Since the earliest of times, human beings have invested quite a bit of time and money on getting to know the future. From the Pythian priestesses at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, through the warnings of Caesar's soothsayer to the brilliant Paul, fortune-telling has provided its share of joys and sorrows to the world. Except for Paul, the results, if they could be computed would probably be 50:50. But Paul is an exception, the latest icon of anthropocentric deconstruction. He is after all an octopus and his specialisation is football.
But spare a thought for Mithu the prophetic parrot that belongs to Purple Trivedi. When he was born Trivedi was given the name Popul. During his growing years, unemployment drove him to this unusual profession under the tutelage of his grand-uncle who was an innovator of rare forms of income. For many years now, Popul can be found either at the roadside in the vicinity of the civil court through most of the year or near the High Court to cater to the litigant clientele at both the courts of justice, as well as to scholastic futures at Patna Women's College.
Several years ago when Mithu his capricious parrot pulled out a slip of paper to predict excellent B.A results for a student of this premier college, Popul received Rs 100/- and in front of fifteen of her classmates, he was anointed 'Purple'- the royal colour that now defines this fine professional. Purple, I suspect, earns most of his money from the litigants but derives a great deal of aesthetic pleasure from the opposite location.
Once, many moons gone by, I tried to talk Purple into getting educated but he politely spurned my offer saying that he now earned more than what most vocational courses would enable him make. Instead he wondered if I had any questions to ask about the future and said that he would be happy to offer answers at a discount. Being a hard-boiled rational skeptic, I thought it would be a sheer waste of time. But on each of these occasions I would give him some small change for Mithu's bird-feed.
This happened until the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, when I actually paid Purple to get predictions from Mithu. I did so because I wanted to prove that the prophetic Indian parrot could be at least as good as a German octopus. Sadly Mithu got most of the answers wrong. Why is it that Paul the Octopus in Germany can get it all right and Mithu in Patna gets them mostly wrong? The injustice was plainly, well ..unjust.
Purple, I asked, what's going on? Purple thought for a while and said that Mithu for some reason had been a little out of sorts. Perhaps, he was a little unhappy. I felt bad and gave Purple some more money for Mithu's bird-feed.
When I went back to Purple and Mithu the next day, I asked two questions. One, are the university teachers actually going to get the new pay scales? Mithu came out of its barred cage, picked out a fraying slip and Purple read out NAHI. I asked the next question: will the ruling coalition return to power after the autumn elections in Bihar? Mithu walked across to the same fraying slip and pulled it out and once again, Purple read out NAHI. As I was returning home, I was wondering if the law of probabilities would finally catch up with Mithu and Paul. If it were so, I'd head for an Indian version of Canterbury, wait for the events to unfold and perhaps write an unpredictable tale.