Mission Delhi – Om Prakash, Opposite Civil Hospital
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
No customers are coming to Pandit Om Prakash. The astrologer’s pavement stall is very modest, but a longtime landmark in the area, here in Gurgaon, across the road from Civil Hospital.
In his 60s, he opened the future-telling establishment more than two decades ago, and had to suspend it for almost two years after the arrival of the pandemic in early 2020. During this dark period he mostly stayed at home in Delhi’s Nangloi. “I reopened it three-four months ago, but hours pass and nobody comes,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone.
This afternoon, the road is jammed with cars and bikes, and the pave is clogged with preoccupied pedestrians. The stall’s hand-painted flier fixes the consultation fee at 51 rupees per question. The astrologer explains that he assists his patrons by laying out the good and bad influences of the planets affecting them. These days, though, the few ones who stop by are not those eager to know of their tomorrow, but relatives of the the recently departed. “I’m then taken to their home where I do the pooja-path that has to be performed before the last rites.” In these instances, the astrologer is offered token money “but I never ask, people give me out of devotion… around a thousand rupees.”Lowering his voice, the mild-mannered astrologer discloses that “traditionally my clients are those who are not well-moneyed, and who happen to be confused and troubled about their life and don’t know who to go to.”
This afternoon he has received no visitor for the past two hours. But then he doesn’t worry much and likes to leave things to the will of gods and goddesses, especially Sherawali Maata. Even though the stall is hardly receiving any patronage in the pandemic era, the astrologer has no intention to close it. “This is my purana adda. I have been at it for 25 years. Where will I go if I close it down? At least it makes the time pass.”
[This is the 488th portrait of Mission Delhi project]