Mystic India – Part Three

“Of course!” he replies, although I’m not totally convinced. “He charges 1000 rupees (they’re getting cheaper!) but the taxi driver who knows where he lives charges 1500 rupees to take you there.”

1500 rupees is massively expensive for a taxi to Trivandrum. Still, I only have two mystics on which to base my bad opinion of Indian psychics and to be fair I need at least one more, so I agree to the arrangement. However, I hopefully ask if I can catch a bus to the man’s home. No, only the taxi driver knows the address, so it’s by taxi or nothing.

Then, unexpectedly, on the appointed day while we are waiting for the taxi to pick us up, we receive a phone call. The palm reader has heart pains and has had to cancel the appointment. However he will come to the hotel tomorrow and read our hands then.

Pity about his heart pains but what luck for us! We have just saved ourselves 1500 rupees!

The funny thing is that when our palm reader arrives and I politely enquire about his health and specifically his heart, he seems confused. He appears to have forgotten that yesterday he had such bad heart pains that he had to cancel our appointment.

He speaks for a short time about our personalities as he sees them from our hands – lazy, proud, impulsive, creative, rigid minded, quick to anger, and so on. We wait to hear something about what we can expect from the future but then he takes a different tack.

“Now take down your lucky days,” he advises. “3. 12, 21, 30,” he dictates, “and then of less luck but still lucky, are 6, 15, 24, and of lesser luck are 9, 18 and 27.”

I’m thinking that at least I now have some numbers for next week’s lotto!

“And your lucky days are Thursday, Friday and Tuesday,” he continues.

Good, I’ll buy a ticket on one of those days!

“Your lucky colours are blue, red, rose and pink. Your lucky planet is Jupiter. On Thursday you must fast or only eat vegetarian food. North-east is your lucky direction for brain power. Your lucky stones are amethyst, cat’s eye, blue sapphire and gold (isn’t gold lucky for everyone, I wonder?). December, February and June are bad months for you,” he continues. Then he launches into a long and involved list of herbs, vegetables and fruit that would be good for me, including, beets, borage, bilberries, asparagus, dandelion, endive, everwort, lungwort, barberries, sage and olives. “And between 21st February and 21st March and 21st November and 21st December, you will be lucky.”

This bit of padding took a good half hour and I thought was brilliantly inspired. It certainly took the pressure off any shortfall in his palmistry knowledge. He made sure we had written down every fruit and vegetable he had dictated and patiently double checked with us that we had. He also made much of the lucky days and numbers. He confided that Tuesday was not his lucky day so he always strives to do things on Wednesday rather than Tuesday. So that, rather than heart pain, was the reason he had cancelled Tuesday’s appointment. He then spent a quarter of an hour entreating my mother to drink gooseberry juice for her health.

I am now realizing that for an English speaking person in India, astrology, palm reading and palm leaf reading is an excellent way to earn a living way above the average. He has just made 2000 rupees from us both for two hours’ work when a salesman in a shop earns 1500 rupees in a month! And furthermore, we are none the wiser for the experience.

More amusingly, I note that my astrology ‘passport’ also contains lucky days, lucky numbers and lucky stones. However, they are completely different to the ones I’ve just been given by the palmist.

Later I complain about our psychic experiences to one of the waiters at the hotel. He laughs. There is an astrologer and palm reader at his temple who has given him many predictions and they have all come true. He only charges one hundred rupees.

“But can he speak English?” I ask.

Well, of course the answer is no. I hear the same story from another waiter.

Oh well, I will have to learn Malayalum I guess and come back to see the psychics at the temple.

However, we could have bought quite a nice piece of jewellery with all the money we have blown on our search for the ultimate mystic!

Talking about temples and mystic India – next door to the Sagara Resort in Kovalam Beach is the Theruvila Sri Bhadrakali Devi Temple – a temple to the Hindu goddess Devi. During the time we were staying at the resort, the temple celebrates the birthday of the resident goddess, Kali. To quote their literature, ‘Kali is both fierce and benign, a kind mother to her children and a terrible enemy to her foes. In Kovalam she is credited with protecting the beach from the tsunami of 2004’.

I meet an English woman who has been attending this ceremony every year for the past fourteen years. Dressed in a sari, she is a very visible presence as the temple priests, dressed in red and beating drums, carry a representation of the goddess around the district to bestow blessings on local shops, restaurants, hotels and houses.

She invites us to the temple to see the celebrations and on the final day I go to see the local women who are cooking rice puddings on small fires around the temple. The puddings are flavoured with cardamom and contain banana and dried fruits. As I take photos as inconspicuously as possible, the English woman spies me and gives me the ‘cut’ signal to stop. I later see her chastising other photographers.

A large number of non- Indian women dressed in saris are sitting around the temple and the thought strikes me that the priests and the locals might not be so thrilled with the thought of foreigners flying in each year and taking control of their celebrations. I am later told something that makes me think I might be on the right track.

A highlight of the festival is that every day, for a great part of the day, Indian music interspersed with drum rolls and trumpet, is blasted out of the temple via loud speakers. No noise pollution laws here! I am rather partial to the sound from a wonderful trumpet-like instrument which is apparently unique to Hindu ceremonies.

The festival concludes when Devi is taken down to the beach to take her final bath. A procession of priests is accompanied by drummers and also by three male dancers with painted green faces and enormous head dresses. The dancers whirl around like frenzied dervishes in front of an altar which has been set up on the sand. A dozen little oil lamps burn in front of the altar. The priests, carrying the silver mask of the goddess, walk into the sea, dipping her (the silver mask) in the sea water.

The English lady is busy chasing off enthusiastic photographers. I see her the next day having lunch with an American woman. They tell me that there is a great controversy currently taking place at the temple. The priests have taken a stand against women watching the goddess having her bath in the ocean on the final night. I can’t help but wonder if this might be an attempt to stop the hijacking of their festival by assertive foreign women. I don’t like their chances of success though.

That night the music from the temple changes from traditional to disco, blaring from the loud speakers until midnight. The following morning everyone has been invited over for coconut, bananas and milk which sounds rather yummy. Sadly my Ayurvedic treatment takes precedence. Maybe I can join the foreign temple groupies and come back next year on my next trip to mystic India!