As 2014 draws to a close, astrologers have already launched their forecasts for 2015. These are available inform of small booklets, columns in newspapers or on TV channels. In my mailbox some of them are inviting me to pay up and know about how to ward off the evil influence of many planet combinations. This is the "season" for astrologers to maximise their earnings.

When I was younger, I too, many a times purchased some booklet by famous or well advertised astrologer to know the year ahead. Frankly I could not make out anything. Yet I too would read weekly forecasts and wait for good things to happen. Rarely did the predictions come true.Over the years I lost all interest in it and today I feel it should be discouraged. 

Here I would like to narrate the story of Rajesh Khanna the first super star of Hindi films and once a great believer in astrology. A famous actress of yesteryears had turned producer and had seen him act in plays. She offered him a role in her film. Rajesh could not believe his luck and rushed to a jyotishi for advice. He studied Rajesh's kundali and advised him to decline the offer, as he was going to be a failure in films. Instead he advised him to go into business of steel trading. Luckily Rajesh did not follow his astrological advice and industry got its first super star of great acting talent. After he met with success Rajesh lost all interest in astrology.

Another famous incident involved Dr. Kalam the famous rocket scientist. He had been elected to be the President of India. Before his swearing in ceremony was to be held he was approached by the late Pramod Mahajan inquiring about the auspicious time for taking oath of office. This is a custom followed by all politicians. however the reply of Dr. Kalam was as scientific as it could be. He asked Mahajan, has any planet shifted out of its orbit. Mahajan was stunned and replied in the negative. The would-be President said if no planet has changed its position from its orbit then every second and minute is auspicious, because even if one planet were to change its orbit by even a fraction of a degree there would be chaos. So he took oath at an administratively appropriate time. He became the most popular President and is fondly loved and respected even today years after he left office.

Whenever an eclipse is to occur there are some TV channels who call astrologers who then give bizarre advices to ward of the evil affects of a perfectly harmless astronomical event. One of the humourous advices I liked once, was at 11.30 pm in night. An eclipse was to occur at around 12.00 am onwards. So this great astrologer in a raised voice advised everyone to immediately leave their houses and take dips in the nearest river as otherwise the evil affect of the eclipse would cause them great harm!

If you want to watch entertainment programs the you can surf channels at midnight. many TV channels carry astrology based programs where questions of believers are addressed. Even if you are a die hard believer, after watching many of these programs your faith will get shaken because of the solutions provided by the astrologers. Technology has enabled these programs to be very slick and initially they sound very convincing.

Some of the solutions they offer to overcome the problems faced by troubled persons are both interesting and ridiculous. They range from feeding a black dog every Friday to immersing in a flowing river waters the image of a particular goddess made from gold yes gold. Yesterday I saw a new entry in form of a young Guruji who offers instant and simple solutions. One solution he offered to a ;lady whose marriage is on the rocks was to keep a particular potted plant in a particular direction corner in her bedroom. Before every one does so and robs him of his livelihood he said this was only for the lady in question as it was based on her planetery positions at the time of her birth.To another person who was not getting promotion he advised him to put on shirts of a particular colour.

Every midnight, dot at 12 am, on a particular TV channel comes a guruji to solve the problems of viewers. His assistant asks the viewer the date, time and place of birth of the phone-in viewer and these are fed into  a laptop to generate the person's kundali. The guruji then informs of the various shortcomings in the kundali and advises the viewer to put necklaces of either sawa paanch or sawa chhe or sawa saat rati (weight) made from gems like ruby or sapphire or diamonds or silver or gold, to neutralize the evil effects of the adverse planets. For all persons his solution is same and only the weight or gem changes. And from where should one obtain these necklaces, obviously from the guruji's sanstha as they are the only suppliers of the purest gems in the world specially  made live by guruji himself. Excellent marketing.

The astrologers are making tons of money by converting fears of weak willed persons into cash generating opportunities. They play on the miseries of the sufferers and offer them false hopes by blaming their stars. It is a tragedy of our times that highly educated persons who one expects to be rational minded are also blind followers of astrology and thereby it gains a form of respectability. It is rare that an astrologer is blamed if his advises do not perform. One continues to blame one's bad stars. The business of astrologers keeps flourishing. They have solutions for every problem. They are now using modern information tools very skillfully to package their services for the gullible. They successfully play on human desire to know the future and never face miseries. 

What can be more telling then the recent case of the jyotishi who advised the President of Sri Lanka to hold elections two years before they were due as this was astronomically the best time for his sure shot victory. The poor President lost the elections. If he had not listened to the jyotishi he could have continued for two more years. Whether the jyotishi will go out of business is however doubtful.

It is time that print and electronic media should not give their platform to these fake persons. It will mean loss of revenue but will help in tremendously furthuring the cause of building scientific temperament in the country. Let persons be responsible for their actions rather than blaming stars and planets who have nothing to do. The super success of the film Pk is a hope in this direction. 

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It  is going to be battle royale but can Rajiv prove his mettle there?


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