The Bejan Daruwalla I got to know in '84 at mid-day, and loved until he passed away...
I used to look at him, 5 feet nothing and a roly-poly 200 pounds, he could no longer see the twinkling feet that got him trophies and won matches, and try to imagine Bejan as an athletic streak of lightning. But I failed each time.
Shree Ganesha Namah! I give you Bejan Daruwalla. The delightful and bawdy Parsi astrologer and celebrated Ganpati bhakt. Also a diehard Ahmedabadi. People used to think he was from Mumbai. But he was from Ahmedabad. That’s where he was born and that’s where he died last evening of pneumonia in Apollo Hospital. His father owned textile mills. Bejan had no head for business. He was into poetry and literature. He became a professor. He used to also tell me he was Ahmedabad’s 100 metres sprint champion back in the day. And played hockey and cricket for the varsity. I used to look at him, 5 feet nothing and a roly-poly 200 pounds, he could no longer see the twinkling feet that got him trophies and won matches, and try to imagine Bejan as an athletic streak of lightning. But I failed each time. However, his girth matched his mirth, and I loved his Parsi masti and dum.
We went back a long way, to 1984 in fact, before Indira's assassination and the Bhopal gas tragedy, both of which Bejan accurately predicted. But he was not a Prophet of Doom. He also forecast some wonderfully accurate successes for Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar when they were down and out. And the political fortunes of world leaders, the destinies of nations. I was a sub-editor at mid-day. Bejan used to write a hugely successful daily astrology column for us. He was staying at the Shalimar Hotel in Kemps Corner and came to our office in Tardeo bringing one week’s forecasts at a time. I lost them all one day. Afraid of also losing my job, I fearfully began writing the daily forecasts myself under the great Bejan Daruwalla’s name. It was not difficult to do, people were emotionally bankrupt, they wanted to read good predictions only. But I got caught. My editor Behram (Busybee) Contractor was furious. Not with me. But with Bejan! He fired him. Told him that one of his “boys” was writing the astrology column and nobody could tell the difference!
An introduction to Bejan Daruwala in mid-day's edition in 1982
Bejan and I were friends since then. I used to see him twice a year. He travelled the world, but like a homing pigeon always found his way back to Mumbai. I thought he loved Ahmedabad but missed Mumbai. He used to come for his birthday on July 11. And then in September with the manuscript for his next year’s book of astrological forecasts. On one such occasion, he talked to me about death. He was a practising Zoroastrian, he went to the agiary, and he tied the Parsi sudreh and kusti. But he got his assurance and faith from Lord Ganesh. Bejan told me, “Ganesha is my anchor, my protection, my strength. And when I die, I’ll go to Ganesha, he’s my Lord and master. I’ll tell you something, I practice ephemeris, that is panchang, and western astrology, I know how to read the code of the planets, and while I can truly predict the fate of countries, I don’t know my own destiny. The great lesson of astrology is that you are aware that life itself is change. Accept it, and enjoy it in every possible way.” Farewell, my friend. I will always miss you.
Mark Manuel is a Mumbai-based senior editor, author and writer
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