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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Encounter with a Palm Reader

By Sanath Lamabadusuriya
In late 1971, few months before I left home for studies abroad, I decided to visit a palmist named Kingsley Goonethilaka who had an office in Ratmalana. I parked my car (Triumph Herald ) some distance away and walked into his office with long hair, a beard, unbuttoned shirt and in slippers (That was the year of the first JVP insurrection). I paid Rs.10.00 for the consultation. He applied Indian ink on my palm and got a palm print on to a paper .He  asked me what my job was and I replied that I was a bank clerk. Then he  told me that I have to be some one more than a bank clerk and if I wanted an accurate reading, I have to be honest. When I told him that I was a doctor, he told me that I have to be doing something more than treating patients, like teaching or research (I was a lecturer in paediatrics at that time). He told me some things about my past which were true, but off the mark by about an year. Then he told me that I would be travelling abroad very soon and that I would return home few years later as a single person. He told me that I would get married to a girl known to my family. I had no idea who Buddhika was at that time.

I returned home on the 1st of January 1975. In February 1976, I married Buddhika. It was an arranged marriage;(both  our fathers were related to each other and were from the same village  (Pahalagoda in Tangalle). He also told me that I would become a professor before my 40th birthday. At that time, it was most unlikely because both Priyani Soysa and Herbert Aponso were due to retire in the early 1990's after reaching their 65th birthday (I would have been in my late forties by then). 

During the latter stages of Sirima B's government, speeches were made in parliament by opposition MPs like Gamini Dissanayake that they would do away with standardisation at the "A"level examination if they come to power. With the landslide victory in 1977, they had to honour  their pledges. When standardisation was abolished, it was discovered that a disproportionate number of Tamil students would have to be admitted. That would have been political dynamite. Therefore, they decided to admit a similar number of Sinhalese students. To accommodate the increased intake, two new faculties were created in Ruhuna and in Jaffna.

The professors post in Ruhuna was advertised in late 1978 and I applied for it. I was appointed in April 1980 and I assumed duties on the 1st of September 1980 when I was provided with two interns. (I was 37 years old at that time).

So my friends, two predictions made by a palm reader for a meagre fee of Rs.10.00 was proved to be accurate several years later!


  1. Sanath
    In March 1967 when you topped our batch I could have told you would be an academic and probably a Professor, for less than Rs10.00. Just for a cup of tea in the medical college canteen. You had a stellar career in the Faculty and a wonderful professional career too. As a batch we are all proud of your achievements.
    Incidentally I learnt to read the Palm from my grandfather who was a fine astrologer and palmist. That was his hobby. It is easy to be cynical about its 'magic' and accuracy in good hands. It is a lot like medical imaging which was my speciality recognising patterns and associations.

  2. Interesting story Sanath. This of course does not stand as proof that Astrologist are able to predict the future with accuracy. Like so many things in our life, recourse to Astrologists help some people when they need support, especially in hard times. To me the only future events predictable are things like the great likelihood of illness befalling those who smoke heavily, the increased chances of failing exams if you don't prepare sufficiently or the increased chances of a tin of paint falling on your head if you walk under the ladder of a workman. In other words, some events can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy but things like whether you will get married three times or die at age 62, I just cannot see being predicted by multivariate analysis unless one believes that the future is set on a predestined path which can be accessed via Astrology. As all Bloggers know by now, I personally don't accept that we are born with a road map which we are following with consequences which are "known".

    But coming back to your own story Lama, it is a fact that he said these things and some of them came true. Like ND said, it wasn't too difficult to predict that you would distinguish yourself accademically but then that is because we knew you and the Astro guy presumably didn't....... or, did he?

  3. Our knowledge and ability to learn and comprehend is miniscule compared to what is out there. In that context should we only believe in what is logical, what we can reason, prove and understand?
    I disagree. We must have an open mind and realize some things like astrology and palmistry may have some truth and even some logic, we still do not understand.
    I do believe that there are people who are fine astrologers and palmists who can with some accuracy predict the future.
    Sanath, it will be interesting to know your take on this.

  4. Interesting!!
    Astrology was the downfall of my uncle who left Med school as an astrologer had said that he would never be a doctor-- in the 1930's He left med School the following week - to the utter sadness of my grand dad who the Chief Shroff at GHC! He of course reached the highest echelons of the Forrest Dept. Also in 1947 he won a lottery (Gymmkana) Rs 145000 -- more than many fortunes then. This was his down fall too. He gambled, drank, fast cars, fast women -- led him to leave his wife & 5 children & doss down with his driver's wife!! Lost all the money and nearly lost his job too!!
    As for my family a gypsy told my son that he would be a footballer. To this day he has not indulged any 'Ball Games'?
    As for me all predictions by gypsies & astrologers fell by the wayside. Thanks to my bosses -- almost all of them Jews, I got to where I am with their help and 'leg ups' . Of course I was at the "right place at the right time" and this I presume the " awesome forces of Fate and destiny" playing its hand.
    So are we pre-destined or the above forces are at play or can astrologers foretell & influence???
    Or should we take all these predictions with a 'pinch of salt' & treat them as a bit of fun and help these poor souls to earn a living??

  5. There are two strands to this discussion. The first is whether we are willing to consider the possibility that "there is something in this Astrology business" and the second is whether as an individual you are sufficiently convinced that consulting an Astrologer who you consider as reliable, is going to help you in making decisions in life. My view is that on both counts, I find Astrology unhelpful to me and in my experience of those who went by Astrological predictions, some have come to immense harm. However, it is all individual attitudes. A good friend of mine started his own business and attributes his success to starting the business at an auspicious time given by his Consultant Astrologer. Mahinda Rajapakse owes his early retirement at least in part to his Astrologer!

  6. ND, Mahendra and Razaque,
    Thank you all very much for your comments. When I was working with Dr.PR Anthonis I asked him whether he believed in astrology. He did not say yes or no but related a story. When he was a house officer he had visited a doctor friend of his at the Avissawella Hospital. On their way for a river bath they had de-toured to visit a Sannasi who was a visitor from India. PRA's friend had given his horoscope to be read by the Sannasi. PRA had shown his palm and asked for a reading and told the astrologer that he was the doctor friend's clerk. PRA was told that he is in the wrong profession and his hands should be covered with blood very frequently and advised him to become a butcher! He was also told that his departure out of the country would be delayed by a few years ; that happened because world war 2 broke out. He had also predicted that he would get married to a very rich lady and given the date of marriage which he jotted down in his diary, Several years later when PRA was transferred out of Trincomalee, his wife,Ruby, had been packing the bags and come across the diary. Like any other inquisitive spouse she had gone through it meticulously and come across the date of marriage. When PRA was asked about it he had remembered the episode at Avissawella. The date of marraige was exactly correct.
    I keep an open mind about astrology and palmistry and I have not been a slave to either of these.

  7. Most of us have had different experiences with astrologers, palm readers etc. A lot depends on one's own experiences when it comes to belief in it or not.

    I remember taking Mangala to Ratmalana long years ago for a consultation with Kingsley Goonetileke. She has had so many such consultations (and continue to have) and I often forget to ask her after each such encounter, what the outcome was!

    I was not against comparing horoscopes when it came to marriage, but never had much faith in it. In fact, I had got my horoscope read on my own only once.

    I decided to consult a well known horoscope reader in Colombo way back in 1998. As Speedy has quite rightly said, that was a period of uncertainty in my personal life. I was grappling with whether or not to take the plunge and join my family on a permanent basis in the US after giving up my UN job. An year before in July 1997, we had "emigrated" to the US when we got our Green Cards (I didn't want to forego that chance). I settled Mangala and Dilushi in South Carolina where Mangala had found employment, and I returned after spending three months there (Shehan was already studying in Connecticut, USA).

    The following year, I had to take a decision because living alone in SL in the same house with two domestic aides was no fun. That's when I visited Mr. Fonseka (known as Fonny) who lived at Norris Avenue near the Colombo Medical Faculty.

    Fonseka had a good reputation among a certain class of society as a good horoscope reader. He was known to JC F'do as well. When I was attached to the Health Education Bureau in the 1980s, Fonny was a frequent visitor there as he was a friend of our Publicity Officer. Fonny was an Arts Graduate from Peradeniya and had been a contemporary of Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Prof. JB Dissanayake et al. He was employed as the Chief Administrative Officer of the CNAPT (near the Colombo Museum) at that time. When I visited Fonny about 10 years later, I was not sure whether he would remember me.

    I walked into his house and when I was called in, I placed the usual fee on his table and handed over my horoscope. He looked at it with a serious face and didn't appear to recognise me. What struck me first was his inability to even guess my profession. Many of what he said was way off the mark except his "prediction" that I will soon be leaving the country. Looking at me in that state, it was a safe "prediction" to make! At the end of my consultation which lasted about 15 minutes, I divulged my identity. When I did, he remembered me but was utterly embarrassed. I helped him to get over it by talking about old times for another few minutes and left. That was my own experience with a well known horoscope reader in Colombo!


  8. Thanks Sanatha nd Lucky for your own experiences. Discussions on Astrology usually ends up with anecdotes both good and bad. I don't think any of us would change our minds on this after our discussion but to me the idea of predestiny and the mere thought that planets billions of miles away can influence the date and person I (just a speck in the Universe) get married or how many kids I have is just not acceptable. Even for arguments sake it is so, whether I like it or not, the "science" is so imprecise that I wouldn't dream of using it as a tool to manage my life. Just shows how the culture in which we grew up influences how you reason out things.

  9. In SL & India this practice has been a way of life with folk from all walks, without exception indulging in this and often it governs their whole life -- politicians in particular. Breaking down it is mainly among the Hindus, Buddhists & Muslims, less so with the Christians who believe in miracles!! Some folk cannot do anything without horoscopes, palm reading & "eliya balanawa"-- even to step out of their front door!!
    As for me satharakarayas have told me a lot of things, with nothing coming into fruition. As a student Walter Jayasinghe took me to someone near Gampaha, and the exact opposite occurred including something very close to my 'heart'!! Then when I was in London, Punya Kurrupu from our junior batch stayed with till he found his 'feet'in UK and during his stay he cast our horoscopes with equivocal results, maybe as knew me well and was guessing?? He said that we would have two children (my wife was pregnant then), in fact we doubled that score!!!!. Of course there were many gypsies at the front door foretelling our futures looking at our faces for a "donation"to no avail.
    The fact is we only remember the things /guesses that came 'true'and not remembering / forgetting those sayings that never did materialise.
    So those are my experiences and views.
    Do not forget to give a 'donation' to those who appear at your door step as they the needy and take what they have to say with a pinch of salt. They NEVER foretell any disasters, only something to please you!!

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  11. Sanath, I know this guy Kingsley Goonetilleke well as I too saw him on the advice of a friend. I was skeptical at first, but he was spot on.
    I have seen another astrologer in Colombo someone who is supposed to be the best of all. I have forgotten his name. He was unbelievably accurate. I have no idea how he could know all those details. At the end of this session, I had to admit that some people have paranormal powers. And our history and destiny seem to be recorded somewhere, I have no idea where. All I can say is that these phenomena don't seem to have a scientific explanation. I am open to anyone who wants 'to put me right' and say it is all bunk. (hope that's not a rude word!Sorry if it is!)

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