I don’t go for predictions about one’s life, whether it is astrology, numerology, palmistry, Tarot card reading and whatever else there is along these lines. Based on my own life experience and that of others with whom I have been very close, I have concluded that it is only a disciplined lifestyle, self-confidence, focus, freedom from allurements, temptations and jealousy, and hard work that are the main ingredients conducive to achieving what is commonly perceived as being successful in life.
That is, having a job, a roof on one’s head, and a balanced family life with enough money to meet one’s needs (including children’s education where this applies) and some savings for the rainy day – and the rainiest perhaps: old age, so as not to be overly dependent upon or ruin one’s children.
Nevertheless, I am not averse, for the fun of it, to read about my zodiac sign horoscope in the media from time to time and such things, or to listen to a story about some prediction that materialized. One such was told to me in Kolkata when I was a medical student there, by somebody called Ibrahim, who was married to a Mauritian lady. We were only a few Mauritian students at that time, and the couple welcomed us regularly to their house. I have several pleasant memories of these meetings. On one occasion we got to taking about superstitions, and that is when Ibrahim told us about an incident that changed his view about such matters.
One evening he and a cousin had gone to leave a friend at the Howrah railway station, which was not far from where he lived. As they started to walk back, when they would have to cross the Howrah bridge, they saw a ‘baba’ – an elderly man with a flowing white beard – who was sitting on the pavement that lead to the bridge. As they approached the baba, they saw some people who were having their palms read – no fee was charged, but whoever wished to do so would leave some cash donation; in those days that was counted in paise (the equivalent of Mauritian cents) not rupees.
Ibrahim’s cousin was tempted to have his palm read and made the suggestion to Ibrahim who was not keen for this. However, he gave in and they duly sat facing the baba. The cousin put his hand out and as the baba looked at his palm, within seconds his body started trembling. In a stern voice he told these two to leave. Their curiosity aroused and concerned by the baba’s odd behaviour and ‘command’, they pressed him to come up with whatever he had on his mind. It took some time for him to relent – but on one condition: as soon as he would have spoken, they had to go away immediately and not ask any question. They agreed, and this is what he said: ‘The person whose palm I am reading will die within the next hour!’
The two cousins left, holding hands in the Bengali style among men, and began to walk on the pedestrian walkway of the bridge. They laughed at the baba’s reading, on the premise that they were both hale and hearty, and there was nothing in their lives that gave any indication of demise in a foreseeable future. Within about ten minutes they reached the city end of the Howrah bridge, and waited a few seconds before going across to the other side of the roads – that’s it, roads: for this was not only a busy, but a chaotic intersection of roads and tramlines. Anyone who has been there can visualize the surge of people and traffic that reigns at the evening hours, as well as the din that deafens one’s ears.
Ibrahim shortly found himself on the other side of the crossing, and on hearing a loud metallic screeching he turned back. It was only then that he discovered to his horror that he had let go of his cousin’s hand – he was walking ahead – and that all traffic had come to a standstill. The screeching noise was the tram’s wheels coming to a sudden halt on the rails. A ‘sub-crowd’ (for Kolkata was already an overcrowded city) had gathered at the tram’s front end – and when Ibrahim came closer, he found his cousin lying under the wheel. He had died.
Several years had elapsed by the time that Ibrahim narrated this incident to us. He was more mature than us, and was able to talk about it with some detachment, but of course we were quite shaken, and wondered what to make out of it. However, soon enough we got on with the business of studies, tests and exams and this story receded in the background.
Many years later, a fellow walker on our Sunday morning walks in the woods who had an interest in palmistry tempted us with reading our palms as we were resting somewhere under the blue skies around Mare-aux-Vacoas. He told me that one day I would change my profession. You must be joking, I laughed. Well, he said, let’s see.
I had started writing for this paper off and on, and the only other field which I thought of as a possibility someday was writing. And so it happened down the years, that I became a regular columnist. But I did not change over completely, having continued as a medical professional. However, this additional activity has enriched my life and expanded my horizons immensely, and who knows that in another incarnation I might actually shift gears altogether! My friend’s prediction would then truly materialize and, frankly, I will welcome that!
Some famous doctors, who have been my favourite authors – for example Frank G. Slaugtter, Somerset Maugham, AJ Cronin – have done that, that is, stopped medical practice and changed over altogether. I will have to wait…
- Published in print edition on 10 July 2015