I should really have given the eunuch some money, I think as I stand on the burning-hot Mumbai rooftop, arms outstretched and face tilted towards the sun while the young man measures my shadow. Shortly, he and I will head downstairs so his father can “read” my shadow and tell my fortune. I’m intrigued, but I’m also a little distracted by the thought that the hijra – one of the transgender people that parade around Mumbai extorting money from people and cursing those who don’t cough up – who demanded 10 rupees (18¢) from me in the stairwell on my way in, just may have put the kibosh on me.
A few minutes later, I take a seat in the office of Anilkumar B. Acharya, “Shadow Reader, Spiritual Guru and Fortune Teller of the Three Births” – or so says the business card he slides across the desk towards me. Anilkumar sits before me in his crisp white kurta and pants and tells me his family has been reading shadows for 12 generations. After instructing me to write down my name and the names of my mum, dad and husband, as well as the date and place of my birth, Anilkumar pulls out what looks like a stack of thin wooden rulers, that are, in fact, inscribed palm leaves. He shuffles them, pulls out a bunch then starts asking me questions. “You are happy from your parents?”, “What is your work?”, “Health is going perfectly all right?” On and on it goes, until the soothsaying begins.
“Write everything I’m saying down,” Anilkumar instructs. “In your previous life you were born in India. And you did spiritual and social work in the Himalayas.”
He stares at me with his intense brown eyes and sagely nods his shaved head. “Due to the good karma from that work, in your current life everything will be fine.” I will have two children, a boy and a girl; I will continue doing the work I’m doing and I will be a success; I will have no great periods of difficulty in my life. “And spiritual growth will be there.” But only if I take a few bizarre precautions.
Eat only fruit on Mondays; repeat the mantra “aum guruway nama” 108 times daily and 324 times on Thursdays; meditate for 15 minutes daily in front of a portrait of Anilkumar; and, I have blockages in my “chakra” energy centres, so “difficulties” may arise in my health, work and relationships. “Healing sessions will be needed at 3000 rupees each. You will be needing 11 to 13 sessions,” he says. Anilkumar then places his warm hands on my head and neck. Apparently, my chakra levels are at a minus. “We must start re-energising them immediately, my love!”
Even though I know – or at least I think I know – that this is surely all hot air, I make the appointment. Call it curiosity, call it stupidity, or maybe just call it a very silly girl’s bizarre attempt to undo an angry eunuch’s curse.