We always knew that our mother was psychic. When the phone rang, she would announce who was calling before picking it up. She knew in advance when she was about to receive a letter from one of her brothers or sisters. When I grew older and moved away from home, she seemed to sense when I was in distress and would call to ask how I was, saying that she had had “such a terrible dream.” But if we suggested that she had ESP, she would deny it stoutly.
When we lived in Kharagpur in the 1960s, Mum was thousands of miles away from her family and friends in England, with no Skype, video-chat, or email, of course, and even long-distance phone calls reserved for the direst of emergencies. She had to spend much of the day at home in relative isolation, with us children off at school and our father out at the Institute, so naturally she looked forward eagerly to Dad’s return. As he entered the house, she always asked, “Any-letters-any-news-any-money?” On one particular day, though, she said nothing as he came in. When he inquired as to why she hadn’t asked her usual question, she replied quietly, “I don’t need to ask; I know you’ve got something.” And indeed he had. He had finally received a long-awaited check for some work he had completed months before.
But Mum is and always has been a rationalist. She pooh-poohs the notion of extra-sensory perception, explaining her many instances of uncanny foreknowledge as perfectly natural, not supernatural at all. Just because science has not yet explained a given phenomenon, she insists, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t accessible to the senses. Just as a trained and observant eye sees things that others fail to notice, someone who has learned to pay closer attention can pick up signals that others may miss or dismiss. This explanation has always made eminent good sense to me.
On several occasions—in fact, quite often—I have had similar experiences of foreknowledge, particularly with my son. Time and time again I have just been thinking of him when he calls. (Yes, yes, I know—what mother isn’t thinking of her child much of the time?) In one instance, I answered a question that he had been thinking to himself but had not voiced out loud. Like many people, I frequently get a certain feeling, a quiet inner warning of how to act or not to act in a given situation. But unlike my mother, I have not learned to honor, even to recognize, such warnings and tend to rush on, letting them pass unheeded. Later, I find myself picking up the pieces after an accident which could have been averted had I simply been paying attention.