Indian Fortune Telling Robot

Indian fortune-telling robot at Magh Mela fair

I love this – I love that there are fortune telling robots scattered across fairs and markets in India.  These plastic mystics, these fiberglass fortune-tellers, are studded with garish LEDs, sport a clock embedded in their crotch, and frequently a pair of voltmeters or ammeters, one in each pectoral.  Lastly, and most importantly, there are multiple headphone sockets, usually in the hips or waist.

The headphones are grubby, oft-repaired, and reverse-engineered to be just as brightly and oddly LED studded as the robot itself – if not connected with a glowing LED cable in the first place.  You pay your money (I hear the going rate is Rs. 5) and slip the headphones on.

I don’t know what happens, but I imagine that the bustle of the street market is suddenly muffled – a very personal quiet place, shared only by you and the metallic red man before you.  A phrase is whispered in your ears – most likely low quality, possibly slightly garbled with age and poor equipment – but full of potential meaning, prophesy and oblique wisdom.  You get a second or so to ponder what the electronic sage has told you, before it’s time to take off the headphones again, and be assaulted once more by the shouts and cries and hubbub of a busy business place.

The moment has passed,  but it passed in secret and in silence, between you and the automatic soothsayer – grinning and inscrutable to the end.

Seen, years ago, on Nothing to do With Arbroath, and here’s a Flickr pool with more photographs of the different kinds of fortune telling robots – short, fat, tall, blue, yellow, red.  All kinds.

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