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Every few months, Origins sent me a promotional offer for an in-store free mini-facial. Every time I ignored it. Recently they offered free crystal readings along with other promotions. I was apprehensive yet interested.

For past fourteen years, I had stayed away from every –thing and –person who claims to see my past and predict my future. I chose to not to know what would happen in my future. I wasn’t always like that.

I was in eighth grade when my parents first took me to an astrologer. He was our neighbor. He and his family of five rented one-room terrace apartment from my paternal grandfather. I questioned how could he predict my future if couldn’t better his own circumstances. My parents told me I was too dumb to understand such things and send me to his home. He took my time-of-birth, opened books, drew things, looked at my palm with a magnifying glass, and sent me home.

Within days, he handed me a white envelope. It contained two papers. It was the first time I saw a letterhead; it just stated his name and address in tiny letters, but no logo. I wasn’t impressed. He predicted that I would become a doctor, birth a boy and a girl, and marry at twenty-four. And I was Manglik—a person who was under the bad influence of Mars. If I didn’t marry a Manglik male, I would cause the early death of the male.

I was terrified. As it was, daily my mother informed me of my ugliness and impossibility of my marriage. Everyone told me I was completely doomed. No one paid attention to the fact that I might become a doctor.

To ward off the bad planetary influences, the astrologer suggested wearing gemstones. He gave the colors and specific grams. There was a red-coral in a yellow-gold ring and a yellow-topaz in a yellow-gold locket. The astrologer prayed to them, gave them his blessing, and I wore them.

Months later, his adult niece who lived with him, married her coworker in her lunchtime. The astrologer couldn’t predict the happenings in his own life. I questioned his accuracy. But then I was a child accusing an adult.

By the time I was in tenth grade, in my high-school I opted for mechanical-drawing instead of biology. That eliminated all possibilities that I would ever become a doctor. Also, at this time, my parents threw me out of their homes. My mother waved the horoscope and pointed to my gemstones and declared me crazy and mentally unfit. My relatives and neighbors must have believed her, as all avoided me.

That started my addiction. I didn’t consume copious amounts of drugs and alcohol; I sought people who could see in the past and predict my future.

In the following years, I met astrologists, palmists, numerologists, sants, sadhus, and mahatmas, people who read the lines on my forehead, neck, and sole, and Hindu priests. I asked always one question, “Why don’t my parents love me.”

I would spend half my salary on truth-tellers. Nobody answered my question, but all gave me different solutions to remove bad influences of my planets and clam the gods.

On one priest’s suggestion, I paid him to conduct a yearlong puja with pure ghee. This was when I couldn’t afford to eat puree ghee. I wore various gemstones and black threads. I read always my horoscope in the newspaper. For years, I fasted thrice a week—every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. I chanted mantatars for hours. Every morning I visited the Lord Shiva temple and bathed him in a litter of milk. Sometimes at night, I called the psychic hotlines to hear my fortune. I traveled to religious places. I shaved my head as an offering to God. I took a dip in the Ganges during the annual Kumbh Mela. I kept Vedic powders under my pillow. I prayed to the sun, fed the pigeons, and implored the moon.

I was like a non-swimmer in the middle of an ocean. I kept on swinging my arms in all direction. There was no end to my addiction.

My first tarot card spread.

One year, when I lived in New Delhi, I was at my tenth or eleventh rental place and had a steady job. My parents hadn’t spoken to me for years. I continued looking for THE answer. In my neighborhood, I met a girl who was having an affair with a married man. She discussed it openly. I was appalled, yet intrigued. She touted her priest; he had assured that her boyfriend would leave his wife for her. I had nothing to lose.

The priest had a proper office–a reception, chairs for waiting, and paintings on the walls. He sat in the inner office, behind a large wooden table. On the right, on a wooden cabinet was a small temple with various gods’ deities and incense. On the left, on a small wood stool was a CD player. Hindi god songs hummed in the background.

I was impressed. All the previous astrologers et al. operated from shady setups—back of the temple, in a corner of their living-rooms, in their cars, or at roadside stalls. The professional setup gave the new priest credibility. He listened to me, handed me a handful of papers folded into half and quarter inches, wrote his mobile number on his business card, and gave me a receipt for the payment.

As prescribed, nightly I opened one paper and swallow the power it contained. I communicated with him via phone text-messages. As he was at the opposite end of Delhi, every few weeks, after work, I took a ride from my colleague and visited him.

He suggested I wear a new gemstone. He took my ring size and got it made for me. It cost a lot. I complained about my expenses; my girlfriend assured me and sang his praises. Over the course of months, I kept on visiting him, eating the powder, and text-messaging him.

Devika–the tarot card reader.

One evening, I shared details about my current boyfriend. The priest advised me to immediately get my privates waxed and stop wasting my time on frivolous boys. He said, “You should have tantric sex . . . with me.” Probably he mistook the shock on my face as confusion. He cupped my right hand between his palms and suggested that I use the internet to learn about tantric-sex.

I smiled, took the folded papers, paid my bill, and took an auto-rickshaw home. I didn’t tell anyone. I never went back to him. Whenever I came across my girlfriend, I pretend to not know her.

In last fourteen years, when I attended fairs, I was tempted to see the fortune-tellers–the tarot card or tea-leaf readers. I resisted because I didn’t want to know the bad things about my future. Also, I wasn’t seeking answers why my parents disliked me. Mostly I was afraid, I would fall back into my addiction.

On the other hand, I didn’t know that people predicted from crystals. So, last month, I strength my gut, took my second plunge, and visited Origins for free crystal reading.

Instead of crystals, they had a tarot card reader—a lady. I contemplated for a moment, kissed my husband, and sat down. She sprayed thrice scented ‘divine’ rosewater over my head, asked my name, and spread the cards. She told me things I already knew. Things anyone who meets me for the first time would say.

My strong cards!

It was the first time a woman did my reading. I met only male palmist el al. in India. At first, I thought she was of Mexican descent. But she was Indian.

The next day I was driving somewhere, I can’t recall where I saw the tarot lady walking alone on the sidewalk. In past, I would have seen it as two signs from God. I might have called Origins to find her phone number.

Now over the years, I stopped reading signs everywhere. I learned to view my parents from a neutral perspective. I wasn’t angry with the fortune-tellers; I wasn’t ashamed of my actions. At that time, I needed some kind of hope to live. I thought if I could figure-out my parents’ problem with me, I could rectify it. I never thought I wasn’t at fault.

All of the fortune-tellers weren’t cheaters. Few of their predictions were true. Most were completely wrong. Probably, all the pujas and gemstones helped better my life. I don’t know.

Update: I just remembered. Once in Bombay, I spent my one day wages to see a parrot pick a card telling my fortune.  

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