Bushwick, New York City: In a Bushwick apartment building, Nandani Bharrat, 29, sits on a mattress with her eyes closed and her legs crossed in a lotus position. The air is spiced with incense and the room is quiet except for the rhythmic hum of chants.
Bharrat, also known as Kali Ma after the Hindu goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction, is one of the city’s many psychic healers New Yorkers rely on for astral insight.
She founded her practice, Kali Ma: Triple Goddess Tarot and Healing, in 2013 and specializes in card readings and guided meditation. She is also trained in a Japanese healing technique, known as “usui shiki ryoho,” that believes energy can be channeled into a patient through touch to restore physical and emotional well-being.
Bharrat feels she offers a valuable service, but many remain skeptical of her profession. In recent years psychics have been arrested and charged with fraud, grand larceny and other crimes. A stereotype of how fortune tellers swindle small fortunes out of their customers remains. Still, however, there are those, like Bharrat, who genuinely believe in their craft.
“It started with things like meditation and energy healing, but as I get deeper into the practice, it’s about acceptance,” she said. “It’s about accepting the darkness, accepting your negative feelings and embracing who you truly are. Those things are meant to be acknowledged and dealt with.”
Raised in a multi-religious household of Hinduism, Islam and Catholicism, Bharrat’s upbringing was steeped in spirituality. She was born in the South Bronx and grew up in Bushwick after her family emigrated from Guyana to New York. On her father’s side Bharrat comes from a linage of Brahmin—a member of the highest Hindu caste, that of the priesthood.
“I never thought I’d be doing something like this at all,” she said with a chuckle. “But I feel like I need to be of assistance to others. Whether it’s poverty or mental health issues, there are these quick fixes happening, but we’re not actually healing ourselves.”
Even in a country where fortune telling raises some eyebrows, unlikely people with high profiles have trusted in the supernatural. The late Nancy Reagan, for example, made no secret of her affinity for astrology and Hillary Clinton was once famously led by a medium through conversations with long-deceased leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt.
For the everyday person, however, Bharrat hopes her clients will be able to glean a deeper understanding of their lives from her services.
“Hopefully what I’m doing is showing that even if you don’t get the support that you think you need, it really is there,” she said. “It’s just in a metaphysical way that we don’t always see with our eyes.