That day the astrologer was studying the almanac. Then Uncle (खट्टर काका!) suddenly came there. When the astrologer saw him, he was in trepidation and began to pack up the almanac and his other belongings. Uncle accosted him, “What are you studying, my dear astrologer?”
“The newly-wed bride is still at her mother’s place. Looking for the auspicious day for her to come here,” the astrologer said.
“She can come here whenever she wishes. Why do you take so much trouble to fix it?”
“She has to commence her journey on an auspicious day, shouldn’t she?”
“True. She should not commence her journey on a bad day such as when there is a cyclone. Isn’t that all that’s there to it?”
“There isn’t a single good day this month,” the astrologer said.
“Why not? This month has all the thirty days.”
“But the time is moving in the easterly direction, isn’t it?”
“Don’t tell me those devious things. Is time a bull left to roam freely in the village to say that it has gone to graze in the open field in the east? Time always stays where it ought to be.”
“You don’t believe in science. Now the sun travels from the west to the east.”
“So what? What’s the bride’s mistake in that that you don’t permit her to come to her in-law’s home?”
“What do you want me to do? There’s no auspicious time for the next three months.”
“Look. She can’t come here in the month of Pushya.”
“This month is not auspicious.”
“What sin has Pushya month committed?”
“How can anyone argue with you? In Magha and Falguna months time reverses its path. In Chaitra, moon will not be beneficial.”
“God himself is against these people. That’s why they are asking you to fix a good day. O! Master, what do you mean when you say time is reversing in Falguna and the moon is not favourably disposed of in Chaitra?”
“Then, Bhadra month (astrologically not auspicious) will arrive,” said the astrologer.
“You are the most inauspicious Bhadra, I say. Ask me instead. I’ll fix today as the auspicious day,” Uncle said.
“How’s that possible? Today is Monday. And it is prescribed that you have to give up travelling in the easterly direction on Monday,” the astrologer said.
“Why? Are there any nails in the path or what?” Uncle said.
“You speak like an atheist. ‘Travel to the east is proscribed on Saturday and Monday.’”
“Why? Tell me then how would the train from Delhi to Howrah run today? In fact, the whole earth itself rotates from the west to the east. How?”
“Wise people travel when the celestial constellation is beneficial to them,” the astrologer said.
“If travelling in the direction of strength causes rain of laddus, then I’ll travel everyday in that direction. I travel everyday in every direction. Where there is a proscription, nails didn’t hurt me. Nor did it rain flowers when there was no problem with the day.”
“Do you mean to say the directional problem is all humbug?”
“The problem that you are talking about is nothing but the thorn in your eye.”
“What about the problem with the particular days? Is that also humbug?”
“Yes. Why is that there no such problem in other countries? We are the worst fools, aren’t we?”
“If you ignore science, what can be said? But take a look at ‘Muhurta Chintamani’…”
Uncle snapped at him. “Not Muhurta Chintamani’ but ‘Dhurta Chintamani’. Self serving people like you have trapped everyone in the great vicious circle of auspicious moments. Muhurtam for every damn thing. Time for the king to perform abhishekam, for the army, horses and the elephants to march, soldier to wear the armoury, merchant for purchase and sale, money-lender to grant loans, washerman to wash cloths, dancer to start the dance. What is this but sheer humbug? The farmers have been caught in the web of muhurtam for everything – for ploughing, seeding, transplantation and harvest. You have a greater grip on the women’s hair. When should they tie the hair into a bun? When should the fire be lit? When should they bathe? When should the children be breast-fed?”
Uncle observed the expression of surprise on my face and said, “I’m not saying this for fun. The astrologers have attained great control over the women’s breasts also. Even the child who suckles is not spared by the astrologers. If you don’t trust me, listen to this –
‘…’ (Daivajna Vallabha)
‘It is good to breast-feed the child on all days except Chaturthi and Tuesday.’
“Arey! What’s this madness? Why should Mangala planet be annoyed and cause harm if a woman gives her breast to her new born child on Tuesday? Why should it have enmity with her breast?”
“Uncle, probably the planets and the stars do have an effect and that’s the reason for such discussion on time.”
“Arey! Time is the cause of our ruin. Time at home and outside. Time for the field. Birth time. Time for death. Time for marriage. Surely no emperor or king would have had more fuss and pomp than the emperor of time. ‘He will destroy if annoyed.’ This fear has made cowards of people. Muhurth for marriage, muhurth for nuptials and muhurth for house warming. This is not all. There’s muhurth for conception too. What is this if not extreme foolishness?”
“Uncle! I’m sure you are saying this for fun. How could anyone consult the almanac for conceiving?”
“Arey! You don’t seem to believe this! You are innocent. What do you know? Listen to this relating to the time for conceiving –
‘There’s no permit for conception on shasti, ashtamai, full moon day, no moon day, chavithi and chaturdasi. There’s permit for this activity only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ Answer this: Will the moon be eclipsed or will the sky break up if the bride and bride groom have intercourse on the pleasant full moon night? If the couple have sex on Sunday, will the horses of the Sun’s chariot be frightened or the wheel be broken? Why should the astrologers, like the self existent beings, like the flies in the ointment, poke those noses in everything as if it is their personal matter? Why do they interfere like the scorpions in the affair of the couple? Why should they come like this, uninvited?”
“Uncle, don’t you have faith in astrology?”
“Arey! If astrology was true, I should have died two thousand times by now.”
“This is what is said in astrology-
‘Trouble is round the corner if oil is applied on Sunday. Monday it’ll enure brightness; Tuesday, death; Wednesday, money; Thursday, penury and Saturday, comfort. In these, only the astrologer should tell what the relationship between the cause and the effect is. For the last fifty years I have been applying oil everyday. In these years, there must have been more than two thousand five hundred Tuesdays. Yet I’m alive. Now tell me. Do you want me to believe in astrology?”
“Uncle! Only an astrologer can give a reply to this.”
“What would he say? He’ll fix you tightly in his net. Look at the hubbub created in Ruthuprakaran, where at one place, it is said –
‘If a woman menstruates on Sunday, she will become a widow.’
“At another place, it is said –
‘If if a woman menstruates on Panchami, she would never be a widow.’
“Now I’ll ask the astrologer this. What will happen to the woman who menstruates on panchami Sunday?”
The astrologer remained mum. Then Uncle continued. “At one place it is said –
‘If a woman attains puberty in Magha month, she would give birth to children.’
“At another place, it’s like this-
‘If a woman attains puberty in Krithika star, she would be childless.’
“Now ask the astrologer if she would give birth to an impotent person if she attains puberty in Magha month and Krithika star?”
Noticing that the astrologer was in no position to reply, Uncle said, “See this finny thing. It’s said at one place-
‘If puberty is attained in Dhanu rasi, she will be woman of virtue.’
“At another place –
‘If puberty is attained on Saturday, she will be a prostitute.’
“Now you decide this yourself. What would happen if puberty is attained on Saturday in Dhanu rasi?
“Arey! What all should I have to recount? So much of deceit, fraud, trickery, cunningness. If I describe everything, it’ll be a big purana. Yet, people here go on holding the astrologer’s tail.”
As Uncle was speaking, Buddhinath Choudhary came running and said, “O! Astrologer master! Just now a boy is born in my home. That’s why I’ve come rushing to you. Please cast his horoscope and advise me.”
“How long ago was the child born?” asked the astrologer.
“Ten minutes ago,” Badrinath replied.
The astrologer consulted the almanac and started. He shouted, “My goodness!”
Uncle asked, “What’s matter? Have you been bitten by a hornet or what?”
The astrologer put his hand on his head and said, “No. If it were that I wouldn’t have been bothered. But I see wholesale destruction.”
Buddhinath Choudhry’s face turned pale. He shivered and said, “Please tell me at once, master. What’s there in the horoscope?”
“What’s there in the horoscope to say? Mud and dust. His birth star is moola first padam and in ganda yoga. He’ll be the cause of his father’s death.”
Buddhinath Choudhry felt as though he was struck by thunder. His eyes brimmed with tears.
The astrologer gravely said, “This child has been born to cause trouble to you. There are only two options. Cast away the child. Or else, send the child and his mother to his grandfather’s house. You can’t see his face for eight years. And from now on you have to donate cows, gold, perform navagraha puja, et al.”
Uncle couldn’t take it any more. “Whoever has written this is a big scoundrel, a conceited fellow and a cheat. You are the evil planets in reality. In the name of stars, you make good of your own star. Through your needless conspiracy, why do you torture the poor man?”
“Does it mean that you don’t believe in horoscope?” the astrologer asked.
“As far as I know, there’s one benefit out of the horoscope. Your child will get ear rings. In my view horoscope is nothing but trickery. Thousands of children would have been born at this time. Will their destiny and life be the same because of that? Twins will be born at the same time. One will survive and the other won’t. The horoscope of both must be the same. Then why are the results are so contrasting?”
The astrologer was somewhat confused and said, “Bhrigu and Parasara and others have dilated so much on the horoscopes. Do you imply that that was all humbug (mithya, a mirage)?”
“For thousands of years, you have been in this cunning business, peddling these names, aren’t you? Whatever occurs to you, make a sloka and attribute it to Parasara. O! Man. I have also read books on astrology. Only rogues could have written those things. Putting blinkers on the eyes of the householders, they have said obscene things about their women too.”
The astrologer started, “Where? For example?”
“Not one or two. Many. Look at this –
“Looking at the horoscope of the house owner, they (astrologers) would doubtless know that the man’s wife would be stout, like a sack of puffed rice. That’s not all. By making calculations of the planets in the horoscope, they would find out the shape of their breasts too.
‘If Kuja is ruling, her breasts would be large and robust.’”
I was surprised. Uncle noticed this and said, “Don’t gape at me like this. This is nothing. Listen further –
‘The wife of the person who has this yoga doubtless would become a prostitute or would satisfy the desire of many persons.’”
“Uncle! Married life would be ruined completely because of such words, wouldn’t it?” I asked.
Uncle said, “The persons who make the sloka have no worry. Hear this –
‘If the child’s horoscope has this yoga, the child without doubt is a bastard.’”
I said, “This sloka can cut the throat of a woman.”
“Not just hers. There’s a sloka which would slit the throat of her brother-in-law’s as well. Look at this
‘If the horoscope has this yoga, the son would be born out of the semen of the brother-in-law.’
“The smell of the semen would reveal it to the astrologer! Tell me what is this if not plunder, pillage, conspiracy and goondaism? Such ruffians in this country are called the ocean of learning of astrology.”
“You have mentioned so many things. Are they all in the treatises on astrology?” I asked.
“What do you mean? I’ve quoted from the texts. The astrologer is right in front of you. Ask him if all these are there in the texts or not? And what text is it? ‘Parasara horasarah’.”
The astrologer scratched his head and said, “True. These are there in the text. ‘Parasara horasarah’ is a standard text on astrology. But why do you call it untrue?”
“Not only untrue, but obscene. The kind of abuses written in that can’t be heard anywhere except in brothel houses. Look at this –
‘If a person has the influence of this planet, he would covet other women. His wife will become a prostitute. His mother will be a bitch.’
“Such abuses about wife and mother will be heard only in cultureless families. Is this a language of the scholars?”
“Uncle! I never knew that the texts on astrology would contain such words.”
“You don’t know because you never read astrology. You would know if you read ‘Brihajjatakam’ and ‘Parasara horasarah’.”
The astrologer couldn’t contain himself any more. “Where’s the evidence to say that all this is false?” he asked, as if he was throwing a challenge.
Uncle replied: “I’m the evidence. My horoscope predicted that I’d be a king. Forget kingdom. I don’t even have four acres of land. Instead of rajayoga, everyday I’m forced to practise hatayoga. Then about jaraja yoga. Apply some logic. Does anyone get into adultery after consulting the almanac? Thereafter, would the child come of the womb after checking the lagna? Forget about others. You can’t detect even your own child’s jaraja yoga. Keeping in view people like you, it has been said –
‘You would be watching the time of union of the moon with Visakha but wouldn’t know of your wife’s activities, who is rollicking in the embrace of many people.’
“That being the case, how could you catch that someone is a bastard?”
The astrologer was angry. “What you have said is abusive. Do you mean to say that the wife of an astrologer would be a prostitute?”
Uncle smiled and said, “The feminine gender for ganaka (astrologer) is ganika (prostitute). Isn’t that so? Besides, ganaka also more or less does the same work as ganika. Look at how well it has been explained –
“Ganaka and ganika are equal. The Creator intended both to earn money by enticing people through their five parts of the body. Ganaka opens the almanac and shows to the people. Ganika opens and shows her five parts.’”
The astrologer was as good as dead. Yet, he proudly said, “Whatever has been mentioned in the science of astrology is proven and true. Bhrigu and Parasara had vision of the past, present and future.”
“Do you have faith in astrology?” asked Uncle.
“Of course,” replied the astrologer.
“Then let me look at your horoscope.”
The astrologer hesitantly picked up the horoscope and handed it over to Uncle.
Uncle examined the horoscope and said, “Do you want me to tell you the result? You’ll not run away, would you?”
“Why would I run away?” said the astrologer.
“Then hear this. Parasara says like this –
‘If Sukra enters planet Mangala or is seen in conjunction with Mangala, the person will have the pleasure of bhaga kiss.’
“Then look at where Sukra is in your chart. Tell me if the result applies to you or not. Do you want me to explain the meaning of this in crude language to everyone?”
The moment he heard this, the astrologer packed his books and left the place in a huff.
Uncle kept calling him from behind. “O! Master, o astrologer! Take at least some nut powder and go.”
But why would the astrologer return?
(English translation from Hindi by Mr. K. Chandrahas)