‘Lots of bylined stories ahead for print journos’

Khushwant Singh, narrates an interesting incident that took place during his tenure as editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India in the 1970s. The weekly forecast (probably by Bejan Daruwalla) hadn’t arrived in time. With very little time to go for the issue to be put to bed, the self-advertised “dirty old man of Indian journalism” says he read up the zodiac for the previous few weeks, caught the drift, and dashed off the predictions himself.

Surprise, surprise. There wasn’t a squeak from a single reader. Either the readers did not notice. Or they did not bother even if the magazine got it hopelessly wrong. Or, it is possible, just possible, for anybody who can string a few sentences together, to predict anything with some degree of accuracy as long as the strokes are broad and general.

Or, it could be an apocryphal yarn a pseudo-rationalist is spinning.

This is where a gentleman called Daivajna Kudinalli Narasimha Somayaji aka Daivajna K.N. Somayaji, who does the weekly forecast on ETV, the Kannada television channel, comes in.

According to published news reports, the 48-year-old vedic scholar specialises in Karma Kanda, Jyotishya, Vaastu and Tantra Shastra. He runs something called the Kalpatharu Research Academy, an oriental learning centre. He is also the dharmadhikari of the Shringeri Sarada Mutt in Bangalore.

He was the one who got into trouble for telling H.D. Kumaraswamy that B.S. Yediyurappa would never become chief minister. He claims he advised Monica Lewinsky. And, oh yes, he advises powerful publishers who have bought well established newspapers on the vaastu-compliance of their new acquisitions.

Anyway, on ETV every Sunday morning, at eight, Somayaji sits down to tell the “humble peoples of Karnataka” what is in store for them in the week ahead. And to say that Somayaji makes rather sharp, pinpoint predictions is to underestimate the size of his crystal balls.

Here, sample these gems from yesterday’s episode:

Mesha: Profitable business for real estate dealers, and financial institution employees. Big work order for those in export business.

Vrushabha: Good week for R&D employees and engineers. Stock market investors will profit. Good news for medical representatives and marketing executives. And farmers, especially vegetable farmers. Foreign travel likely for music artistes.

Mithuna: Good opportunities steel and cement businessmen. Pressure to face elections for politicians. Civil contractors will sign new deals. Success for professional sportsmen.

Karkataka: Invitation from foreign companies for travel. Harmonious ties for employees with management team. Silk growers will profit. Travel agents will have unceasing work.

Simha: Mine workers, carpenters, stone workers will strike it rich. Dreams of restaurateurs to build a big hotel will come good. Good time for wholesale grain merchants.

Kanya: Working journalists, especially those in print media, will be extremely busy and will write a lot of byline stories. Good news for civil service exam candidates. Tussle for leadership for those in politics, but victory will be yours. Social workers will find fame, stature. Computer sellers, software and hardware, will get do well.

Tula: Perfume sellers will have a good week. Those in education sector too.

Vrushchika: Politicians will be engaged in “secret” talks. Lots of work for policemen, unexpected travel
export opportunities for leather product makers. Silk garment sellers, especially dealing with products for women, will have a profitable week.

Dhanassu: Travel in the offing for professionals, especially advocates. Those in politics will be busy, with planning and “secret” talks. Partnership businesses will enjoy great profit

Makara: Officials will have to take strict action. Corporate employees will travel far on company work. Contractors will receive their dues from the government.

Kumbha: Success for those in social sector. Farmers especially those growing grains and fruits will have good news. Transfers for employed children. Commission agents and lorry owners, drivers and those in transport department, including taxi drivers, will have a good week.

Meena: You will meet big influential people, officials or politicians. Those in excise department will have lots of work, and meet with success.

Of course, the proof of the predicting is in the prediction. And only realtors, taxi drivers, commission agents, silk garment makers, computer sellers, print journalists, et al, who depend on Somayaji’s GPS (global prediction system) to show them the way, can vouch for the accuracy of his predictions.

But the questions arising from such a public display of sticking-the-neck-out bravado are all very obvious.

Were our vedas and shastras so far ahead of their time to have seen the rise of such professions? Or are Somayaji’s techniques of interpretation so advanced that he can use even ancient texts to deliver such precise predictions? What are the texts that may contain even a passing mention of these modern professions?

On the other hand, is Somayaji just a supersmart shastri; a soothsayer who knows his “target audience”—well-heeled politicians, exporters, contractors, excise department employees—and tells them what they would like to hear, and maybe hear a bit more if only they would make a short trip to Shankar Mutt road?

Rationalists like Abraham Kovoor might be rolling in their grave, but is Somayaji filling a vital social blank, by filling hope and optimism in the hearts of those who are not adventurous enough to face each day as it is served up to them? Or, are our media fanning the flames of obscurantism by giving space for such claptrap?

If psephologists, opinion pollsters, researchers, journalists—and so many other astrologers, tarot card readers, etc—are entitled to get it wrong, on TV, should we zero in on Somayaji? Or, in an era when news has been reduced to entertainment, is futurology not too behind?

Video courtesy: ETV Kannada

Crossposted on churumuri

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