The first time I had my palm read on this round-the-world trip was by a man named Manzoor in the back of a Pakistani bus, in the early morning after a horrid overnight trip down the Karakorum Highway. The second time was in a crowded subway in Calcutta, by Pradeep, a good samaritan who had helped us find the station. In both cases, I was asked permission for the honor of reading my palm, and both readers told me that I was a very hard worker and somewhat of a mystery. These things were confirmed by my third reading the other day, in the house of Gourpa Bakshi, a part-time astrologer and fulltime factory staff at a nearby tea garden.
Gourpada has been a friend of Bulbuldaâ€™s for twenty years and Bulbul was excited to bring us to him. He told us that Gourpada had, through his palm reading and subsequent prescriptions of protective stones and amulets, restored peopleâ€™s failing businesses and even cured one client of epilepsy. So why not a birthday blessing?
Once again, our entire entourage went along on the cloudy-day expedition, enduring the rutted road north out of Birpara until we turned into a palm-fringed green field swarming with dragonflies. We removed our shoes, entered Gourpadaâ€™s home, and wereâ€”all five of usâ€”invited onto his bed. There, his pink-shirted son leaned on his back while his wife served us sweet lemon drinks.
It was a nice house, especially compared to those of the workers we normally visit. The windows had screens, the room was light, neat and mostly bare, the few unused chairs had furniture covers on them, and a small scooter was parked in the corner, a sign of wealth. Above the door was a photo of his guru, Loknath Bramachari, and on the walls, a badminton racket, auto parts calendar, and, on the wall near the bed, a creepy doll with bright lipstick, the whole thing wrapped in a clear plastic bag.
Gourpada put on his glasses, a serious face, and took my wifeâ€™s henna-painted hands in his. He spoke some English, but Sarmishtha translated most of his statements from Hindi. He began with some astonishingly accurate statements about Tayâ€™s family, then commented on her extraordinary will power, her sun line, and something about a dragonâ€™s head and tail.
â€œYour married life will be happy,â€ he said, â€œthere is no doubt.â€
And amid the smiles this caused, he went on to predict two children, a boy and a girl. Then he switched from future to past and declared that â€œthere were some problems before coming to India, some ups and downs, but you came by your will power.â€ This was followed by talk of which stones she should be wearing.
Then it was my turn. Gourpada was immediately drawn to my mystery cross (â€œnot even Madame fully understands youâ€), my hard working tendencies, and a prediction that life will only really start for me at the age of 39, which means Iâ€™ve got seven more years to relax, I guess. For my stone, he was unwavering: red coral. He went on to read Sarmishtha and Debasishâ€™s hands, and then took us on a walking excursion across the dragonfly field to his the house of his Dada (big brother), a woodcarver in whose house there were already five people lounging on the bed, so we were seated in wooden chairs. Finally, Gourpada, his wife, and son, took us back across the field and, when we pulled Bulbulda aside how much we owed, he just shook his head and ushered us back into the vehicle