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Exploring the World of Fortunetellers in Beijing: An Entertaining but Dubious Practice

LifestyleExploring the World of Fortunetellers in Beijing: An Entertaining but Dubious Practice

I suggested to a freelancer friend to write about the fortunetellers in Beijing, but she declined, saying it is not a science and she should not propagate falsehoods. While that is true, what I meant was to expose the field for what it is. As Manto once said, “If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty.”

Perhaps there are bigger problems in society than people earning money by predicting the future of others’ careers or love lives. As long as one doesn’t take them too seriously, fortunetellers can be quite entertaining. In my country, many of us check our horoscopes more than the weather forecast before leaving home. Even if it warns of a possible accident, we still go out but take extra precautions.

I recall a classmate in primary school checking my palm and telling me that I would die in an air crash. I cried all day, and my parents had a tough time convincing me that palm reading is not a science I should believe in. However, when I showed my dad my horoscope predicting an accident, he worried every time I stepped outside.

Over time, I have learned that most fortunetellers are excellent observers. Like Sherlock Holmes, they can deduce that you arrived by train or cab and which side of the vehicle you sat based on your hair parting. When I looked sad, fortunetellers – who I have encountered in India by chance – would tell me my future was bleak. Once, while climbing a hill, I showed my palm to a meditating hermit who told me to strive for what I wanted.

A friend once told me about a fortuneteller in Beijing who had made accurate predictions about her life. Curious, I visited him and made sure he couldn’t pre-check my life on social media. He predicted that the past three years had been tough for me, and I would have five children. When I told him I only had one, he said there was still time for two more.

While my friend was excited about her experience, I felt that I could have been an astrologer instead of a writer. Fortunetelling is not a science, but it can be a source of entertainment as long as one doesn’t take it too seriously.

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