Of Journalism

December 14, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:26 pm

The luck seekers

The luck seekers

Preying on superstitions and fears

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: With dreams shining in their eyes, they visit these places. While some come to make their imaginations come true, others want to learn how to contact god through meditation.

There are some who go to these places to learn about their future and try to change the bad luck they might foresee, as they feel that their lives and careers hang by a thread. These places are the deras of palmists, where a solution to any conceivable problem is offered. Javeria Jalil, 34, is one of those who believe in the charisma of astrologers and palmists and that by acting on the advice of these people, one can turn his or her future around.

“I was facing some problems at home and baba gave me an amulet, after which all my problems were solved,” Javeria told Daily Times, sitting in room that was different from the normal rooms. The room was pitch dark, save for a few stray rays of light creeping through the crevices of the door and windows and she was surrounded by other believers of the baba, who, like her, accepted his orders with good grace.

Javeria, a teacher by profession, was down on her luck for the past few days and out of sheer desperation decided to visit a local astrologer, whose advertisement she had come across. When she visited the baba’s dera, she was told that all her problems will be solved and all she had to do was donate Rs 10,000, which she happily did. “After I visited baba, my problems were actually solved so I am here again,” she said, adding that the purpose of this visit was to get rid of her mother-in-law.

The palmistry business is gaining popularity in Karachi by the day, with the fortunetellers relying now relying on electronic and print advertisement and not just wall chalking and word of mouth. Moreover, there is no mistaking that they take their work seriously, with their deras having a certain mysterious aura, complete with enigmatic voices and sounds of people crying, as though they are being punished by the baba for not obeying his orders.

The usual visitors are mostly females belonging to the upper or middle class. These palmists and astrologers have established their deras in posh areas of the city, such as Clifton and Saddar, even hiring people to work as public relations officers.

They give out amulets and make prophecies and have managed to rope in many females in the city like, Javeria, who believe in the expertise of such people. However, there are dozens of women in the city who have been cheated by palmists and they have lodged FIRs of fraud against them. The women say that after these so called babas get money out of their ignorant customers the palmists disappear and the dherra is never found again.

Jamila Shaheen would go to Baba Shaaki Bengali regularly and said that he was a fraud. She wanted a baby boy and the baba told her to give him all her jewelry if she earnestly wanted him. He gave her some verses to read but they had no affect. When Shaheen went back to the baba’s dera there was no sign of him. She now goes from police station to police station in hopes of finding the man and her jewelry.

Ghulam Zoki, an astrologer, who resides in the Sohrab Goth area, defends his profession and says that they use their knowledge to solve people’s problems and do not even ask for money in return and accept whatever donation, that their customers give to them. He went on to say that “Astrology is not a profession but in fact is a form of social work.”

He said that astrologers do not advertise for fame but do so to extend their help to as many people as possible.

Police officials say that they receive hundreds of palmist fraud cases every year. CID’s ASI Junaid said that the police cannot stop people from consulting palmists. The police have arrested some of the fraud babas however in most of the cases they escape safely, he said.

“Most women blindly trust fake babas and when they are cheated out of money they turn to the police for help,” he said. The police official said that even though most of these astrologers, palmists and babas are frauds the business is gaining popularity.

Psychologist Dr Mukhtaar Awan is baffled by the people who go to these deras and says that all people in the astrology business are frauds. “All people who think that their problems can be solved by palmists have psychological problems,” he said.



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