Friday 27 January 2012

Retold: The fortune-teller’s child

I love to revisit this story from Chandamama, a childrens magazine in Hindi whose contents would be my only diet the day it arrived. Food, school assignments ... all else could wait.
Hope my version does justice to the original:

The fortune-teller’s fame was as tall as the trees.
The fortune-teller was wealthy, his fame as tall as the trees outside his window. People from far and wide came to consult him, for he was bestowed with a singular gift. He could accurately predict the sex of an unborn child.

The village head could vouch for the fortune-teller’s powers, for had he not predicted correctly each time his three daughters and two sons were born? So could the barber, father to seven sons and a daughter. The richest farmer in the village also recalled vividly the joy with which he welcomed the fortune-teller’s prediction of goddess Lakshmi’s advent into his household, not once but twice.

Traders travelling across towns and villages brought him more custom. Wherever they went, they bragged about their village fortune-teller who never went wrong. Expectant mothers pestered their husbands for a visit to the gifted man to know if it was a girl or a boy they were carrying.

Most were content with what they were told. Not all went away satisfied, though. The fortune-teller cleverly pacified them when their faces fell. “Oh well, if God wills otherwise, who are we to quarrel with His wish?” he would say.

Whether he had predicted a son or a daughter, newly blessed parents would come back to gratefully shower him with riches. Always bedecked in finery, the fortune-teller’s wife was the envy of the women of the village.

Yet she was unhappy. They had no child. The years passed by, till one day she gave him the good news. As the date of delivery drew near, she began badgering him day and night. “Will we have a son or a daughter?” she’d ask, but to no avail. “Be content that God has been kind to us,” was all he would volunteer.

Days after their child came into the world, she turned petulant. “You are so good with your predictions, but you always parried when it came to ourselves,” she complained.

“I can tell you the truth now, dearest,” replied the fortune-teller. He drew out his long book, the red-bound one, in which he meticulously noted every customer’s details. “I couldn’t say about ours,” he told her simply, “because I did not know.”

In stunned silence, she listened to her husband’s tale of how he made his millions. “The chances of a boy or girl are 50-50, right, so I write down the exact opposite of what I tell my customers. If what I say comes true, they bestow riches on us. If it doesn’t, I open my red book and show them what I wrote. They go away convinced it was they who must have heard it wrong.”

I must modestly add here that the picture of the tree is from my own phone camera series.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting astrologer though gives 80% correct predictions :)