Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fangs of separation

I stretched lazily and walked up to my window. A sweeper raking specks of leaves from the pale green grass swathed in the morning sunlight. A stray mongrel waited by, confused. I squinted to see who else was lounging around after breakfast. Just one more morning, I thought. At this window.

People deal with farewell and separation in many different ways. They try different ways till the one time they find that they have truly cut themselves successfully away, without much damage. They develop networking and social skills and try hard to keep in touch, in hope that one day they'll never have to say the dreaded word. I hate saying goodbye - to places, to things. Especially to people.

Some people deal with it by slowly taking it in. By savoring and enjoying every last second. With the things they always wanted to do. By taking pictures, by graciously accepting that this is going to be the last time. They wish they would cry and get over with the sorrow but then the tears disappoint. Because they have already grieved enough.

Sometimes, you want to say goodbye by spending all your time with that person or in that place. Doing things you have always enjoyed doing, living the life you have always led. Perhaps with a implicit reassurance that nothing will change and nothing should. This is when you want to believe that this going away is just a small deviation in the master plan of life.

Some people deal with it by keeping away. They immerse themselves in packing, running errands, in things which would take them away from dealing with the pain, and in the process those precious last few moments. They simply don't want any memories of saying goodbye. That would ruin the lovely picture they have in their minds.

Some people just walk away, out of your lives, in a precious second. Some people cry. If it needs some alcohol, so be it. Some people say nice words. Some others hug and kiss.

I blog.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Leap of faith

I always admire the picture that shows on my fone when I get a call from home. Mom's chilling out in the sofa with my cat Puchoos happily snuggled on her lap, lifting her head and enjoying the caresses. One such time,right in the midst of the picture-gazing, my mother's excited voice from the other end made my ears perk up. Quite cat-like.

My parents had, with a new found business contact, visited an astrologer, a specialist in the field of 'nadi jolshiyam' or 'astrology that is sought'. Apparently, centuries ago, the period when every village happening was later made into a legend, a Goddess wanted to know about the people who would be born on earth. Her following of saints took up the task and wrote down the life histories of every human being who would ever be born on this earth, each inscribed into a leaf. Wars and natural calamities destroyed a lot of these but about a few hundred years ago, the remaining inscriptions were recovered and translated into a more recent comprehendable Tamil. These were then auctioned off by the British and bought by rich Tamil families who maintained it for years before handing them over to different astrologers. These little biographies are said to be matched to a person by his/her thumb print and not the date of birth unlike other forms of astrology. This because they believe that a human is born when it is conceived and not, like the rest of us swear by, time of delivery. So even though the saints might have written the futures of thousands of people, each astrologer only has the leaves of those 'destined' to go to him. I patiently listened, waiting for the twist in the story, the critical point where my semi-sceptical mom would have fallen hook, sinker and line for this too-good to-believe faith. I didn't have to wait long.

After giving their thumb prints, the man brought sets of leaves that matched them, she said. He started off not knowing anything about them, even their names. He would ask 3-4 basic questions to find out which leaf was yours and once all the answers matched, he would declare your leaf found and write down the matter into a notebook and then explain it to you. Hmm. Mom was stunned out of her seat, she said, when he found her leaf and told her my grand mother's rather uncommon name. He also mentioned some unusual details of our family which he could never have guessed otherwise. Details of her siblings and children followed, complete with marital status and location and even the age at which she would seek out this form of astrology. My dad had a similiar leaf found and read out to him. Both were even told, much to their amusement, what they were and where they lived in their previous lives.

I got back home in a few days and the more I heard about it, the more curious I got. I don't really believe in astrology but this one seemed too entertaining to miss. And maybe disprove. I thought of all the ways they could have found out the details, like how much the business contact knew and how much my parents would have absently relayed. There was no other way to find out than to book myself an appointment.

I went to the small house, tagging behind my mother. There were pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses all around. After awhile we were called in to where the astrologer was seated. I pressed my right thumb into an old Camel stamp pad and made two impressions. There was a young boy, an apprentice who stood by. I keenly observed the astrologer, trying to keep my eyes on him and my prints to see how he was going to match them. He wrote down numbers beside them and gestured to the boy who went in, without as much as taking a look at the notepad. He returned in a few seconds with a bundle of long rectangular palm leaves bound together with white rope.

Sometimes you genuinely try to look at these things with an open mind. Something about it could be genuine, how else would they unearth so much of personal information. A faint glimmer of hope that this man and his bunch of leaves could perhaps get me hooked to this and actually believe in it. I waited with bated breath.

Are you above 20? Yes. Above 22? Yes? Born in 85? No. 84? No. 83? No. 82? Yes.

Ok. Not much rocket science in there, I thought. My eyes focussed in and out of the dull picture of an unknown deity behind him.

How many letters in Tamil does your name have? Five. The first letter of your name begins with R? No. V? No. P? No. L? No. S? Yes, I said.

My left eyebrow was now slightly above the normal level. What next, I wondered.

Is you name Shyamala? No. Sangeetha? No. Savitha? No. The last letter of your name, Na? No. Tha? No. Thi? No. Ra? No. Pa? No. What is it? 'Ya'. Is your name Sathya? No!

How did I even think this would be genuine. I crossed my legs, folded my arms and sat back. I glanced at my mom. Was this how he guessed Grandma's name?, I asked with my eyes. She returned a disappointed look that told me even she thought this was unusual.

Now the second last letter, he said. Concentrating hard and trying to figure out, I guessed, what normal Indian names could fit the given pattern. A baby name book would help, I mused, rather than ancient palm leaves. The session went on for awhile. He 'told me' my mother's name and my name after a letter-by-letter guessing game. He knew my dad's name so we were spared of the ordeal of going through his rather long name. He then proceeded to again' tell me' what line I was in. Since no astrologer can ever guess HR, I took my ex profession, software, as a valid answer. After all with more than 80% of the educated youth there, it was a safe guess for him. Then on seeing my mom's doubtful face, he made some quick calculations with my age and said that I have now studied further and could possible be either in the same line or in an administrative, managerial line. Wow. Smart.

It was a smart business model. Yet, my parents insist that for them he didn't do much guessing. He apparently took their parent's names out of thin air. With no prodding. Some of my mom's friends testify to this too. One of them even had their future husband's name accurately given at a time when they hadn't even met. How could so many people stick by this unexplained foresight?

Either my astrologer didn't get my leaf and just pretended to or the whole thing is a big sham. The former, in my humble opinion, would anyway mean the latter. I later looked up 'nadi astrology' on the net. Several interesting pages appeared with many good-looking testimonials and pictorial proof that there is some sort of truth associated with this. After many discussions with others who have had this experience, mine seemed the most bogus of them all. Without even an ounce of stun power. Yet, there's something about this mysterious way of foretelling that still keeps my questioning. Maybe some day when I have the time and patience, maybe I would try another astrologer and get some answers. Till then I can recount the way he guessed my date of birth and smile.

Jan-Feb? No. Nov-Dec? No. April- May? No. . . . . . . June? Yay!!!

Before 15th or after 15th?