Vibing via virtual virtuosity

This is the story of exceptional women who converted adversity into online opportunities — one for tarot card readings, the other to teach Bharat Natyam

Social distancing and being forced to stay indoors for long periods of time has had a profound impact on peoples’ psyches. Now we have to gravitate towards a ‘new normal’ and now that restrictions are being lifted in a phased manner, it will not be status quo ante.

The harbinger of this shift is the people who are now riding the waves of change instead of drowning in them. Two exceptional young women — Chhavi Upadhyay and Shreyasi Gopinath — have made adversity an opportunity.

In these testing times, when the future seems uncertain and challenging, income sources are drying up, and the recessionary spiral is gaining strength, Chhavi offers her clients respite and necessary inspiration to deal with the future ‘positively’. She has become an online sensation in the last two months as a ‘tarot card reader and consultant’, and is popularly known as ‘Chhavi Tarot’. Powered by ‘coffee and positivity’, she says she helps her clients access their inner pool of “wisdom, power and strength.”

Chhavi’s success is not much of a surprise, for she straddles the best of two worlds: a religious person who meditates regularly to seek divine intervention in her day to day life, while she is also an ardent professional with varied skill sets. Her prior experience of digital marketing came handy. As the lockdown stretched into an unknowable future, she single-handedly, “with minimal resources and no manpower” had her website up and running; did the research, writing, designing, incorporated visual aspects of her impactful website.

Chhavi made a good beginning on a sound footing. Her tarot sessions were a resounding success. She could empathise with clients, which is the first step, and give her assessment of their personal situation based on the cards that opened.

She doesn’t see herself as a soothsayer but a ‘consultant’ and is of the view that by conducting these sessions, she is doing a service for people by meeting their “emotional needs” — which is a must for a wholesome therapy. She draws the distinction between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ that are often confused as synonyms. In the process, she makes a more than decent living. It’s a win-win situation for her and for those who are receiving help while confined to their homes.

In the comfort of her home, she counsels strangers who talk about their personal life, share details about their family, finance, love, welfare and what not. For a lesser person, it could be a voyeuristic exercise. But in her capable hands, in these sessions she advises them to make positive changes in their life based on the cards that show up.

Chhavi Shreyasi is a young talented Bharat Natyam dancer who is using time in the lockdown to conduct online classes

It’s not just about predictions. “There’s a lot of intuition involved,” she avers. Each card has a certain meaning — which can be known, no big deal! The order of cards, the colours, symbolism, the way a question is posed or framed, and so on and forth lead to a meaningful interaction. All these details and the play of energies help Chhavi intuitively see the larger picture. And her key skill is the intuition that comes with a lot of practice and, in her case, leading a rich spiritual life.

Chhavi resides in South Delhi with a supportive husband Siddhartha and two daughters. She meditates for 15 minutes before a session. At most, she holds four sessions a day as the whole exercise is based on the flow of energy and “takes a lot of my energy.” She then cleans the cards, “to get rid of the energy so that it doesn’t carry forward,” as she puts it.

This process essentially involves keeping the cards in her in-house temple, lighting incense, chanting a few mantras and praying. She worships her cards like a warrior venerates his sword — or shastra puja.

Trust is key, according to Chhavi, particularly so when a session is conducted online, for there are many quacks who just make random pronouncements without even opening the cards. They are shooting in the dark.

Going online meant that Chhavi was able to reach out to people using various platforms like WhatsApp, video, phone, and people could also subscribe to her website and seek an appointment. She employs her skills in her own life to make the right decisions, as a guide to achieve goals. And it has helped her as well as her growing list of clients.

Shreyasi is a young talented Bharat Natyam dancer of some repute, performing at national and international forums. She is utilising her time during the lockdown by taking online dance classes, and that keeps her busy literally round the clock, as her students are from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries.

“I get up at 5 in the morning to take a class of my American students,” she says. She instructs her student, “Don’t mute the sound. It will take a few minutes. In the meantime, do taat-thai-taat sit-ups. Do it in front of the screen,” she asserts.

She is a great cultural ambassador of an Indian classical art form. Technology has opened new frontiers and she will continue to hold online classes even after the Covid-19 restrictions are done away with. She concedes that physical classes are better, but the online classes “are stimulating. You can reach out to so many people all over the world,” she says.

Even in this day and age, the traditional guru-shishya parampara — based on the respect, commitment, devotion and obedience of the student to his teacher — are considered the best way for knowledge to be passed on. This is still practiced in the native classical art forms. She laughs, “That’s not possible online. It’s not just about the teacher and her disciples, but even the parents and friends are watching. You have to be tactful to your students,” she explains. How do you expect an American to imbibe the culture? The very fact that they are learning a classical dance form is tribute enough to Indian traditions.

Women like Chhavi and Shreyasi are employing their skill, talent and technology to make a world of difference in their own lives and that of others. Kudos!

(Cover: Chhavi is a Tarot card reader and consultant with varied skillsets)

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