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Food and forecast, Bejan style

"By 2011, India will be a superpower. 2004 will be one of the kick-off years for this".

The Daruwallahs enjoying their meal at The Park in New Delhi. Photos: Anu Pushkarna.

IT SEEMS a magical morning when one introduces oneself to Bejan Daruwalla at The Park, with a vantage view of the historic Jantar Mantar. Instantly, one realises that here in front of you is an amazing man. He is 71 and he has already been an astrologer for over 30 years! He comes across as a man of great wisdom, gentle kindness, and penetrating insight. Daruwalla actually got started with astrology as a little five-year-old in a Pune convent school.

"Anxious girls used to ask me whether they would pass in the exams. I soon discovered that I had something in me, when my predictions came true"!

Enjoying a steaming Cream of Mushroom, the Ganesha devotee and legendary `jyotish' remarks that he is a "great glutton, when it comes to food. Ask my wife Tehmi, who is 21 years younger to me, she will tell you that I am an ustad of soup. Nothing like a bowl of piping hot soup for instant comfort," remarks the legendary soothsayer. "I am a typical Taurean overindulging in food, not surprising since Taurus and Cancer are the gluttons of the zodiac. I am a meat/chicken man, yes I know that vegetables are important, but who cares, I love mushrooms, our Parsi Dhanzak and red meat, which is almost taboo these days."

"India is ruled by the sign Capricorn and astrology is in the DNA of human life," says Daruwalla. But the pertinent question one aims at him is, does it work for you in day-to-day life? Does it have the capacity to add value, depth, richness, or any meaning to life? And how in the world does anyone become an astrologer? "You have it in you or you don't and if you do, it is a great responsibility," says the celebrated astrologer. Pausing a wee bit to relish the chef's Creamy Risotto and Vegetable Salad, he declares pretty candidly that astrology does work: "I don't care if it's a science or not, whether it is recognised or not, what matters is my faith in Ganesha, my integrity and karma. But at the same time nobody can be always right."

Stargazing and lunching with Daruwalla, makes one feel that life without astrology can be compared to a journey without a road map - at times it can be exhilarating, at other times confusing. Life does seem to be a marvellous journey with the astrology chart being the road map and the guide, your astrologer. "In fact, a horoscope can be drawn and then interpreted for an

individual, a business, an event or even a country, anything that has a starting point in time." This gentle, soft-spoken man has predicted that India will be the Superpower of the 21st century, but he urges us to remember that though a map indicates definite directions, obstacles and possibilities, it does not by itself determine the journey.

"By 2011, India will be a superpower. 2004 will be one of the kick-off years for this," he forecasts. India, under Capricornian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he says, will progress, "provided the Bharatiya Janata Party practices tolerance and keeps an open mind". One of the highlights for 2004, he says, is the Indian Air Force's new role. "It will rule the skies right till October 2005".

Declining the extended prawn dish, he remarks wryly that a man of his age has no choice but to be careful with his health and what he eats. The Residence at The Park offers an elaborate buffet, but Tehmi, Daruwalla's wife encourages him to eat sparsely, specially since he is travelling and away from home. Incidentally, Tehmi and Bejan Daruwalla's home is Shelley's Hotel at Colaba, an old Bombay heritage hotel, opposite the Radio Club. "It's been years and years, since either of us have entered a kitchen, I think we like it this way, staying in our `hotel' home, where everything is taken care of."

"Sometimes people show me two to three horoscopes and want to know which is the best and most suitable, industrialists consult me, their faith in me has also made me humble and grateful to Ganesha." Daruwalla is fully aware that astrology can easily be written off as mumbo jumbo. But no, he believes it to be a mirror of life, it's all about science and knowledge. And who would know better than Daruwalla? After all, he predicted Sanjay Gandhi's accident, Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, the Gujarat earthquake, and Kargil war among other forecasts.

Wrapping up the lunch, he sips a small glass of cold milk, remarking that it is good for acidity. "Each time I predict some disaster, something bad, it is like a personal loss for me, I grieve terribly and feel the pain and sorrow, for India is foremost in my mind, from womb to tomb. I try to treat astrology as a profession, but it is way beyond that, as astrologers are actually priests and harbingers of life." Tehmi Daruwalla even requests her husband not to come out with bad jokes, as more often than not, they turn out to be true. Daruwalla tells us that astrology is based on the position of the planets and stars and date of birth is important for predictions - as above, so below ... perhaps.


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