born under an unlucky star

Parents feel immense grief and helplessness when too many things go wrong, one after another, in the life of their adult child. So they get him to come back home, to take care of him until things are better. They say he was born under an unlucky star.

What is Luck? This is what researchers who have been studying Luck have to say:

  • Luck is subjective, and a positive attitude can make you luckier.
  • Alert people who watch for opportunities can create good luck by grasping a chance quickly.
  • Lucky people tend to use serendipitous encounters cleverly, though they might say, “I got lucky”.
  • Lucky people vary their routines and thus increase the likelihood of serendipitous events.
  • Successful gamblers hone their betting patterns to get luck on their side. I don’t know how that might work, but that’s what they say.

Is there no such thing as pure luck that is controlled by Destiny alone? I do believe there is. Some people seem more prone to having things go dreadfully wrong with everything they try. I think the fear and negative attitude are a result, rather than the source, of bad luck.

I’ve heard people described as ‘someone whose touch can turn gold into mud’, the opposite of ‘someone with a Midas touch’. Some of them have gone from mistake to astonishing mistake, so you might wonder for a moment if they did create their own bad luck. But if you listen carefully to their story you can quite see that they couldn’t have done things differently in the circumstances of the time. Only in hindsight does it look like they could have.

As psychiatrists, we don’t usually make room for luck in interpreting patients’ problems, especially as people in India express it in astrological terms like, “Our astrologer told us he is going through saade-saatha shani”, and we know nothing about Astrology. We are trained to look at events in a patient’s life pro forma:


How did it start and progress

What was the immediate cause

Why does it persist

What has been done about it so far

Has such a thing happened before

Family history

Personal history

How is his current mental state

Though we empathise, our primary job is to objectively work out how best to alleviate his distress using solutions that Science offers.

Answering our questions can’t be easy for the patient. He can’t always justify the steps he took as he tried to scramble to his feet after each slide. He can’t explain why all his efforts have failed. He looks and sounds utterly defeated. That’s when the accompanying family member protectively steps in to say that he has had a lot of bad luck, and gives a number of instances.

His family is not going to abandon him when he is down and out. This impression could be something that inched into my mind subliminally over the years. Or, it is unconscious cherry picking I did out of a need to believe in human goodness, because I’m one of those people who read the newspaper every morning.

These cases give me hope that people still care, though things I read make me feel that we are done with all that, and now it is only about making the world high-tech, obviating the need for human beings and their troublesome emotions. Of course, I’m also aware that for every person who gets support from a loving family there are many who aren’t welcome back in the fold, but well . . .

With the corona virus unleashing a sort of guerilla war on us, a lot of young adults who are graduating from college this year are apprehensive. For many, confirmed job offers have been rescinded. Those who graduated last year and are in their first job are no longer certain what will happen to them. Young people who started new enterprises in recent years, and have not yet broken even, are worried. Those studying abroad are in limbo, online classes being a poor substitute for the vibrancy of real college life.

It’s bad luck that the corona pandemic intersected with their lives at this point in time. Many of them will suffer from anxiety and depression, and incipient psychotic illnesses will flare up in those at risk. It’s quite likely that many of these graduates will be jobless and need family support for an unpredictable length of time. This is pure bad luck and it’s not because of a negative attitude, a lack of alertness, or wasted chances.

They will eventually find a way around it. Some say “And this, too, shall pass away” was first carved by wise sages on a finger ring for an unknown Eastern monarch centuries ago. Some say the Eastern monarch was King Solomon. Some say Rumi originally wrote these words, and some say Rumi got them from Attar . . . Whatever their source, these wise words are our common inheritance, they belong to everyone, and are especially comforting for youngsters who might be feeling very unlucky in these locked down times.







Vladimir Putin is not complicated!

img_5689The Pentagon spends $300,000 every year to study the body language of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign leaders, to better predict their behaviour! A recent report in the newspaper says that a researcher has concluded Putin is ‘risk-averse’, ‘strong-willed’ and ‘extremely sensitive to criticism’.

I am aware that study of body language is a science, but I wonder what people who study human behavior by other methods would say about Putin. These branches of study have their share of followers, and they consider them scientific too.

Putin’s a Libran, birthdate 7th October, 1952. An astrologer might say he argues to the point of indecision in his effort to be perfectly fair by his reckoning, ultimately not taking a risk either way. His sun sign is represented by the Scales, so he tries to balance things all the time, that’s why. And, Libra being a Cardinal sign, he is strong-willed, bossy and can’t bear criticism.

A numerologist may say Putin’s birth number 7 makes him sensitive and intuitive. 7 makes him a private person, unwilling to explain his actions. 7 makes him adopt unorthodox political beliefs. It makes him a dreamer who doesn’t share his dreams with other people because it’s risky.

His destiny number 16 warns of danger to life and/or defeat of his plans. His name number 28, if he used ‘Vladimir Putin’ all the time, warns of loss through misplaced trust, and these two numbers make him instinctively distrusting, so he is cautious and risk-averse. 28 reduced to 1 makes him controlling, and very sensitive to criticism. And, since he usually goes by ‘Putin’ alone, which has a value of 6, he is usually polite unless he feels threatened, in which case his strong will comes to the fore and he says or does exactly what he wants.

A graphologist might analyze a page of his handwriting on paper and come up with insights too. From the signature on his page on Wikipedia, a graphologist could surmise that he seems like an outgoing person who is optimistic and confident. But then, the signature only represents his public image.

And what happens if Putin took the online Myers-Briggs personality test? How would a psychologist interpret it? Extravert/Introvert? Intuitive/Sensing? Thinking/Feeling? Judging/Perceiving? What sort of person is he? How best can a foreign diplomat aimg_5681pproach him?

Is Putin really so mysterious? Can’t anyone get the measure of him simply by talking to him? It makes me laugh to imagine people spending money to analyze our courteous, quiet, harmless Manmohan Singh!

img_5687Whom does all this analyzing help? Not Ukraine. Nobody cares about the subaltern side of a situation in the realm of international politics, and ordinary people pay the price for the equivalent of medieval palace intrigues in present-day politics!

$300,000 a year, from 2009. Well spent? Hmm, I wonder what the American taxpayer thinks.