My 'friend' Vijay

15 Sep 2013, 11:48 p.m.
An encounter with a yogi in Zürich.

The other afternoon I was happily strolling through the old town of Zürich, enjoying the light drizzle that had broken through after weeks of hot weather, with some errands to do but in no hurry. Ironically, I think I was even musing on how much better my life has been since I found an antidepressant that works for me.

"You are a very lucky woman!" a voice called out. I looked over into the face of a bearded Indian man wearing a turban. Well-practiced though I am in blanking this sort of approach in the street, in responding not at all or with a quick nod and a picked-up pace, this time I gave him a smile and thanks. I felt lucky, after all.

"You know why I say this?" he continued. "I see you walking along with a big smile on your face and I can tell from your aura — you know what the aura is?" I nodded. "I can tell from your aura, you are a very lucky woman. But you are also thinking too much." He pointed at the frown lines between my eyebrows that are becoming a permanent feature, because I do think a lot. That's not to say it's all high-quality deep thought, just that it takes up a lot of my time. He softened the blow. "But maybe you don't think too much, because you know they say, if you don't think, you can't be happy."

"Well, I'm pretty happy," I said.

"Yes, you are, I can tell. But you know, I can tell that you are worried about things, you are worried about your work, no? And you will never succeed, do you know why? Because you have two bad habits. And unless you get rid of those habits, you will never get success."

Naturally, I wanted to know what those habits were! (My guesses were: 1. Wasting time on the internet when I should be doing something else, and 2. Picking at my skin.) It was also apparent that this conversation was turning into a cold-reading scam that would end with a request for money. After a bit more of this talk, the man introduced himself as Vijay, a yogi master from India, and asked if we could sit down together somewhere so he could give me more advice. The streets were quiet but not deserted, he was shorter than me and I was curious about his methods, so I agreed.

Vijay had a filofax filled with laminated photos to back up his claims, including one of himself meditating on a rock, wearing only turban and shorts, and one in which he dished up food from a steel pot to a queue of Indian women and children. The first thing he did once we had sat down was to ask me to write my full name in his notepad — a nice example of the foot-in-the-door technique. I used my real first name and mother's maiden name, and wrote down my gran's name too when he asked for that, figuring it couldn't hurt her much as she's dead. Next, we played the game where he wrote on a slip of paper, folded it up and gave it to me to hold, before asking me a series of questions. The answers to these he noted on another paper. If he had written down my answers before I had even heard the questions, would I believe in his powers? Would I promise? Yes, of course I would.

The results:

  1. I was to pick a number between 5 and 9. I chose 7, the most obvious answer. He had indeed written down 7.
  2. What was my favourite flower? Tulip. He had written, "T. F.," which could certainly stand for tulip flower.
  3. What was I most worried about? What were my troubles? Since we had already discussed work, and I'd decided to give him no more personal information than necessary, I repeated that my problems were work-related. Sure enough, that's what the paper said.
  4. How old was I? Twenty-nine. Vijay had written down the same number. I must be starting to look my age.

The rest of our conversation carried on in the same manner as before. Vijay talked quickly about my life and troubles, recommending meditation and yoga, neither of which is a bad idea, actually. I nodded and gave non-commital answers. He gave me his Indian phone number and asked me to call, anytime, but only if I wanted, because we were friends now, weren't we. He was completely right when he said the last three years have been tough and full of ups and downs. When he guessed that my heart had recently been broken, though, he was utterly wrong.

My two bad habits turned out to be that I was too open and trusting of other people — a nice touch indeed! — and that there were people around me whose negative energies I allowed to influence me. (Does this mean I can spend as long as I like on Tumblr and MetaFilter? Probably not.)

Finally, Vijay informed me that although I was healthy, three of my chakras were blocked. He sketched a helpful diagram. The first one was the chakra for my mind — did I get headaches? That would be why. Secondly, my stomach chakra was blocked. I had stomach aches sometimes, yes? No more than any other twenty-nine-year-old with career woes, or so I'd thought, but now it was all explained. Finally — sorry to say — the sex chakra. I had trouble with the menstrual flow? Too strong, too weak? Find me somebody who is satisfied with their menstrual flow and maybe then we can talk about my sex chakra, I thought but did not say. Luckily, Vijay would be able to help me realign everything with his yogic energies if he could just come back to my apartment now. There was no reason to be afraid, as he had sworn entirely off drugs, drink and sex. My four imaginary housemates, however, made that impossible.

At long last came the request for money, for the children I'd seen in Vijay's pictures, nothing for himself. I laid some down: a compromise between my cynicism and my manners, I suppose, the latter being painstakingly optimised for avoiding any kind of fuss. Besides, it had been interesting. In return, he blessed a rudraksha seed and gave it to me. We parted friends, at his insistence. Could he have a hug? He got a guarded one. Could he kiss me? No. This surprised him and he asked why not. Well, I felt I should start being more cautious around people, thanks to his advice.