• Google News
  • Electrical Anecdotes
  • Shruthi
  • My Stories
  • My Kannada Posts
  • Starry Eyed Shruti
  • My Travel Posts
  • Anu
  • Emma
  • Saturday, 17 December 2011

    A Friend in Need

    I was sitting in my small rented room, reading a recently released Kannada novel. I had been postponing going out for my Sunday morning breakfast. Either the hunger had overcome my laziness or I had reached a particularly less interesting part of the novel, I finally decided to go and have my breakfast. Not too much of a choice of restaurants in a place like Shimoga but I chose Gopi "Hotel".

    When I entered the restaurant, the man at the cash counter got up and welcomed me. He was the owner’s nephew and a student in the college where I taught - Sahyadri College. I did not teach his class since he was a science student and I only taught Kannada major students. I found an unoccupied table and was about to walk towards it when I found my senior friend Hegde at a table, talking to someone standing in front of him. That someone appeared to be leaving. I waited and as the man left Hegde waved me to the seat in front of him. I went to Hegde's table and found that he was having his coffee after his breakfast. 

    Hegde was starting a new weekly magazine in Kannada. In the preceding months, he had talked to me about various details about it and now the date of launch was impending. He talked to me excitedly about the various subjects the magazine would cover. As I eat my idlis that Gopi Hotel was famous for, a worried look came over his face. "Everything is now arranged except the weekly horoscope". 

    I was surprised. Hegde was an old time socialist and at least a sceptic if not a non-believer. I asked him why he wanted a horoscope column in his progressive magazine. He said thoughtfully and a little embarrassed that he had been told recently that a horoscope column would make the magazine more acceptable to readers. Some had even told him that without it the magazine would not sell at all in the long run. He had never had to deal with this subject before and did not even know whom to approach. I was not much help in this matter myself. But I had a sudden inspiration. I said. "I may be able to help you in that matter". With a mixture of surprise and hope he asked me how I could.

    I told him that I had recently met an astrologer at a wedding in Bangalore and that I thought he may be ready to do this. Hegde was much relieved and I told him to take his mind off the matter for a week - for me to contact the man and see what happens. Those were the days before telephones had become ubiquitous, let alone cell phones, and I had asked for a week so that I could write a letter to the astrologer and also get an reply. 

    A week passed and I met Hegde again and very happily announced that the astrologer had agreed to provide the weekly predictions. Hegde was overjoyed but worried again. “How much do I have to pay him?”, he asked. I had not thought about that at all! I was inspired again. I told him that I had described the aims of the magazine and all that to the astrologer and he had agreed to provide the weekly predictions for free since he was already doing such a job for a local magazine in Bangalore. If and when Hegde's magazine did well, he could start paying him. Now he was more thankful than ever and it was agreed that I would provide him the weekly the weekly horoscope.

    In course of time, the magazine was launched and I fulfilled my part of the arrangement diligently. Every week, I would leave a sheet of paper containing the predictions with the man at the till at Gopi Hotel and Hegde would collect it when he visited it for a coffee or a snack. The magazine started doing well and Hegde was busier than ever and our meetings were less frequent and shorter. Just some greetings and a quick exchange of news and we would part. After a few months of this, when I met Hegde the same quick exchange took place and as he was about to leave. He seemed to recall something and came back. He put an arm around my shoulders and said, "I am sorry, I had started taking the great help you have given me with the horoscope for granted. I have now started receiving letters from readers asking for the name address of the astrologer. They find the astrologer very good and would want to consult him in person. I did not even ask you who this gentleman is. At least now, I want to make amends. Please let me have his address, I will write to him and also ask him what his fees are and where I should send the money order.”

    I was shocked but not surprised! Now this was a real fix I was in. I started fidgeting and Hegde asked me, "Why are you so uncomfortable about it?" I decided to make a clean breast of things and tell him the whole story. Initially he looked chagrined. His expression soon turned to wonder and then he guffawed heartily. I was relieved, sheepish and felt clever all at the same time.

    What I had done was this. I had created a mythical astrologer and I had taken over his role. I had collected predictions from various magazines and every week, I had rearranged the same set of sentences under the different rashis or sun signs. Once in a while, when I had time or felt in the mood for it, I had even rearranged them just make each rashi’s prediction sound poetic, if I may use the word. In other words I had looked for pleasing sounds in a group of sentences. When I was in the mood for a prank, a prank inside a prank, I had put together contradicting predictions under the same rashi! That was real insurance - at least one of them would come true!

    In the next issue of the magazine, there was an apology below the astrology column. The editor apologised to the reader that the astrologer was a very busy man and also a shy one and that he did this out of interest in the subject and not as a profession. He does not want to give personal consultations.