I never planned to be a fortune teller. When my friend Ruchi gave me her book of palmistry, it looked so silly that I never expected to read it, let alone read anyone's palm. But as I discovered more and more about myself in the book, I was hooked! With every page I would read my own hands and then my sister’s. Very soon we were having palmistry parties for friends. We did it in the day with peanuts and oranges, we did it in the afternoon with tea, and we did it at night, snuggled inside warm quilts. Discussing each other was so addictive that before long, palmistry became a full scale passion!
Soon I began seeing a darker side of palmistry. Predicting someone’s future is like walking into a minefield, you never know which step will blow up! I remember telling a friend who was applying for a visa that he would only travel in old age. I told another person that fame would hurt him, and found out later that he wanted a career in music. I told someone that she would have only one man in her life, not knowing that she was going through a difficult breakup. The disappointment in their faces still haunts me. Hence, I think it is a good idea to explore the flaws of palmistry and establish exactly what palmistry can tell you and what it cannot.
First of all, palmistry is not without its virtues. It builds instant rapport. With new people, it is an easy way to talk about their personal life. With old friends, secrets come tumbling out. Many of the insights of palmistry have been dermatologically proven. Our hands say so much about our health. Unfortunately, people do not want to hear about the relation between nail color and liver damage; I myself skipped these boring parts. When it comes to the sensational details of money, love, and longevity, palmistry stands on shaky grounds. Even the textbooks do not speak of them with much conviction. They circumvent prediction by saying that lines change with time. For example, there may be several potential lovers on your hand, but if you settle down with one of them, the rest are supposed to fade.
The science of palmistry (if it can be called a science) comes with many in-built flaws that add to the confusion. Let us start with the flaw of subjectivity. Fortunately or unfortunately, the small group of family and friends who were my first “clients” all had very dramatic lines. Once I emerged from this cocoon of megalomaniacs, all other hands seemed pale and event-less. For example, a friend of mine is blessed with a very long head line, but since I didn’t know it was exceptional, I assumed it was normal. To anyone with a slightly shorter head line, I said “you will never go beyond bachelors.” Many of those terrified individuals nevertheless completed their masters. Another friend had the lines for a dozen love affairs. This seemed standard to me, and if anyone had just five affairs, I would tell them they had normal healthy relationships. Which was far from the truth. A palmist may have learned the theory, but in practice, her reading is a function of her subjective point of view and her level of experience.
Secondly, like every traditional source of knowledge, palmistry is biased. Traditionally only typical Aryan hands were considered auspicious. In America I found many Africans students with dark palms and deep lines, which the textbooks classify as sinister. At a recent Nepali gathering I learnt that Gurungs tend to have light markings, which would be called fickle. You don't have to be a genius to know that not every African is sinister and not every Gurung is fickle. The sheer arrogance of these prejudiced textbooks is remarkable.
And then there is the gender bias, always found in traditional knowledge. According to the textbooks, the left hand is the destiny that you are born with (bhagya), and the right hand shows what you make of it (karma). (And many books are simply garbled about how to read a left-handed person’s palms.)When I read hands, I read both hands for all genders. But women often present their left hands, and when I ask men for their left hand, they ask “isn’t that my wife’s?” Apparently women can make nothing of their lives, and their fortunes should be read in their husband’s hands!
An obscure bit of gender bias is the ratio of index finger to ring finger. Today, it is medically proven that men normally have a longer ring finger than index finger, and the opposite is true for women. But according to palmists, anyone with a longer index finger is likely to be mentally unstable. Yes, you read that right, in the world of palmistry, all women are schizophrenic.
Finally, some of the things that you can read are simply not true. When my friend’s husband obtained an American visa, he had no travel lines. Three years in the US, and he still has no travel lines. Another friend went through a life threatening disease, but there are no indications of such trouble in her hands.
Often, the most memorable revelations do not come from the palmist. Palmistry creates an ambience of intimacy that inspires people to open up. It is not unusual for palmistry sessions to lead to heart to heart chatathons. Professional palmists know these tricks very well, and they can tell you exactly what you want to hear, not from what they read but from how you respond to their readings. Hence, at the end of the day, palmistry is great fun, but don’t believe it, and definitely don’t pay for it.