LIVES; Destiny's Child

LIVES; Destiny's Child: I've always known that I would die at 63. I'm now 62. The year of my death was foretold in my horoscope, which was cast by my family's astrologer in 1940. Like most Calcuttans of my generation, I might not have a birth certificate, but I do have a horoscope, an older authority, calculated according to the alignments of planets at what my family remembers as the moment of my delivery. This scroll of yellow paper with Hindu astrological charts and Sanskrit writing describes my temperament, alerts me to cosmic incompatibility when looking for a husband and predicts when my life's important events, both pleasant and unpleasant, are likely to happen. When I was 11, my future was read to me. The family elders were deciding whom a distant cousin should marry. They had just discarded their top choice of bridegroom because the couples' horoscopes didn't match. I pestered my father to tell me what kind of marriage I had in store. My father, who was well known for his impassioned delivery of Sanskrit chants, read out the relevant lines. ''There!'' my mother exclaimed. ''I knew there was nothing to worry about.'' The astrologer didn't agree; after all, I would marry a blue-eyed foreigner totally outside the Brahmanic pale of civilization. I also learned that day that I was prone to catching colds, I would cross the oceans and settle far from home -- and I would die between July 2003 and July 2004. I accepted the prediction about death as fully as I did the others. The shocking news was that I was destined to live so long. I was a knowledgeable child, and I knew that the United Nations calculated the average Indian life span to be 37 years.

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