From left: Ankita Chatterjii, Himonjyoti Deka, Richa Rana.
Two years ago, Himonjyoti Deka, a software engineer in the northeastern state of Assam, gave up his fledgling career in an IT firm to become a full-time astrologer.
The 27-year-old said he decided to become an “astropreneur” while meditating. After rigorously training for about a year and a half, he started with a few predictions for friends. Soon the word spread and he found himself fielding over 50 to 100 inquiries a day.
It helped that his Instagram page the_nerd_astrologer was up and running by then, and speckled with tell-all testimonies from his clients, which became a portfolio of sorts for his services. It now has over 7k followers.
He decided to make the radical career change after becoming disillusioned with the corporate world.
“I couldn’t tolerate the “dreams” sold by the corporates, particularly the long hours and less pay,” Deka said. “Besides, I value freedom more than anything else.”
Now he claims he makes much more money than he did as a developer, and also has more time for himself and his family.
The concerns of his customers are similar: When will I get a good job? Who will I marry? Am I destined to get rich? Over the pandemic, these questions have evolved to: When will my family recover from the coronavirus?
Deka is among a new vanguard of astrologers in India who are ditching their day jobs and turning to a career in astrology. They have modern lifestyles, are highly educated, and cater to millennials in contrast with the traditional astrologer wearing saffron-coloured robes and plying the streets of India’s major cities in robes.
The demand for such services is perennially present in India because Indians—predominantly Hindus—consult astrologers before auspicious occasions.
Deka charges anywhere between INR 3,600 ($49) for a single, straightforward query, to INR 12,800 ($176) for insights on more complicated issues such as property disputes and election outcomes.
But the predictions are not limited to situations in the future and are often accompanied by insights from the past, like if a client was betrayed by a close friend, or if they suffered from digestive problems.
Part of what makes astrology so accessible is that no query is off-limits. If someone is considering several marriage prospects, an astrologer can help decide which candidate will work out best. That’s what Dipamani Sarma, 28, a school teacher from Assam did.
“Himonjyoti was able to predict the physical appearance and nature of the man I would be with, which in my case, turned out to be true,” Sarma, who got married in February, told VICE World News.
Richa Rana, 39, is a business analyst-turned-astrologer in Gurugram, a satellite of New Delhi. “At some point, I felt the need to transition from ambition to purpose,” she said.
Rana said she helps her clients understand the self before moving on to predictions. “A few years ago a young corporate employee in search of himself confessed to me that I was able to know him better in only one session than his parents have known him in years,” said Rana, who follows a “no quick readings” policy, and charges INR 10,000 ($137) for a two-hour session.
But you don’t have to believe in astrology to be an astropreneur. Puneet Gupta, 31, a former techie, did not believe in the practice, which mainly involves reading one’s birth chart, until five years ago. In 2017, he founded an astrology startup, Astrotalk. The app has more than one million downloads.
So what changed? “A chance prediction from a friend,” said Gupta. His favourite story is about one of his first clients who was frustrated with his job. The astrologer with Gupta’s organisation predicted that he would soon relocate to a foreign country. Within a few months, the man was working in Dubai.
But what happens when the predictions don’t turn out to be true? “Our terms and conditions clearly state these are predictions, so they are only estimates and do not define the future,” Gupta said.
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