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Naadi meets big ears

india Updated: Jul 18, 2009 22:25 IST
Renuka Narayanan

I don’t go to astrologers. Except that time in 2005, when a friend insisted it wasn’t a sell-out if I saw the ‘high priests’, the hereditary interpreters of ‘olai’ (palm leaves), called the Naadi Josiyars (Inter-preters of the search). I knew about the uncanny accuracy of these oracles in which a person’s present life is already documented, but had never submitted to a trial.

The oracles were said to have operated since millennia in ancient temples like Kanchipuram and Vaithees-waran Kovil in Tamil Nadu. ‘Naadi’ itself (apart from its chakra associations) means ‘in search of’ and ‘one who seeks’ in old Tamil.

Nagged by my friend, I went to the ‘Delhi branch’, a poky place in Krishna Nagar Market, near Lajpat Nagar. They didn’t have ‘my’ leaf then, the one that would (eerily, unbelievably) contain the details of my life. They said to
come back, but I never did. Four years passed.

A few days ago, my colleague Indrajit Hazra handed me a book by an English couple that described their naadi experience and their personal journey from unbelief to faith in these oracles. The address sounded familiar. I made an appointment.

The Naadi Josiyars believe that your leaf calls you when it’s time. Was my leaf waiting? It was! The softspoken and polite interpreter rattled off incredible minutiae about my life as if he were reading from a security dossier (indeed the search for ‘your’ leaf begins with your thumbprint, which helps them locate the right bunch of bundles in which ‘your’ leaf may be lurking: the ancient Indians had biometric ID, imagine).

After several false starts, the right leaf appeared! It told me what my present karmas were about and more. The interpreter prescribed certain prayers and rituals of repentance for sins in a past life. I paid up.

Though the prayers, if you choose to engage with them, are cast in the language of Hinduism, naadi is way beyond religion. It told the English author his parents’ names; that he and his wife had tried unsuccessfully to adopt a child, which nobody else knew; and more. They give you a notebook and a tape with your interpretation and forecast, recorded in front of you.

I still don’t know if I ‘believe’. But I feel curiously at peace for having heard this ‘proof’ that whatever happened to me had to happen anyway. All I could try to control amidst those cycles of devastation was my own attitude to what befell me. This actually turned out to be a big help. It set me free from ‘expectation’, so I could be affectionate to the world without an agenda.

Did I need to go through the naadi drill for such a spooky dramatic confirmation of what I’ve painfully worked out for myself since I first began to write on ‘Religion’ in April 2000? Seems I did — just when the time came to stop. The Fates do love their little joke, I think... Read the book: The Hidden Oracle of India: The Mystery of India’s Naadi Palm Leaf Readers, by Andrew and Angela Donovan, Orient Paperbacks, 2009, Rs 195.