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The dream destination for astrology addicts

While in Britain the general belief in astrology is limited to glancing at horoscopes in newspapers and magazines, in India people take their star signs very seriously indeed.

Astrology programmes are shown on many of India's 320 television channels, and at Least a dozen stations are devoted entirely to astrology 24 hours a day. Kolkata housewife Lata Banerji always starts her day by turning on the astrology channel, Shristi, to find out what the day holds for her and whether she will have to face any kind of domestic crisis. She also receives information on what food she should eat to avoid illness. 'It gives me the confidence I need to face the day,' she says. 'Americans go to a therapist every week to cope with life. I get my sense of wellbeing from the advice I get from astrologers.'

Astrology is important in India in all walks of Life, but especially when it comes to choosing a marriage partner. Some astrological combinations are considered unfavourable, for example when the planet Mars is in a certain position on a person's birth chart. In this case, people believe that the couple will not get on and that their marriage will end badly. The only way around this is for the person with the unlucky combination to 'marry' something symbolic before their real wedding. This is exactly what Bollywood actress and former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai did some years ago when she 'married' a banana tree in the hope of avoiding problems in her marriage with the actor Abhishek Bachchan.

Yet, it is not only in the field of love that Indians seek astrological advice. There are some programmes on TV that specialize in medical astrology, with callers asking about health issues. Others provide investment and business advice. Astrology is even important in politics with prime ministers asking their astrologers for a 'promising' date before announcing a general election.

Nowadays it is almost obligatory for Indian parents to have a horoscope drawn up when a baby is born. Two people taking advantage of the boom in business are Kalidas Sri ram and Vishi Babu, who have put up their tents complete with Laptop computer and printer, right outside Kolkata's main hospital. They either visit the maternity wards or wait outside until new parents leave to offer their services. For the equivalent of €3 they use the baby's time and date of birth to print out a horoscope for the delighted parents.

Many Indians have no doubt that astrology can change people's lives for the better. The glamorous Sunita Menon, India's most famous fortune-teller, was an air hostess until a tarot reader predicted that she would change jobs. Now she is the presenter of a hugely popular television programme and was recently hired by India's most famous music company to advise on investment and business decisions.

WALK OF LIFE: A person's occupation or position within society. ‘the courses attracted people from all walks of life’. SYNONYMS class, status, rank, caste, station, sphere, arena, area, domain, realm, line of work, line, profession, career, vocation, calling, job, day job, occupation, employment, business, trade, craft, pursuit, work, province, field.

DEVOTED: Being devoted to something means being focused on that particular thing almost exclusively. When you are devoted to a cause, you work to achieve its goals. When you are devoted to a person, you place their needs above your own.

Being devoted doesn't have to refer only to personal relationships. It can focus on any area, activity, or passion. Cookbooks are devoted to presenting recipes, dog breeders are usually devoted to one specific type of dog, and tabloids are devoted to gossiping about celebrities. There's nothing wrong with being devoted to an activity or a person, as long as you don't lose track of everything else in your life. That’s when being devoted crosses over into being obsessed.

BOOM: A boom is a very loud, deep sound that echoes. The distant boom of fireworks might spook your nervous dog.

Guns, thunder, drums, deep voices — all of these are capable of a pretty loud boom. When they make the sound, you can also say that they boom: "I saw the flash of lightning and got ready for the thunder to boom." Another kind of boom is a prosperous period, like an oil boom or an economic boom. The long pole that holds a microphone or the sail on a boat is yet another type of boom.

MATERNITY WARD: a hospital ward that provides care for women during pregnancy and childbirth and for newborn infants
hospital ward, ward: block forming a division of a hospital (or a suite of rooms) shared by patients who need a similar kind of care