When in trouble I always think of my resourceful grandmother who was a sum of many parts. She was part astrologer, part counsellor and part consoler, who always had time to hear out the gloomy sob stories of neighbours, all complimentary.
Apart from Vedic chants and herbal remedies, she had a bulky troubleshooting almanac wrapped in red cloth that was brought out for detailed consultation. The book called the chinta haran jantri — when literally translated meant a mystic book to rid yourself of all worries. It had detailed time sensitive solutions to all kinds of problems and one needed to be adept at consulting the book, which had a tedious mathematical procedure to arrive at the right conclusion.
My grandmother, attired in immaculate white mulmul sari and a black satin waist coat thrown over her white blouse inspired great confidence of a solution giver to several troubled souls.
We had all and sundry come in to consult her. Barren women, warring couples, men looking to have a dream business, families looking to get wealthy, people dreaming of being wealthy, mothers who had lost their child, even young girls looking to entrap their beau … and she somehow had a solution for everyone.
The book was magical. My grandmother so petite and old, would light incense, consult their natal charts, make mental calculations in thin air and arrive at conclusions based on their time of birth. She would then go in some sort of a trance and Viola! She’d have come up with a solution. The troubleshooting almanac was unwrapped, the pages turned and opened to one exact page. As if the solution was right there waiting to be discovered.
She would then read it out to them, explaining intricate procedures in detail. What sounded to me like some gibberish actually worked in many instances — missing children turned up at on the threshold of their home, couples buried the hatchet to settle down in peace, barren women bore children and suddenly everything seemed right with the world. All my doubts of her staging an act disappeared when she scored more successes than failures.
A solution for every problem
I never really figured out whether it was her charisma that worked like a placebo, or was it the magic of the almanac? Could a wonder book miraculously resolve problems? I guess it was a combination of both. Some solutions worked out according to the laws of permutation and combination in conjunction with her pep talk.
I had witnessed the transformation of many an individual within a few weeks of consultation. They would metamorphose from these weak, sad and dithering personas into confident, happy and positive people.
Sometimes when problems mount, and a solution escapes me, in that blind alley within my mind, I think of the troubleshooting almanac. What if there indeed exists a written repository of divine aphorisms that can pinpoint each problem and have a crisply spelt out solution? Perhaps a figment of my imagination.
More than the almanac we need real trouble shooting people of the past. A bunch of fearless, die-hard optimists like my grandma who are gifted with a robust, practical world view and can inspire fear in the hearts of troublemakers and soothe and calm the troubled.
Forget the book, finding people who have the time or the inclination to lend a patient ear to the troubles of another would be a miracle.