“The Prediction” by Sushma Joshi is about an astrologer’s prediction about the last days of the Rana regime of Nepal.This story was published in the journal Himalaya in November 2013, published out of Yale University.
This story is based on a small snippet of an anecdote told to me by my father–who does not believe in astrology, but was goaded into sharing this historical story with me after I pestered him with miraculous stories of astrological predictions which had come true, in my own experience. Our family of Joshis (“Jyotish” means astrologer) were astrologers in the Royal Court of Nepal. This tradition was discontinued in my grandfather’s generation. The young astrologer in this story, however, is not from our family. He is thought to have come from outside Kathmandu.
The astrologer was a pleasant young man, with worn down cloth shoes and a dust-coloured set of clothes. Mohan Shamsher was surprised. He had expected someone older, someone more commanding. More authoritative. This man, with his humble cotton outfit, could not have been more than thirty, at the most.
He was from Pokhara, and famed throughout Nepal. His predictions, people said, were never wrong. He had studied for twelve years at the Benares Hindu University, and his knowledge of Vedic astrology was beyond dispute. Everyone went to him, from the Prime Minister to the lowly guard who stood by the gate. Mohan Shamsher sat there in his room, watching the man from behind the curtain. It wouldn’t be good to be seen in public consulting with such a man, for his question presumed the downfall of another man.
When will I become Prime Minister?
The astrologer cleared his throat, and began. “Please give me the time of birth, the date of birth, the year of birth, and the place of birth.”
Mohan Shamsher had sent the Khardar to consult the astrologer on his behalf. Because he was curious, he had stayed in the same room, though out of sight, behind the thick wine-red velvet curtains. The inch of space in between the two halves gave him a clear view of the young man who sat on the white cushion in front of him, only a few feet away. He appeared ordinary, surprisingly nondescript. He wasn’t at all what Mohan Shamsher had been expecting.
The astrologer looked around, almost as if he knew the man whose fortune he was about to predict sat a few feet away, but couldn’t tell from where he might be watching. The hall stretched out in all directions, a curtain here, a staircase there, a wall thick with paintings in one corner, a wall of books in the middle. On the floor was a tiger rug, with the head of the animal raised in a snarl. Every nook and cranny was filled with shadows, and he imagined that invisible people were watching him from the darkness.
The astrologer knew he was in the house of a man of great importance. The horse-drawn carriage that had brought him in the dusk had driven at such speed, however, he couldn’t tell which area of Kathmandu he was in.
The Khardar reeled off the time, date, year and place of birth.
Hesitating slightly, the astrologer cleared his throat again and asked: “And the name?”
The Khardar said: “It starts with ‘mo’.” Then, with some reluctance, he pushed across a tightly rolled scroll. “Here’s the chart.”
The astrologer, who came from a village, didn’t presume to guess whose chart was unfolding in front of him. The daphne bark paper was marked with the same elegant hand he had seen on the charts of other Rana generals. He assumed the man whose chart he was viewing was a Rana. Given name: Mohan Shamsher Rana, the script said. The astrologer had no knowledge of the hierarchies of the Rana family, and therefore had no idea who this was.
Read more from “The Prediction” on Sushma Joshi’s blog.
Image source: Sushma Joshi’s blog