An astrologer is a common sight in Indian towns and villages. He can easily be recognized by his dress and appearance. He wears a big round turban, a kurta and dhoti. His dress is generally shabby, showing that it has been used for a number of days. On his forehead, he has long vermilion spot which is considered holy by the religious men. His long black mustaches, together with the holy mark, make his appearance impressive. The effect is further increased by the rubbing of ash on the face. His eyes seem to glitter through his mustaches and the simple and the simple and the rustic take him to be really inspired. They bow down their heads before him, as before one who has the sacred knowledge of the stars and understands their ways. All of us must have seen frequently such a person sitting by the roadside. He is the roadside astrologer.
The Indian astrologer selects his place of work with great care. The simple villagers, laborers, women and other uneducated people, and also superstitious sections of society, are among his clients. He, therefore, sits by the road which is usually frequented by them. The road he sits by is a busy one but he would select for himself a shaded place, a bit removed from the busy road. He would sit under a peepul tree, sheltered from the sun, and a little removed from the “pukka”, “metalled” road .With an eye to attract customers, he prefers to sit by municipal electric pole or near a hawker, for he carries no light of his own.
Having selected the place, he would spread his simple goods. First, he spreads a small piece of cloth with a “guddi” on it. This is his seat-his office chair. Then he spreads before him his maps and charts of heavenly bodies. Often an Indian astrologer is also a palmist, and he usually carries with him big prints clearly showing the various lines on the palm. These, too, he place before him. Thus, he is ready to commence the work of foretelling the future of those who come to him for the purpose. His charges are low one rupee to two rupee and even lower in the dull season when the clients are few and far between.
The road-side astrologer is an intelligent judge of human nature. He is a student of human psychology and he uses his knowledge to make a living. He can judge the needs and problems of a client merely by exchanging with him a few words. He does not talk much himself, but encourages others to talk, for he knows that the more they talk the more they would tell him about themselves. In this way he gets ready to answer their questions and tell them about their respective futures. If it is a young woman, she would certainly want to know either when would she get married or, if already married, when she is likely to get a son. Aged ladies want to know about the marriage of their sons and daughters or why do their husbands not love them any longer. If it is a man, he would be more concerned with money matters, as future crop-prospects, possibilities of promotion in the near future or of getting employment.
In either case the astrologer’s answers are vague and ambiguous. They can be interpreted in different way and every one is sure to interpret them according to the turn to future events. Whatever may happen, the astrologer would never be wrong. He never tells unpleasant things, and always encourages others to hope for the best. This is what most people like, and this is what they pay him for.
Many of us would be inclined to condemn the road-side astrologer as a cheat and hypocrite. He has no knowledge of the stars, and he simply tells lies and cheats simple, believing people. They would like him to be punished suitably or at least see him put out of action. But we cannot agree with such estimates. In our opinion, the astrologer is an honest man who earns his living by using his brain, as most of us do. He may not know the way of the stars, but he understands the ways of human beings and this is knowledge much superior and more difficult to acquire than the knowledge of the stares.