Penny: Okay – I’m a Sagittarius, which probably tells you way more than you need to know.Sheldon: Yes – it tells us that you participate in the mass cultural delusion that the sun’s apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your personality.
Every time i watch that episode of TBBT (yes, i confess i can watch re-runs of some classic comedy TV shows umpteen number of times!), Sheldon’s witty choice of words evokes an amused smile. It also brings home my own ambivalence on the subject for i can never decide which side am i really on. Do i wholeheartedly support Sheldon’s rational man-of-science approach or like Penny do i believe planetary configurations affect my fate?
Perhaps part of the answer lies in the environment i’ve grownup in. In our country every second person, regardless of whether rich or poor, educated or illiterate, villager or city-bred, is out looking for the astrology-fix. When you are born, some family-elder notes down the exact time and place of your birth for your natal horoscope to be made. ‘Doshas’ (i.e.malefic influences of some stars), if present, are appeased with special ceremonies. Astrological-compatibility before marriage is still worked out. Thousands of business men (even others for that matter) schedule their day’s work after ascertaining the inauspicious “rahukaalam” for the day. From my own childhood i can recall memories of my paternal grandmother who wouldn’t let us leave the ancestral home after our holidays if the time was not auspicious. My father would angrily complain and protest about the impracticality of it all, specially considering the fact that as an army officer he wasn’t really in control of his leave schedule. But i’ve seen him humour her sentiments and try and adjust his movements to and from his village home according to an auspicious time.
From my father i’ve also learnt my most valuable lesson about these planetary influences on our lives. My mother often recounted for us how when he had first told his parents that he wished to marry her, there was an absolute uproar in their family. One, choosing your own life partner was unheard of in their community; second as per his horoscope he was a very strong ‘manglik’ Most Indians can relate to that term, for a “mangal dosha” in your horoscope is believed to be highly unfavourable for marriage, unless the other person is also one, in which case the negative effects are supposed to cancel each other out. An astrologer was consulted and he was told that if the wedding went through my mother would not survive for more than four years. My father stood his ground and insisted that if his Hindu faith had shown what the problem was, he was confident it would also give him a solution. So he figured out that observing a fast on Tuesdays and performing some special prayer-ceremony whenever the malefic influence of his ‘mangal’ was strong should provide the necessary counter-balance. My mother’s father was an atheist who didn’t believe in any of this ‘mumbo-jumbo’ as he called it, so they got married. There were years when my mother would be critically ill and i’ve known my worried father offering special prayers for her recovery. Something did work out for they remained married for fifty-one years till she passed away some years back. Their story of how individual positive energy can thwart what the stars may foretell has remained the most defining influence on my views towards fate and destiny.