The Shadow Reader

It is June in Bombay, 11.30 am. It is hot and humid, my friend Juliette and I are walking in Girgaum on our way to meet The Shadow Reader, thanks to the Love Bombay guide by Fiona Caulfield. 

We enter the old dilapidated building, it looks empty and abandoned. With each step I think the staircase will collapse. However, when we reach, we see the whole family is living there. They ask us to sit in the entrance, covered with articles and a diploma.

The Shadow Reader: Anilkumar B. Acharya

An Indian family with their daughter is also waiting with us. The Shadow Reader is famous for wedding questions. It is 12. A young man, the son of the master, takes us to the roof top of the building. We climb a few more broken steps and he makes us stand in different positions to take the measurement of our shadows.

At this moment, we are sweating, melting, giggling and excited. Coming back down to the master's office, he asks the usual questions: date of birth, time of birth, place of birth, name of father and mother.

Then giving me paper and a pen, he asks me to write down the date, and all my questions while he consults an old manuscript with scripture and does his calculations.

We are ready.

He first asks me about my mother. He says: What happened with your mother? I answer: My mother died of cancer when I was 2 years old.

Then, asking me to write down what he says, he briefly answers my questions and starts to tell me about my life from now to the date of my death in periods of 5 years.

He first says: You have to concentrate on your design. I didn’t say I was a designer. Maybe I look like a designer.

Mostly his study was about work, social work and spirituality. To see my life unfold for the next 40 years, allows me to see that I have  the time to do all the things I want to do in my life:

1. Become a very good designer.
2. From there I will be able to share my knowledge, help others, do social work and
3. Finally become a cute, peaceful, happy old nani.

Me who is always frustrated to not be able to everything I want to do, realises that I have time. I decide I should just concentrate on what I am doing now instead of always feeling frustrated about what I am not doing.

He insists during our meeting about my health, repeating: Don't worry, health is good, nothing serious like mama.

He ends the session with previous life, next life and date of death.

Previous life was in Bangalore and I was in performance. Maybe dance? That's what I want to believe!

In my next life, I will be a yoga teacher in Pondicherry. "In next life only?" I ask, because I am doing a yoga teacher training course. He answers: No, this life you are a designer, next life a yoga teacher, you are just preparing yourself for your next life.

I smile.

Then, he tells me my date of death. I look at him and he says: Write it down, my love.


Illustrator and designer Deborah Di Fiore looks for meaning in absurdity and loves the experience. She lives and works in Bombay. Find her work here and follow her on Instagram at @modestgeniusdesign.