A guinea pig named Ganesh sizes me up and selects a card from those spread out in front of him. He nudges it towards his master, S Govindaraj, a 68-year-old street fortune-teller near Shivajinagar bus station in Bangalore. “Very good, let’s see what’s in store for you,’’ says Govindaraj. He unfolds the card, which bears an image of Lord Krishna and several astrological signs. He then rattles off my rashi and the gods and goddesses upon whom I can count on.
“You are a very creative person. Your hard work will take you places,’’ he says, “Shani is not going to trouble you. You have overcome most of your major troubles. The last two years have been very comfortable.
The same will continue for some years in future. If you have children, focus on their education.’’ Ganesh climbs all over Govindaraj, as if expecting a reward. Govindaraj feeds him nuts and fruit before returning him to his tiny cage.
Ganesh has been with Govindaraj for five years. Normally in India astrology is the turf of parrots. Govindaraj had a parrot too, called Gunda. But he was a rose-ringed parrot, a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act. In 2010, he was seized by wildlife volunteers and forest department officers. Govindaraj claims Gunda also acted in eight Kannada movies as a fortune-teller. Govindaraj charges Rs 20 per customer. Extra questions cost more. He and Ganesh are also invited for birthday parties and other functions.
Why did Govindaraj replace Gunda with a guinea pig? “It won’t run away, for one. It’s small, convenient and not a protected animal. They quickly adapt and can be easily trained,’’ he says. He had a guinea pig as a pet some years ago. Guinea pigs are used by pharma companies for research and once they serve their utility, they are euthanised. Some of them make their way into pet shops.
Govindaraj recently bought a few months’ old guinea pig. It lives in the same box as Ganesh. A wire mesh separates their spaces. He calls this apprentice guinea pig Murugan.
By now, the crowd opposite the Shivajinagar bus terminal is curious. “Did anything he said match with your life?’’ asks Shanmuga Das. I nod in the affirmative.