Fortune Tellers

Heraclitus would have loved Glasgow’s Merchant City. It is in a constant state of flux – seldom can one be in this district during daylight hours without having to listen to a road drill or see a doll’s-house cross section of a building such as this one. I’m not sure why I took this photograph but I must have wanted it quite badly as I had to wait for about six construction vehicles to pass before I could get a decent shot.

On my way home, I was stopped by a young Sikh-looking man. He didn’t seem to speak much English and instead presented a laminated card. My racist brain told me to keep on walking as he was probably after a portion my precious dosh but he wore an impeccably sharp suit and so I discounted this idea and stopped to read his card.

A beggar he was not, but rather – his card announced – some sort of ‘swami’ capable of reading fortunes. This didn’t really make sense to me as ‘swami’, as far as I know, is a Hindu title and this guy seemed to be a Sikh.

If I had money I’d have probably humoured the guy, mainly to see how he could tell me my fortune without the gift of English language. But alas, I was coinless so I told him no thank you and continued on my way. “You are a very lucky man”, he said as I left.

This struck me as a rather nice thing to say considering I’d declined his offer. But then I couldn’t help wondering if “You are a very lucky man” might be some kind of curse or insult akin to the quasi-Chinese “May you live in Interesting Times.”

Following closely behind the young guy was an elderly Sikh man wearing a similarly amazing suit and with the biggest and most handsome turban I think I have ever seen.

The old guy produces a laminated card in the exact same fashion as his colleague had done, despite the fact that he must surely have seen me decline the offer already. “No thank you,” I said smiling and again I was told that I am “a very lucky man”. When he said this, the old Sikh rubbed the bridge of his nose from top to bottom. I am aware that I have a rather ‘defined’ nose: consequently I cannot help wondering whether my ‘luck’ has something to do with my being gifted in the conk department.

A quick google search for the phrase “You are a very lucky man” results in similar anecdotes but in these, the ‘Swami’ starts off with the phrase as a way of getting the traveller’s attention (and not, conversely, as a parting note). Perhaps the guys I spoke to just got their patter muddled up, much as they may have done with the term ‘Swami’.

If anyone actully knows what the phrase “You are a very lucky man” might mean coming from such people, please do not leave me curious.

In other news, points out that my recent Idler article has drummed up some stimulating conversation on the magazine’s accompanying discussion forum. It all looks remarkably critical, which of course I find rather thrilling.

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