The Astrologer

by Caroline R

A leap into the unknown India


"I know a bit about astrology," he says. "Let me read your sign." We are standing in the shadow of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, my first Sikh temple. I can hear him over the hum of prayers that grow faint with every step we take. The cool stone on my bare feet reminds me that I'm returning home to winter. That this city which has tried my patience would finally soon be only a view outside my window through clouds. "December" I say as we stop to run our hands through the holy waters. What strikes you is the peace. The tranquility and the calm. The thought that maybe if you look up you could see stars and not smog. For a moment you are not in Delhi. Not in India. Not anywhere you have been before. "December?" he says, pleasantly surprised and with a coy smile. I should have believed when I saw that smile. "You live through your words," he starts. I turn my gaze from the men washing their faces, beards dripping in the holy water. Now he has my attention. "You have a troubling relationship with siblings" forces a long, measured drag of warm air as I think of the voice I have not heard in years. He goes on to say things no stranger could know and reads me his favorite prayer that he says will teach me about what it means to be Sikh. He translates to English, from a scribbled note kept in the corner of his wallet. We stand there in the night, the only light reflecting from the temple off the bay of holy water. He reads a broken translation of a prayer for those who worry. Why do you waste your time with worry? "Was I right?" I thought he might say, but instead we walk around the water, the hum of prayer turning from echoes back to words. We share a silence only enjoyed by old friends or perfect strangers. "Let's collect your shoes" brings me back to Delhi. To the city I had wanted to leave. To the place I thought I would never return. On scraps of paper, on bus rides and in traffic, I had counted the days and then the hours until home. It's just not a city for me, I had said. But then, it was.