(Published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, dated 15th May, 2010)
Find out about your past life now! SMS your name space your birthday, eg. POOJA 07052010 to 56786 to know if you were a human or animal in your last birth. Charges Rs. 3/sms.
First, came the epiphany – knowing everyone named Pooja who was born on the same day belonged to the same species. Second, there was curiosity – who does Vodafone’s market research and how did s/he discover that the question plaguing most minds was whether they had been born animals in their previous births? Third, came devastation – like every other Indian into whose formative years Doordarshan beamed movies, I’d been lulled into the belief that Rajesh Khanna, Rajkumar, Kamal Haasan and all the Khans had looked the same in every past and present life; it had taken a message from my mobile service provider to shake this notion.
There were several stages of contemplation before I thought up a list of people whose past life-forms I’d want to know. First, there’s that woman who was hypnotised by a man who wanted to write a best-seller on the subject. She believed she was a tree at some point of her evolution, and could feel the pain of being cut. Then there was the chap who claimed to have come to India in a past life, with Jesus. I tried googling his name to sound more authoritative, and the number of responses my search turned up is rather worrying.
Next, came the flashback. No, I didn’t take up the offer. But I did remember how a few years ago, I was sitting with three other women in what could have started a ‘Hex and the City’ series. We were all newly single, having dumped our fresh exes for the reasons that could only come from a deep, meaningful association. One was balding, one was effeminate, one was a junkie, and one was all of the above.
"Why does this happen to us? I mean, I meet intelligent men all the time. Why do I only land up with the losers?" asked Ms. Junkie.
"And the non-losers never have hair," contemplated Ms. Balding, "actually, even the losers never have hair."
"Maybe it’s karma," said Ms. Effeminate.
"As in, maybe we completely screwed over men in one of our past lives," I said, deleting yet another message from Mr. All-of-the-above, "maybe we sent them five-page love letters and then called to ask if they’ve got them, maybe we told them we had nightmares about Bugs Bunny eating us up, maybe we sent them pink teddy-bears and pink diaries with hearts on the cover…"
"Yes, maybe we’ve been hexed," said Ms. Effeminate earnestly.
The theory found a corollary when another friend’s 'family astrologer' told her this was her last birth. She was thrilled in the comfort of the knowledge that she could go about doing whatever she wanted, and there would be no time for payback.
"Do you realise this is also God’s last chance to make you pay for the misdeeds of your previous birth?" I asked, sharing Uncle Fred’s inclination to spread good cheer and light all round. Since then, she has been fretting about what her admittedly limited future holds. I secretly believe the astrologer and tarot readers are in this together. And probably the naadi josiyars too.
I remember a five-city trip around the state a decade and a half ago, when my family was convinced going to a series of temples and spending Rs. 5000 at each would even out Chitragupta’s account book. Our past-life resume is rather colourful, what with cutting out people’s tongues and tearing animals in half a la Marilyn Manson featuring there.
Maybe it’s the Mother’s Day factor and Nadya Suleman being the most popular news story, but I couldn’t help wondering what the Octomom was in her previous life. My guess is that she was an Olive Ridley turtle.