Some years back, during my Board Exams, i started taking a tonic to improve my memory and concentration. After nearly a month, I had no choice but to promptly discard it the day when I forgot to take my evening dose. It still makes me laugh when the advertisemnts for such medicines are aired on the telly. Especially the bengali channels.

I made a list of things that are inseparable from the bengali television industry: for baniyans & socks for medicines to deal with tummy turmoils (u name it they have it)
3.cough syrups
4.banarasi saree stores
5.jewellers shows by the streetside (the hosts pounce on hapless and unsuspecting pedestrians asking them trivia abt cricket, films, freedom fighters, anything.)

The last in the list are presently very much in vogue. Everyday for about 4 to 5 hours they hold court on multiple channels with live call-in programs. The astrologers are a colourful lot with their fancy names, glittering outfits and accessories. people call in with their queries. they are first asked to provide information about the date & time of birth, after which the astrologer starts scribbling furiously on sheets of paper working out some calculations. (s)he then lets out the cat out of the bag and announces to the world at large about past events in the caller’s life….some bordering on the scandalous. once the caller agrees/disgrees, solutions for the queries are prescribed.

Besides the astrologers, there are the beauticians, career counsellors, handicraft “experts” (mostly housewives running a business out of the garage), examination helplines etc. A number of channels seem to be surviving on these live-in programs, which by the way are also repeated next day. Coming back to the astrologers, they seem to be making a killing these days. given the times, there is no dearth of callers with unsettled faith. some are jobless, going through bad relationships, cant marry off their children, not passing exams etc. earlier astrologers were found in jewellery stores, shady chambers or street corners, and people went to visit them discreetly so as not to disclose the nature of the problem. they were also called upon comparitively “safer” occasions like drawing up or matching horoscopes. but getting them onto the television screen made them more accessible to the public and given the number of calls (assuming that they are not set up) that they receive each day it seems that people are submitting to them easily. astrology has been a matter of dispute for as long as one can remember. believers call it science, the detractors call it hogwash. it is usually considered the last resort of the weak-hearted. i do not know the reality behind all this, but i do believe that it influences the mind causing a lot of harm. if it is an assurance of certainities in the future, people become complacent and if the stars foretell failure then they give up hope. just as a friend did sometime back. perhaps the past is better to be shut out and the future unknown.

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