CNN’s Jessica Ravitz spent two weeks in Rishikesh, India earlier this year on a global religion reporting fellowship. The city, famously visited by the Beatles in 1968, is known as “the world capital of Yoga.”
Her long piece offers a fascinating glimpse into a city overrun by pseudoscience. What’s especially frustrating, though, is how easily Ravitz seems to fall for the cold readings of “psychics” there.
Consider this: A white middle-aged woman visits a psychic in India… by herself. Think of what might have happened in her life so far. And then read Ravitz’s account of her time with astrologer Prateek Mishrapuri:
“Wow. What a stubborn woman you are. Very, very stubborn,” he says, as I grow nervous.
“You decide to do something, you do it. Very brave.”
That’s more like it, I think, letting out my breath.
Prateek talks about my creativity and says I must write. He tells me I was once a French revolutionary who wrote articles that criticized the king and queen. That energy remains with me, he says. “You want to change things.”
I sit, mouth agape, as he goes on.
He physically describes a man who long ago blocked my “energy” and held me back for years. He also brings up the one I was with in 2006, my ex-fiancé. He was my husband in a past life, Prateek tells me. I wasn’t always good to him, he says, but he would have been good to me. I nod, knowing I didn’t like who I’d become when I was with him.
“Big mistake letting go of him,” Prateek says at first. I object. He then pauses. He sees something else. He motions toward his genitals and says my ex and I were doomed. Our sex life, he says, was broken. I gasp. I’d refused to go into a sexless marriage and handed back the ring.
Prateek knows I looked into having a baby on my own.
Without knowing Ravitz personally, her basic profile makes it very easy to consider that she was probably in a serious relationship at one point. And that, since she’s on her own in India, that relationship has probably ended. And that they may have struggled with a problem that many couples face. And that she may have considered if there was a way to have a child even if the relationship wasn’t working out.
A lot of women, I would think, could check off every single one of those boxes.
Keep in mind we also don’t know what information Ravitz offered the astrologer (willingly or not) or what was left out of the piece. We tend to remember the hits and ignore the misses, and writing an article like this almost forces you to focus on the “Wows.”
But Mishrapuri makes a rookie mistake when he goes a little too far with one prediction:
Prateek then gives me a mystical punch to the gut. He tells me my father committed suicide.
My dad had a hard-to-diagnose neurological disorder, somewhat like Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was progressive, degenerative and slowly stole the active life he’d lived. He was open with me, saying that someday he might want Dr. Kevorkian on speed dial, a comment I more than understood.
But he wasn’t ready for that when he died at 67. He was still getting around and, to some extent, doing his thing.
That alone should’ve broken the spell. But for whatever reason, Ravitz says nothing of the sort.
It’s tough to criticize her experiences because I have no doubt she really felt like he knew her. That’s what a good psychic will make you think. They make assumptions based on the information you give them and then fish around with questions until they get some sign they’re on the right track. They look for your eyes to open wide, or your head to start nodding slightly, or your breathing to change.
For Mishrapuri, who claims to have done 18,500 readings, that’s gotta be second nature to him.