Rats, it's not my year

I know better than to believe that the Year of the Horse is bad for the Rat but I am not taking chances I knew something was up one morning recently when I drove to my parents' house and pulled up in the porch.

My mum came rushing out to greet me. "I'm praying for you, I'm praying for you very hard!" she said. Why, I asked her. "I mean I'm always praying for you, it's not that I've stopped or anything. But this year is very bad for you," she said. "Very bad!" Gosh, I thought, is it that time of the year again? I haven't always been a superstitious person.

And I generally take fengshui master predictions before the onset of Chinese New Year with a healthy pinch of salt. Yet in the last three or four years, I have paid close attention - perhaps because my zodiac animal sign, the rat, has had an incredible run of great fortune and luck.

How nice it is to be told over and over again that you will be given a great opportunity to shine at the workplace and that your investments will do well.

This coming year, however, will be very different. Disturbed by the warnings of my soothsayer, I went out to buy a stack of fengshui books and researched my zodiac forecast online.

I must have looked at more than 15 different reports in all. And the more I read, the more depressed I got.

Where do I even begin? You see, next year is the Year of the Horse, an animal that is in many ways the antithesis of the rat, and the two have a hostile and fighting relationship. The horse is fiery by nature, the rat is a water element.

The horse is headstrong and charges ahead in search of new adventures, while the rat is smart and careful, squirrelling away fortune in his small home. "Horse doesn't like Rat at all," concluded one website.

"They say Horse will die when it eats the faeces of the Rat." Yet it is the horse's year, not the rat's. So the rat will be holding on for dear life as the horse gallops away, trying to survive the incredible ups and downs along the way.

Astrologically speaking, a whole swathe of "unlucky stars" will shine on rats this year, including the separation, failure and trouble stars and not one but two different disaster stars.

On top of all that, it is the rat's turn to offend the Grand Duke Jupiter (known as tai sui), who is often seen as the deity taking charge of the world's general affairs in any year.

The effect on us rats will be nothing short of disastrous, according to nearly every forecast.At the workplace, it will not just be a very busy year with a lot of work to do, but also a frustrating year full of disagreements and arguments.

One forecaster even warns the rat to "change his conduct" at work to avoid offending people. It will be so bad that a rat will be tempted to change his job.

Yet he cannot do that because this is not quite the year to try something new. In fact, there will be so much stress at work that personal relationships will suffer.

Many horoscopes are predicting break-ups could even occur. The stress will also spill over to health matters.The rat will be exhausted and sick all the time. He is advised to exercise, but "gently" - that means no trekking, marathons, cycling on Changi Coast Road or anything life-threatening of that sort.

The coming year, in general, is so bad that many forecasters actually recommend that the rat takes up yoga or meditation, presumably so that he can face things calmly and not end up killing himself.

According to some forecasters, the only zodiac animal with a worse outlook is the tiger.

With absolutely no lucky stars shining or anything at all going for it in the horse year, tigers may as well not leave the house or speak for the next 12 months. But that is their problem, and I have been focused all this week on solving mine.

The year hasn't even begun and I have already started to feel its pull. I welcomed 2014 with a nasty flu that lasted almost two weeks, and there have already been frustrations aplenty in the office. One colleague, who is a fengshui grandmaster in her own right, tells me that I have to wear blue this year.

This accords with Grandmaster Tan Khoon Yong, who says I have to carry cyanite with me (not cyanide, although that might also be useful).

Two grandmasters can't be wrong, so I rushed out and immediately bought three new blue shirts for the office. I'm now in the market for a blue-faced watch and blue workshoes. Sadly, I will soon have to swop my much-beloved gold-coloured mobile phone for a blue one - perhaps an iPhone 5C (which isn't really the correct shade of blue) or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy J (if it comes to Singapore).

"I will write only in blue ink!" I declared the other day to bewildered colleagues. Meanwhile, I'm battening down the hatches at work and preparing for war and suffering.

The last time I had such a hopelessly bleak outlook for the new year was when I faced the prospect of enlisting for national service and going through basic military training.

"If you are going to be so negative, this year will be a self-fulfilling prophecy," warned my next-door colleague, who has been watching all my preparations with amusement.

That gave me some pause for thought. No one likes to be around a grumpy, defeatist person.

That's how fights and arguments start and work performance gets affected. When I studied philosophy in university, we dealt with the concepts of predestination and free will.

People like to believe that every outcome in life is pre-ordained because it absolves them of the responsibility of making choices and the consequences that may bring.

Intellectually, I agree with all those arguments and my educated, rational self says I shouldn't buy into any of this hogwash. Yet strange things happen, and the omens have now arrived. For no rhyme or reason, a spine-chilling video went viral on social media here recently showing a hapless stable hand at the Singapore Turf Club being trampled by horses at the starting gate.

I don't know about you but I'm going into hiding. See you again in the Year of the Goat.

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