Remembering Bejan Daruwalla: From polls and budgets to Bollywood, the man who was always ready with predictions
In his predictions, he covered a large gamut from personality traits, financial decisions and also colours to be worn or to avoid for good luck. The polls and the budgets were other times when he was sought out. Bejan Daruwalla knew what he would be called for and was always ready with his predictions.
For the six years I was working at the weekend edition of a business daily, it was an annual rite of passage to meet astrologer Bejan Daruwalla for predictions for a new year. Every year-end that he was called for an appointment, his loud gruff voice would ask which paper the interview was for. Over the years, the name of the paper became familiar and he would say, “Ah, it is you again.”
Our annual interviews were held at the hotel in Mumbai which served as his residence. Outside the door would be a placard which said, “Remove your shoes here’. He or his friend would answer the door and the first question was, ”Have you removed your shoes?” After answering in the affirmative, one was let in.
Ganesha, his favourite god, was everywhere in the room that one entered. He was in all forms — from delicate miniature idols to big ones. And there were books everywhere. As one's eyes adjusted, there would be Daruwalla (whose voice you heard before seeing him) — saying a loud hello and making his way to the seating area in the room.
After the hello, the next question asked would be: “Did you touch your shoes while slipping it off?” One was puzzled at first by the query. If the answer was in the affirmative, he would say, “Go straight to the washbasin. It is through this passage (pointing it out) and wash your hands with soap. Do not touch the towel hanging there.” After one did that and returned to the sofa, he would say, “There is a towel on the right side of the chair you are seated. Wipe your hands on it.”
The instructions were delivered in a staccato-mode. At first, one resented being spoken to in that manner. Before one started writing, he would ask me to chant Om Ganesha or say Ganesha. But as the interview progressed, one understood he was just being himself. There was no attempt at being rude.
After all this was done, Daruwalla would ask again about the daily I was working for, who owned it and what was its circulation. Since it was a financial newspaper, he understood the predictions had to be finance-related.
The highlight of the interview was when one started to ask questions. He would put up his hands to stall them. “Aries,” he would say and then start talking about his predictions. To say he knew the zodiac intimately would be superfluous, it was like breathing to him. He could talk about them in any order and offer in-depth predictions. There was no pausing or thinking over. It just flowed naturally and he would go on till he hit Pisces.
After the predictions were done, he would say, “Now ask your questions.” Sometimes, he would talk about the biggest Bollywood stars and then realise it was not needed for a financial newspaper. Waving his hand, he would say, “That won’t suit your paper.”
Daruwalla had his favorites among businessmen. No matter which businessmen one mentioned, he would include one or two of his favorites every year in his predictions. He had read their horoscopes and could forecast in detail about them. When it came to predicting people he did not know beyond their sun sign, he would say, "I may go wrong, though. A lot depends upon individual horoscopes".
During the interview, once he had made his forecasts for the businessmen, natural calamities and other things, he had a manner of signing off. He would raise his hand and say, ho gaya. And that signalled the end of the interview. “I have many others coming to ask about predictions,” he would say.
After the interview was published, a copy of the paper was sent to him. I would call to confirm he had received it and he would thank me for it. This ritual continued every year for almost six years. And every year as I became a little familiar to him, he gave me more time: to ask more questions, and sometimes, to ask about myself, and the job.
In his predictions, he covered a large gamut from personality traits, financial decisions and also colours to be worn or to avoid for good luck. The polls and the budgets were other times when he was sought out. Daruwalla knew what he would be called for and was always ready with his predictions.
He hid a kind persona in that gruff exterior. Daruwalla never spoke about other astrologers or their predictions. He was just happy in his belief that his favourite god Ganesha helped him to make his predictions. He would say, “And I was right about…” listing the ones that proved right before adding, "I am not the one who is right." Pointing to the many idols of Ganesha (given to him, he said by many well-wishers as they knew it was his favourite god), "It is he who is proved right every time I am right."
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