Kids Corner


The Delicate Art of Prophecy




We are well on our way into the second decade of the new century and millennium.

Before I put more distance between me and my past, I would like to reminisce a little, if I may.

My earliest, formative memory is of the late 30s. It was a time when, as we grew up, we were expected to do what our parents did, live where they lived, worship where they worshipped, and almost think what they thought!

In retrospect, life was pedestrian but predictable. The accumulated wisdom of generations provided adequate groundwork for the future, and we took the song 'que sera, sera' to heart.

Technology has since accelerated the pace of change so much in the last 50 years that the future seems to arrive faster every day. The hyped up, overpowering fear of Y2K's wrath is now buried as an anticlimax in our quickly receding memory, but I suspect billions of dollars were made trying to find a solution for a non-existent problem.

There is, of course, still no reliable crystal ball available, and 'que sera, sera' still remains a valid and good operative principle.

Here are some of the amusing stories of the crystal-balling known as 'weather forecasting' that came my way during my time on the Plantations.

In the 70’s I was the Plantation Manager in the Southern Malaysian State of Johor. I was involved with a large scale replanting of Oil Palm hectareage. The weather was very important for that operation. On the estate was an old watchman who was known to forecast the weather with uncanny accuracy. If he said it would rain, he was right nine times out of ten. When asked how he did it, he would just say, “I can feel it in my bones”.

Years later, his secret came out, and it had nothing to do with his bones. In the course of his watchman duties, he would see the north- and south-bound trains pass through the estate. If the train cars were wet, he’d predict rain. Since the train always beat the prevailing winds, he could with a great degree of accuracy predict the local weather within 30 to 45 minutes.

Unknown to me, we had a prophet in our own house.

My good wife, Upkar Kaur, could predict rain with almost 90% accuracy - without even looking at the trains. She did it by just checking her sinuses. If they were blocked, it would rain. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to her when she would insist that the kids carry their raincoats or umbrellas to school, even though there were no visible signs of rain. But, pour it would, and I started to rely on her sinuses with new-found respect.

She was even awarded a small salary increase for her services.

Back to the weather: I have saved a tattered newspaper clipping, which I had archived a long time ago for private amusement. It is a weather forecast from the Western Daily Mail and it says, in toto: "Outlook: Dry and warm, but cooler with some rain.’

Here you have, in a single pithy sentence, the English weather captured to perfection: dry but rainy with some warm/cool spells. The Western Daily Mail could run that forecast every day and scarcely ever be wrong.

We have in this century itself, a plethora of solutions looking for problems, and drugs that we have already discovered, eagerly awaiting matching diseases to be found for them.

I think we could make this new century all the more exciting if we only stopped killing each other in the name of religion. In most of our countries - certainly not limited to the Islamic and Jewish Middle-East or the Christian United States, taking but two examples - it is big business, with a promise of great rewards in the hereafter.

There are now, I'm told, a new generation of suicide hotlines.

It seems a young man called the other day to say that he was out of job and highly depressed, and was contemplating suicide. The operator at the call centre got excited and asked if he could drive a truck.

Well, jokes apart, when will we get to live peacefully? Prophets have come and gone, giving out special dispensations to people everywhere. Yet, the prophecy of peace remains pregnant and long overdue.

Only if Upkar Kaur's sinuses could tell us a bit more of our future!


August 17, 2011



Conversation about this article

1: Simran (Oceanside, California, U.S.A.), August 17, 2011, 9:15 PM.

I predict more comments of appreciation on this piece ;)

2: Tejpreet (Penang, Malaysia), August 20, 2011, 12:27 AM.

I consider myself one of the privileged few, who, together with my two older sisters, spent most of our holidays at the palatial residence of the only Sikh Plantation Manager, our dearest Uncle Sangat, in the 70's. The childhood memories we made when life was all about taking time to smell the roses, can aptly be described as being divinely blissful. Under the watchful eyes of Aunty Upkar, the 4 estate girls and 3 village girls explored their creative skills from culinary to theatre to fashion to anything that tickled their fancy ... Irrespective of Aunty Upkar's magical 'sinuses' and warnings, our evenings by the swimming pool were proclaimed compulsory come rain or shine, where 7 girls, all in a row, screamed 'Geronimo' (on hindsight, 'Boleh So Nihaal' would have been great too) and the loudest splash and laughter was audible throughout the estate. Heaven was right here, deep within the dense oil palm and rubber plantation! I'd like to think that the Art of Prophecy has direct links with the Law of Attraction and hereby prophesy many more highly entertaining, insightful and witty articles from the distinguished "Plantation Manager" himself, no less mighty than the White Maharajas who left behind their colonial mansions, of which I was privy to!

3: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), August 20, 2011, 8:22 AM.

Dear Preeti, what a lovely picture you have painted. It now wants me to revisit that life again that I seem to have missed in the din of 8 girls, counting your auntie Upkar in, all talking and laughing at the same time. And, your auntie Upkar feeding the troops to put the Officers' Mess to shame. It was a lovely, sylvan existence that I miss to this day. Imagine, when Guru Nanak sang out: "Balihaaree kudrat vasyaa tyrraa ant na jaa-ee lakhiaa" [GGS:439.10] - "I am a sacrifice to Your Almighty creative power which pervades all. Your limits cannot be known." To add a bit of humour as is my wont, remember when a lovely chubby baby was seen in the pram and someone remarked, "What a lovely sweet baby!". The proud mother remarked, "Oh! This is nothing, you should see his picture!" Thanks, Preeti, for that lovely picture.

4: Dya Singh (Melbourne, Australia), April 24, 2013, 7:46 AM.

Great article from the birthday boy (18 April)! Brings back some very sweet memories. Reminds me of old black-and-white pictures which captured the slow pace we spent our childhood in. These days kids live in virtual reality - in ipods, ipads, mobiles, sms's, laptops, computer games and TV with parents not having enough time to spend with them. Technology has certainly accelerated the pace of change so much that the future seems to arrive faster every day and religion is certainly getting a very bad name. Live long, Sangat Singh ji.

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