I’m a sucker for a fortune teller. And so, when I heard the second most famous pagoda in Yangon had resident soothsayers, I headed straight there.
When I arrived and saw the monstrous traffic that stood between me and my destiny, I almost lost my nerve. Because Sule Pagoda and its palm readers and astrologers also happen to occupy a huge traffic island slap bang in the middle of the busiest part of a city notorious for heavy traffic.
There, bus, taxi and truck drivers smack their feet to the floor as they vie with one another for the tiny gaps in the roaring sea of vehicles.
So near and yet so far from finding out what the future held, I hovered on the pavement trying to work out how to cross the road. It was obvious I had to find an old woman, or some young children, who I could latch on to for safety. But there weren’t any. So I hesitated, wondering if I even had a future.
Shortly I spied some locals stepping confidently into the road, right in front of the oncoming phalanx of machinery. They didn’t look suicidal, and yet what they were doing seemed extremely dangerous. But there it was, they reached the other side, while I was still hopping from foot to foot at first base.
Eventually, I ratcheted up my courage and ghosted across the street with another group of locals. Trying to look nonchalant, I failed miserably when I burst into a run halfway across the road.
Anyway, there I was, across the street at the steps of the great golden Pagoda. About to face my future.
Sule pagoda is large, beautiful and round, a major landmark in the Yangon cityscape. The pagoda itself is reached by walking up steps at a number of entrances intermittently spaced around the base of the building. Between these entrances are an interesting collection of miniature shops selling engravings and other small goods. Eventually, I came upon the row of fortune tellers.
I chose Saya Aung Bo Bo Min. Mainly because he was the first one, and I needed to sit down. He also spoke good English which was a helpful bonus.
His small office was decorated, unsurprisingly, with large posters of palms and astrology symbols.
After asking me my date, time and day of birth, he pulled out some manuals and started doing calculations on his phone. Then he looked at my palms and gave me a serious look.
“I see you are very brave and adventurous”, he said. “And you also take risks”. I immediately knew he understood what I had just suffered to get to him.
Then he furrowed his brow and prodded my palm. “This”, he said, “means you will have very good income”, he paused, “after the age of 60”. That wasn’t really good news. I need good income right now.
Then he said “I see lots of travel. Much travel. In the past and also in the future.” Relief – I might survive crossing the road again after the reading.
He added “You are a generous and kind person. A philanthropist.” Was this a way of saying the price had gone up and he also expected a large tip? I wasn’t sure.
“You have a vassmnd.” What? “You have a vassss mnnnnndd,” he repeated slowly. Ohhhhh – a fast mind. We both smiled indulgently at each other as mutual recognition dawned. He no doubt regretting that prediction as I instantly proved him wrong.
He quickly moved on to a new subject.
“Next year you will buy or renovate a house.” How so, I wondered. I’m not turning sixty for a while.
He looked at his calculations again. “You need to be careful.” I sat up straight – ready for the bad news. “You will soon get food poisoning, or cut yourself, but it will not be serious.”
As someone who backpacked for two months across India – bug free – it was unlikely to be the food poisoning. So it must be the wound. Immediately my imagination unleashed its worst. I would get slashed by some rusty nail in the street. There would be blood, lots of blood, gushing everywhere. I would be rushed in a dirty ambulance somewhere unspeakable. Gangrene would set in. But wait, hadn’t he said it wouldn’t be serious? The disaster movie in my mind paused.
Then he gave me another serious, but kindly, look and concluded “You will live a long life.” Relief. So the slash wound and/or traffic accident as I crossed the road again outside wouldn’t be fatal.
At least not today, but maybe after the age of 60, just after I get that good income.