle yarn-weavers know about stocks and shares. I can have any bet that those shares will be double their worth within three months. It’s all humbug.”
“Let’s see what else it says. ‘There will be a romantic turn to life not later than the middle of the year. You may settle down with someone who is…” I left it at that with a deliberate shrug of the shoulder.
“Someone who is what?”
“Oh, it’s all humbug. You see, these are the usual trade-tricks of a fortune-teller, sugarcoating a bitter pill. Real thing is the pill, rest is merely to make it palatable. Please pass the bottle of marmalade to me. That’ll do, thanks.”

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About The Author

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Sushil Gupta

Academic/Science/Research

Delhi ,  INDIA

I taught English at PGDAV College, Delhi University (1963-2005), had a stint of teaching at Sherubtse College, Bhutan (1992-1995). Wrote a novel The Fourth Monkey, published by Indialog, 2006.

Watching films has been a passion with me for decades. Wrote film criticism as a freelancer and got published in sundry journals. For two years (1989-91) served on the panel of Central Board of Film Certification in Delhi, when Mr P.S.Bhatnagar was the chairman. The passion has now diminished but not died out altogether.

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