There are not many tarot card readers who will tell you at the outset that they don’t believe in the profession themselves. However, Khalid Syed, a farmer from Mirpur Sakro who moonlights for a tarot card reader, doesn’t feel ashamed when he says, “I don’t believe in this stuff. I’m a sceptic and a logical person.”
So why does he make a living off something he is so sceptical about? “I’m a flood victim and this job helps me make me money,” he says matter-of-factly. “There has been no relief or support from the government. There’s still a lot of water there. I tried thrice to sow my cotton but it got burnt. Although, people like Sassui Palijo and Qayyum Ali Shah have sent trucks of goods, most of that stuff disappeared mid way,” he reveals.
So it’s misfortune that turned the farmer, who is also an artist (musician and painter), to fortune telling. But unlike others in the business who sit at posh hotels and charge exorbitantly, Syed charges a mere Rs500 and sits at a forgotten corner at The Forum. “If it’s a good month, I manage to make Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 per month and if it’s a below-average one, I make around Rs6-7 thousand,” he states.
But Syed is no ordinary farmer — and that anyone can tell from his impeccable English and his near bohemian look, with long peppered hair. After running away from school at an early age, he educated himself and learnt many arts while travelling all over the world during the 1970s. “I wanted to be a drummer but got a break as a bassist. We even made an album in 1968 with EMI records in Pakistan under the bandname ‘Sozo Saaz’ or SOS,” he says with pride. However the album didn’t sell. “It wasn’t meant to sell. We used eastern instruments with a western theme that could never be commercial,” he admits.
How it started
Syed learnt tarot card reading from his neighbour when he was in his teens. “He had these cards and all the girls were very fond of him. I was so jealous that I got all his books and started reading them. Those days, we didn’t get these cards in the market but since I was a painter, I made my own deck and began this fortune telling business,” narrates Syed. Now, at 62, these very cards have become his life line.
“It’s better than a typical job. There’s no one towering over me. I get my own space and meet interesting people. Those who like me give me immense respect,” replies Syed when asked why he won’t take up any formal employment. He also narrates the story of an old, frail couple who came to him and whose cards revealed everything that was inconceivable for an elderly couple to come true. “I get very excited when people come back and say ‘It worked! It happened.’ But honestly, more than the cards, it’s just that I lend them a sympathetic ear.”
Tarot card meanings The Fool
Upright: New beginnings, new adventures, new opportunities, unlimited possibilities, pleasure, passion, thoughtlessness or rashness
Reverse: A bad decision, indecision, apathy, hesitation or a faulty choice
Upright: Originality, creativity, skill, will-power, self confidence, dexterity or sleight of hand
Reverse: Weakness in will, insecurity, delay or no imagination
The High Priestess
Upright: Wisdom, knowledge, learning, intuition, purity, virtue, a lack of patience or a teacher
Reverse: Ignorance, lack of understanding or selfishness and shallowness
Upright: Love, harmony, trust, honour, the beginning of a romance, optimism or a meaningful relationship/affair
Reverse: Unreliability, separation, frustration in love, fickleness or untrustworthy
Upright: Perseverance, a journey, a rushed decision, adversity, turmoil or vengeance
Reverse: Unsuccessful, defeat, failure or last minute loss
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.