Ram Guruji lives in two worlds — Andra Pradesh, India, and New York, NY; real estate agent and astrologer; the earthly and the planetary.
In his broom-closet-sized office, tucked into the back of a sari and jewelry shop at 37-49 74 St. in Jackson Heights, he tackles the realm of ancient divination.
“I can tell you future life. I can tell you present life,” Guruji says in broken English. “Tell you about yourself. When you get a good job, good and bad time to buy a house. If you have boyfriend problem or children problem, when things will become right … I will tell you when you will die.”
And he’ll charge less than $10 for it.
“It’s a donation to God,” Guruji says. God — and his three kids and mother back home in India.
Guruji says he sends everything he makes in this business, about $200 a month, equal to 9,000 rupees, to his family.
His contribution places him in popular company — last year India received $55 billion from immigrants like him, making it the top receiver of remittances worldwide, according to the World Bank 2011 Fact Book.
But Guruji may be an atypical example of an international breadwinner.
Though his business cards read, “World Famous Indian Astrologer … I give solutions for all your problems! 100% Guaranteed,” he can’t seem to find a solution for the limited customers he sees.
Only about four or five people stop in weekly seeking his services, he says.
The reason for Guruji’s lack of popularity, on one of Jackson Heights’ otherwise busy thoroughfares, may stem from a cultural dichotomy. The number of Indian-born immigrants in Jackson Heights has dropped 9 percent over the last decade, according to the Census Bureau, and many of their children are as American as they are Indian.
As a result, the historical, religious, spiritual and astronomical aspects of Guruji’s services resonate less with the younger Indian Americans, says Ronnie Dreyer, a graduate student in Columbia University’s Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Department, who has extensively studied astrological history.
“The difference with India and America is, in India, most people just accept astrology as one of these facts of life,” Dreyer said. “They think, ‘Of course when we are born, stars are in a certain position and it exists.’ Not as much for people here.”
Guruji came from India to Jackson Heights two years ago, hoping to generate more income here for his family than he did in Andra Pradesh. He opened his business on advice from friends already living in Queens.
Beginning an astrology business was always in Guruji’s stars, and blood. He began learning the craft from his father at the age of 5, and noted that the tradition has been passed from father to son in his family for generations.
“It’s a service to the people,” Guruji said.
It was work his father used to sustain Guruji’s family financially in India. But astrology did not prove extraordinarily lucrative even in India at the time — Guruji said he never attended college because his father would not have been able to afford it.
Nevertheless, Guruji has spun something of a financial web for himself and his family to make sure he can afford life in Queens and a proper education for his children and for him and his wife.
Apart from his astrological work, he has several jobs around town in shops and passing out fliers on the street for businesses. Before emigrating from India, Guruji said, he worked in a real estate office, which he continues to do on visits there.
Although his children still live in India, Guruji has no plans to bring them here because he doesn’t think the educational system is good enough.
Though it may seem as if his life is a constant duality — two homes, two cultures, two jobs — Guruji says he doesn’t worry.
“I was born June 17 … in the early morning,” he says. “That means I have a very good future. Travel all the countries, sleeping and eating not a problem, children and wife very happy.”