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Indian Palm Reader


I do not know why it is, but firmly entrenched in my head is the concept of mystic India.


So, as soon as we hit the shores of Kerala, India we begin our search for a psychic.


First off, we need a palm reader (as you do)!  The call is out and finally someone at the resort tells us that a taxi driver of their acquaintance knows a palm reader situated at Trivandrum, who speaks English and is very popular with tourists.


Goody! How soon can we go?


The most expensive part of any outing, we are to find, is the transport. It is all well and good to catch a bus, but there is no bus stop near our hotel and the only way to get to Kovalam Junction (where there IS a bus stop) is by taxi or auto rickshaw.


We ask an auto rickshaw driver the price to Kovalam Junction – 200 rupees. This is close to $Au5 to drive to the bus stop and I am wondering how the locals can afford it. Enquiry reveals that they pay 20 rupees (50cents). So that is what tourists are up against. All those 200 rupees add up very quickly, as one can imagine.


Admittedly, once you actually can find a bus, the bus fare is only 9 rupees for the half hour bus ride from Kovalam Junction to Trivandrum. However, Trivandrum is an awfully big city so unless your destination is on that bus route then you are back to the same scenario – you have to get off and then catch another taxi or auto rickshaw to your final destination!


Therefore it seems the only sensible solution if we are to see our palm reader is to book a taxi to take us there, wait and bring us home.


The driver who knows about the palm reader agrees to take us there and back for 700 rupees. Since workers in shops earn about 1500 rupees a month and even a hard working masseur only seems to make about 3500 rupees a month, you can see that taxis in India are just for the rich. Or the locals are paying a lot less than we are!


The appointment is made and we head off to see the palm reader. He is located in what looks like a very affluent section of Trivandrum. Across the street is the home of an ophthalmic surgeon (the sign is proudly displayed in his garden).  Obviously, our palm reader is very good to be able to afford to live in such a nice part of town.


I am ushered into his office which has the obligatory Hindu altar and photos of his very stern-looking, yogi-like ancestors. He comes from a long line of palm readers.


I sit down at the desk and he brings out what looks like a very long closed fan. No, he does not read hands, he reads palm leaves!


Oh well, what the heck? I am here now, and hand palm or palm leaf, it is after all, a voyage of discovery. But what does it cost?


He hands me a list of predictions that he can give. Each question costs 1600 rupees! Wowie, zowie! This is $41! He must be good!


I look at the possible questions –


I quote directly from the brochure: 

·       Predictions concerning money, eyes, family, education and communication skills.

·       Predictions regarding number of brothers and sisters, their affection, help or ill feeling.

·       Predictions regarding mother, house, vehicles, land and pleasures.

·       Predictions regarding children, their birth, death, reason for not having children, adoption and remedial measures of having children, future lives of the children.

·       Predictions regarding disease, debts, enemies and court cases, remedial measures for avoidance.

·       Period of marriage, reasons for delay in marriage, name, lagnam of bride or bridegroom, planetary position, direction and distance of residence of bride or bridegroom, future life with the husband or wife.

·       Predictions regarding longevity, accident and danger to life, age, month, day, time, star, lagnam and place of death.

·       Predictions regarding father, wealth, pilgrimage, luck, preaching through holymen, charitable deeds.

·       Predictions regarding profession, job or business, change of place and its good and evil.

·       Predictions regarding profits in business and second marriage.

·       Predictions regarding expenditure, foreign visit, next birth and attainment of salvation.

·       Predictions regarding previous birth, sins committed and remedial measures for getting rid of the effect of the evil effects of the past birth’s sins.

·       Predictions regarding which Manthra Jepam has to be worn on the body as Rakshai (Talisman) for self and family’s prosperity.


So many questions and so little money in my purse! I am supposing that the locals only pay $4 for this information but I am curious to continue. As I do not know what a lagnam is I skip those questions.


I would rather like to be able to rid myself of the evil effects of my past birth’s sins but I’m reckoning that I will have to say an awful lot of mantras which undoubtedly come at extra cost. Therefore I decide on the predictions regarding profession, job or business.


He has said something that makes me suspicious of extra charges so I look him in the eye and ask if I will only have to pay 1600 rupees. Will this be the entire cost, I ask?

He ignores the question. Danger ahead!


He takes my thumb print. His assistant will have to check my thumbprint against the records of all the palm leaves to find my unique record.


He will also have to ask some special questions to help him find the exact palm leaf. Interesting – if my thumb print reveals a special record, why does he need to ask further questions? And how does a thumb print come into the equation in the first place? Hmm.


I go outside to wait and while waiting I read his promotional material. Meanwhile the driver is becoming very agitated. When will I be finished?


 “Well, he said it could take another hour,” I say.


He does not look at all pleased but decides to go to the temple to pray – no doubt praying that I will finish up quickly so he can go home. Still, why should I feel guilty (which I do). He brought us here and so far I am feeling like I have been dragged into a giant trap.


I read the promotional material.  Apparently, a couple of centuries ago, a group of wise men got together and wrote down the history of everyone who will ever be born. These records were put on palm leaves. The leaves were apparently sold at an auction and my reader’s ancestors must have bought them, I am supposing.


All over the paper is written in capitals –‘ Beware of touts – don’t be misguided’. I wonder what this is all about.


Oh, oh, a warning – “Experience has shown that only 80% of the natives find that their predictions are correct.”


But, how can this be so if your very own palm leaf was written for you all those years ago? Still, this is a handy little ‘out’ for him, should anyone complain that their predictions do not come to pass.


After an hour he calls me in. He has spent the time doing research on me (he says) and he waves around a long closed fan of palm leaves.


However, there is a problem. The total cost will be 3200 rupees (a month’s salary for a hard working masseuse for example) because the first part of the project – where he has to ask lots of questions about my life – is compulsory and also costs 1600 rupees.


The poor man has obviously been fretting about how he can extract as much money as possible from me and I struggled with the desire to turn tail and walk out immediately or stay put, pay the extra and write about his little scam.


All right. I agree and hand over the 3200 rupees. His eyes light up. I can see him thinking that there is one born every minute.


This had better be a good story. I am thinking, oh well, it is only another $40 and he is thinking, I have just made a month’s salary from this fool.


Can I wait another hour while he finds my palm leaf? The pressure is really mounting.  I am feeling quite worried about the driver who must be tearing out his hair outside.


He opens up the fan and tells me I have to answer the questions truthfully.


Reading in Tamil he asks a question and then repeats it in English.


“You are the first born in the family?”


“Well, yes, I am,” I agree.


“The next born is a boy?”


“Well, yes, he is,” I say.


“Your parents are still alive?”


“Yes, they are.”  I am suitably impressed. By jove, he has found my palm leaf!


“You were born on a Tuesday.”


“Yes, I was.” Wow! He has definitely found my palm leaf.


“You work with film production?”


“No, I’m an author,” I answer. Suspicions are again aroused. How did a group of old sages born a couple of hundred years ago, know about film production?


“Oh, then this is not your leaf,” he says and turns over to the next one.


“You are the first born in the family?”


“Well, yes, I am,” I agree.


“The next born is a boy?”


“Well, yes, he is,” I say.


All questions are repeated until we get to my job which is now –


“You are an author?”


“Yes, I am.”


He asks question after question, turning over palm leaf after palm leaf, continually refining his question as he finds out more information about me. Each leaf gets us closer to ‘my’ palm leaf as he adds more and more information that he shamelessly gleans.


What a brilliant strategy!  I’m wondering though how he gets away with it. I cannot be bothered arguing but surely a lot of people would see through this blatant strategy to gain answers. I have already blown $80 so the best I can hope for is a good dinner party story.


I am just anxious to be out of there as I am really feeling the pressure with regard to the driver pacing up and down outside.


Finally we get to the end of the charade. I have basically told him the answer to 80% of his questions and he has now come down to the palm leaf for a female; eldest child in the family; no children; author; with parents still living; the year of my birth; father having medical treatment; names of my parents; sisters and brothers with children etc.


It took a while to get there but we did it!


Now can I wait an hour and he will tell me my predictions?


No way! I have to go.


Well then, come back on Monday and he will give me the reading. He makes a hurried phone call and I hear the words ‘two hundred rupees’ in the conversation. He tells me that he has booked a translator (his English is impeccable by the way) and I must pay the translator two hundred rupees! I am astounded at his continued cheek.


After he has scammed 3200 rupees off me he is too cheap to pay the translator 200 rupees! He did not even consult with me as to whether I wanted to pay a translator.


My blood is boiling but I smile limply and agree to come back on Monday. He smiles a swarmy smile as I leave the room.


Outside, the driver is fuming. He cannot even pretend to smile. Did I enjoy it? Was the palm reader accurate?


I tell him it cost 3200 rupees and he is speechless.


He does not utter another word for the rest of the journey back to the hotel. His face is set in a bitter grimace. I am wondering why. Was he paid a commission maybe based on a smaller amount?


Something has angered him and to calm him down I hand him a $US5 tip. This trip has become an expensive nightmare! He glares at the $5 and I can see it has not gone any way to cheering him up.


Throughout the weekend I am in half a mind as to whether I can be bothered going back to hear my reading on Monday. I am also annoyed by the thought that I will be up for another over the top taxi fare.


An evil part of my mind even ponders if it would be a good revenge not to turn up in the hope that the translator will be so cranky with him that they have a major falling out.


But the hope of a good story and a bit of concern for the poor translator, who is after all, an innocent victim, make me decide to go back for my reading.


By now I have built up an enormous amount of animosity towards the palm leaf reader and I am fully expecting him to have worked out a cunning plan to separate me from another 3200 rupees.


The translator, a pleasant older gentleman, is already waiting when I arrive. The palm leaf reader brings out an exercise book which is full of Tamil writing. Well, to give him his due he has at least taken the trouble to write my predictions down even if they are indecipherable. He puts a CD in his computer and sets up a recording device to record the session.


He speaks in Tamil and this is translated into English. Predictions come thick and fast.


In fact, I’m quite impressed!


I will one day be leading tour groups overseas. I didn’t expect that one.


One wonders how those ancient sages could possibly have thought of such things given that their worlds would have just involved India. Ditto to the prediction regarding making movies in the future. All in all it was quite an entertaining reading although that’s about all I can remember of it. I can always play the CD I suppose.


Maybe, if I’d brought my computer with me, I could have read a certain skeptic’s article. As the skeptic writes, there are hundreds of palm leaf readers in India so how can they all be holding the history of everyone on earth?


The skeptic wrote in his blog that a friend begged him for a loan to save his business. When he finally agreed to give his friend the money and handed over the bank draft, the friend ruined the moment by joyfully saying that a palm leaf reader had predicted that a friend would give him the money he needed.


The skeptic immediately grabbed back the money and asked if the palm leaf reader had told him his name (the skeptic’s name).


The friend, now in tears, said that no, he’d just said that a friend would give him the money.


The skeptic then said, “Good, I’ll take back my money and you can find the other friend who is going to give it to you!”


I probably would have said that if he can afford to see a palm leaf reader then he didn’t really need the money.


At least the palm leaf reader gave me an interesting future, which is more than can be said about the next person we consulted – the most famous astrologer in Kerala.



The most famous astrologer in Kerala lives in a posh house in Trivandrum. We are greeted by his son, a very handsome young man of nineteen with a winning smile. Later I see a photo of him on the astrologer’s desk, posing proudly beside the latest model Mercedes.


Dad has a very professional office, laptop, computer, Hindu altar and a conch shell on the desk which he spins from time to time, leaving us wondering whether this is significant to the reading.


We say we’d like a Vedic astrology chart drawn up. This will be 1500 rupees. At least he’s cheaper than the palm leaf reader! We are to come back in a week to collect it.


When we do come back he hands us a book that looks just like a passport. Well, I suppose it was a passport of sorts – our passport to the future.


The first page I read says, “Life is divided into three parts. In these parts the middle part is better.”   Oh dear, am I in the middle part now? If so, when will the bad part start?


Then amazingly, he compresses the period between 11/10/1996 and 12/10/2014 into twelve lines:

I will have a happy life, win in litigation, happiness through children (which I don’t have), progress in job field, change the opinion (of what?), creative problems for self and children, skin disease, etc. (why on earth is ‘etc’ in an astrological report?). 


I don’t like the sound of the skin disease but there is a 100% chance that the average person will strike these things in the same time frame.


Between 12/10/2014 and 12/10/2030 (a period of sixteen years!) I will benefit through all ways, comfort from vehicle and landed property (comfort from my car?), fond of much people (sic), face problems with landlords etc (does this mean I’ll face problems with a lot more people other than landlords?).


Is this the bad last part of my life? So I will be renting and having fights with landlords? What about my landed property?


How confusing! Overall I am left none the wiser and with nothing to look forward to except a bad final third of my life and fights with landlords etc. which could last sixteen years!


I can only say that the palm leaf reader promised me a much more exciting future.  On this basis alone he is looking much more worth his huge fee.


My mother is so disappointed with her reading that she throws it in the garbage.  


She is most vexed by the way he has written that for one period of time she will be kind and loving and then for the next period of time she will be nasty and have bitter thoughts.


By now we’re well and truly over the mystics of India – or at least, the English speaking ones. 


However, our resolve to give them a wide berth is tested when a phone call comes in from the travel agency that organised the Indian tour for us.



“Are you still looking for a palm reader?” he asks.


“Sure!” I reply excitedly. “But are you sure he reads palms as in hands, and not palm leaves?”


“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’re 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’ve 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’d written down every fruit and vegetable he’d 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’d 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’ve 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!


 Roslyn Motter © copyright