Shree Ganesha Namah! It's Bejan Daruwalla's birthday on Monday. That bawdy Parsi astrologer and celebrated Ganpati-bhakt will turn 86. He continues to be in demand. Age cannot wither him nor custom stale his infinite variety. Everybody from Narendra Modi down holds their palm out to Bejan when they meet him, hoping for a freebie.
Bejan and I go back a long way, to 1984 in fact, before Indira's assassination and Bhopal... both of which he accurately predicted.
This birthday, he's not in Mumbai. People think he's from here. And is always here. But he's from Ahmedabad. Where his father owned textile mills. Bejan was into poetry and literature. He eschewed the family business to become a professor. He was also, he tells me, Ahmedabad's 100-metre sprint champion in his day. And he played hockey and cricket for the varsity. I find that hard to believe. Bejan is roly-poly and 200 pounds, all 5 feet of him. He shuffles around and requires an Asthalin pump to breathe. It's difficult to imagine him being a streak of lightning. But I like him as he is. His girth matches his mirth. And at 86, he is full of Parsi masti and dum.
Bejan and I go back a long way, to 1984 in fact, before Indira's assassination and Bhopal... both of which he accurately predicted. But he's not a Prophet of Doom. He's forecast some wonderfully accurate successes for Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar when they were down and out. And the political fortunes of world leaders, the destinies of nations. When I got to know Bejan, he used to write a hugely popular daily astrology column for the newspaper where I was a rookie sub-editor. He used to give us one week's forecasts at a time. I lost them all once. Afraid of also losing my job, I fearfully began writing the daily forecasts myself under the great Bejan Daruwalla's name. It's easy to do -- most people are emotionally bankrupt, they want to read only good predictions. But I got caught. My editor was furious. Not with me. But with Bejan. He called and fired him. Told him that one of his "boys" was writing the astrology column and nobody could tell the difference!
Modi's best year will be 2018. In 2012, Bejan predicted a landslide victory for Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. "Tum todh dega, phaad dalega!"
We have been friends since then. I see him once or twice a year. He travels the world, but like a homing pigeon always finds his way back to Mumbai. I took him out to dinner when he visited Mumbai for the launch of his 2016 book of forecasts. Dinner was at Trattoria, hangout of Mumbai's foodies, expats, young blood and all kinds of party animals. A stream of strangers queued up to meet Bejan. Seeking his autograph, a selfie and some a free consultation. Bejan revelled in the attention. He ate, talked, predicted, cracked dirty jokes, signed autographs, posed for photographs, this was his big scene. I sat back and watched. He is after all a star, India's most popular astrologer, acknowledged as one of the 100 great astrologers in the last 1,000 years by the Millennium Book of Prophecy.
But he's also a man. A mortal like the rest. Once, he talked to me about death. He is a Zoroastrian, he goes to the agiary, and he ties the Parsi sadra and kusti. But he gets his assurance from Ganesha. Bejan told me, "Ganesha is my anchor, my protection, my strength. And when I die, I'll go to Ganesha. I'll tell you something, I practice ephemeris and western astrology, I know how to read the code of the planets, and while I can truly predict the fate of countries, I don't know my own destiny. The great lesson of astrology is that you are aware that life itself is change. Accept it, and enjoy it in every possible way. "
Bejan also predicts 2018 will be a great year for India. "The country will become a superpower but Pakistan will not disappear," he says ominously.
For his birthday, he always makes a general forecast. This time he's made three. Narendra Modi's best year will be 2018. In 2012, Bejan predicted a landslide victory for Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. "Tum todh dega, phaad dalega!" he told the bemused Chief Minister of Gujarat. Modi thought he was delightfully crazy. Bejan also predicts 2018 will be a great year for India. "The country will become a superpower but Pakistan will not disappear," he says ominously. His third forecast is for the world. It's Nostradamus-like. "The end will not come by a nuclear war, an asteroid will smash the earth, but we will not perish, we will prevail in a new space station!" He is my friend, I love his madness, his eccentricities. But I could not let that pass. Stung by my disbelief, Bejan called me seven different names in Gujarati. I have heard all his insults before. Several times. They are like Bejan Daruwala himself. Inoffensive, outrageously funny, well-meaning and timeless. They are what endear him to me.
Also see on HuffPost: