The Weathermen—A Love Letter by Aneeta Sundararaj (April 2021 HIGHLY COMMENDED Lustrous Long Story)


Anjali

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

24 October 2020

(Start of Scorpio Season)

 

Dear Roshan,

 

Last night, my mother wanted to know about the progress of the revised jadagam report from the astrologer after we gave Mr. Moorthy your wrong time of birth. To paraphrase Shakespeare, if what I told Mummy were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as impossible fiction. It would have been criminal not to share what I said to her. I promise you that this is a light-hearted read compared to the prolonged uncertainty as we muddle through COVID-19 and the possibility of Emergency being declared in Malaysia.

You see, Daddy was a man of few words. However, what he did say was often so meaningful that it remained for life. Like when he referred to astrologers, numerologists and palmists collectively as, ‘The Weathermen’.

“Those jadagam things they create,” Daddy decided, “are as accurate as a weather report. When they say eight out of twelve ‘houses’ are good between a couple, look at the four that aren’t.”

My mother grumbled at his pessimism, but I learnt from this. The fact of the matter is that I couldn't care less what these reports say. I usually agree to get them done to please others and follow procedure. It’s like preparing for my court cases.

Any lawyer worth her salt will tell you that although the paperwork is properly done, she must always be aware of being ambushed during the proceedings. I equate those four ‘houses’ that won’t work in any union as an ambush in court. Will a marriage work in spite of these non-matching houses? That’s the question, Roshan. More importantly, will ours?

Mr. Moorthy is probably sulking that we were careless with your time of birth. On the eve of the atma shanti prayers for the repose of Daddy’s soul two years ago, he insisted that I, at the very least, buy some flowers. I’d asked him to bring absolutely everything as I had no clue where to get things like long-lasting camphor, betel leaves, turmeric paste and pure ghee. I rushed to the only florist whose roadside stall was still open at 7.30 p.m. When I told him what the flowers were for, he practically snatched a few wilting stalks out of my hand and marched to a cooler inside the shop lot.

“Moorthy Sir, ah?” he asked when he returned and began rolling a large bunch of fresh purple and yellow daisies in old newspapers. Adding a few stalks of rosebuds to the bunch for free, he said, “Take this. All new one.”

I smiled. All of Alor Setar was petrified of this cantankerous priest whose reputation for not tolerating mistakes preceded him.

How to push him, Roshan, for our revised jadagam report? He’ll scold me.

That’s why I asked Krishnan for help. He’s so funny. He makes me keep it a big secret that he’s a devout Catholic. He’s aware that I will tease him because it’s the Bible-toting ones who will swear that they don’t believe in all these jadagam-badagam things, but will also be the first to want their horoscopes read.

Still, I’m on the verge of giving up on Krishnan’s 'astrologer contact' in Kerala. After six weeks, Smokey (as I’ve decided to call this astrologer) is probably still roaming the countryside looking for the ideal palm leaf, smoking it so that it's smooth, sharpening his quill and preparing the ink. Every time I ask Krishnan what’s happening, his Whatsapp message is two words—please wait.

Finally, I turned to the ‘the Wizard’. A pukka Tamil, imagine a seventy-eight-year-old man with sparse white hair that is styled with Brylcreem gel. He wears starched cotton shirts like the civil servants of the British Raj used to wear. From elbow down, though, he’s a 1970s hippie espousing flower power. He wears at least three bracelets on either wrist made of various beads. On the right, he has amethyst to activate his crown chakra and rose quartz to harmonise the energies in his heart chakra. On the left, there’s topaz to … I forget for which chakra. In his house, he converted the space where the skylight used to be into a windowless bedroom to align with the energies of vaashtu geomancy. That’s the Wizard for you.

I gave him our details, but didn’t dare tell him that this was all upside down. This jadagam thing should’ve been done before we met. That’s the norm, no? First the report, then the parents meet, then the couple meets, then marriage. Like a proper Tamil drama.

How to tell the Wizard that we’ve known each other for two years already? He asked me which hospital you were working in. I told him that you’ve been in Mauritius for six months because of the pandemic then changed the subject.

The first astrologer the Wizard suggested was Master Yuvaraj from India. With COVID-19, Master’s gone high-tech. At RM250.00, Master will present his report via Zoom and I am allowed to ask as many questions as I like.

I opted for a local and cheaper weatherman. However, he’s going to take time because I sent our details to the Wizard on a Tuesday. The astrologer can only accept Whatsapp messages on a Friday. That was yesterday. In the literary footsteps of Robinson Crusoe, I’ve chosen to name this one ‘Friday’.

Incidentally, I can't understand why so many people are upset about the wrong time of birth issue. Like your mum telling me to take things easy. With all my insecurities, I wonder if she’s annoyed with me. The thing is, I feel for her. Poor thing. I can barely remember details about my dachshund Gulabi (closest I had to a child) and your Mum has six children. Her giving me the wrong time of birth was bound to happen. If she knows the ridiculousness I’ve been through, she’ll see that this is really nothing and very funny.

For example, there was Notchy (I don't bother remembering the names of previous suitors and I freely admit that I sometimes get them mixed up). His father was adamant that we meet only if our stars were aligned. Since we had 10 houses that matched, it was permissible for ‘the boy’ to call me. He spent a quarter of an hour describing his Amma’s finger-licking vengayam columbu. Also, his darling niece was so clever because she could blow soapy bubbles when she was all of one. His only question was if I was willing to cook the same onion curry as his Amma.

Later in the day, he texted to inform (his word, not mine) me that we should ‘take it up a notch’. I asked what this meant. He wanted me to go with him to Kluang to attend the wedding of the son of the lady who’d introduced us. That’s like 250km from KL.

I responded with a ‘let me think about it’. I’ve learnt never to reply with a firm no. Or even in the affirmative, for that matter. Always be non-committal as whatever ‘the girl’ says, however intelligent or honest, will inevitably be wrong and backfire.

Next, I put on my Spidey sensors, sent out feelers and made enquiries.

As it happens, Notchy was a little naughty.

Notchy had a twenty-year-old daughter from a previous shot-gun marriage. It was a thali-tying temple wedding which was never registered, thus rendering this child illegitimate. Now that he was fifty, he wanted legitimate children and his Amma was desperate for him to settle down. Notchy saw my photo and figured that I was worthy enough to be his baby-making machine. More so since two matching ‘houses’ were intimacy and family.

The other was Borty, some management-level person at AIG Insurance. Our charts matched in nine houses. Since I’m in my forties, he wanted me to buy medical insurance that covered fertility issues. He was worried that our children wouldn't be perfect and I must be willing to terminate an imperfect pregnancy. I am opposed to aborting a foetus for such trivial reasons. That didn't go down well.

Honestly, which child is perfect?

This also was mild compared with a prayer many years ago at the Nageswari temple in Bangsar. Imagine me, who suffers from ophidiophobia, shaking from head to toe, presenting a six-inch-tall cobra made of silver to the goddess whose name roughly translates to champion of snakes. Apparently, I had the curse of a snake in my subtle being—naag dosham—and that's why my sharp tongue repelled men. By making this gift to the goddess, the snake and I were free to find mates. How can I explain to people that since this invisible reptile’s departure, my words are probably even more cutting now?

In all this, I still don’t know what that word jadagam means. I thought it meant a report that sets out the suitability of a romantic match between two suitors. Now the Wizard has used a new one—porutham. My feeling is that no one genuinely knows what these words mean and I’m probably the first inquisitive one to ask.

What now, Roshan?

When I met the Wizard for tea, he echoed Mr. Moorthy’s first supposedly inaccurate report and said that we must not delay. You and I are both no longer young. Nevertheless, there are chances that we’ll become closer in 2021. The full moon is coming and, apparently, it’s special because it’s the first time this whole year that there’s a full moon twice in one month. While sipping his piping hot teh tarik, the Wizard declared, “The time is right.”

But right for what, Roshan?

And what does ‘must not delay’ mean?

I was desperate to seek clarification, but didn’t dare.

Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd said, "Yes, we will not delay. Roshan and I will get married and procreate NOW!”

Naturally, my imagination ran wild. Although there's currently a whole ocean between us, you will marry me and somehow impregnate me this very night—an immaculate conception, at best. Still, Roshan, in nine months, we could have our own Christ-like child who will be highly intelligent with a lovely smile.

What are we to do when our weathermen—Mr. Moorthy, Smokey and Friday—eventually send their reports? Naturally, I expect to receive them in the aftermath of my fourth of November birthday because that’s when Mars goes direct and communication is back to running smoothly.

What if we’re not at all a match? What happens if one weatherman says we’re a good match and other two say we’re not? Do we choose the best of three? Do we never see each other again? Or, do we do Tamil drama style and elope? Must we sacrifice ourselves for love à la Shakespearean tragedy?

What do you think?

Muddles, cuddles and bubbles, my darling.

 

All my love, Anjali.

Comments

  1. Hilarious! Very well done. Congratulations, Aneeta.

    My favorite lines:
    "Although there's currently a whole ocean between us, you will marry me and somehow impregnate me this very night—an immaculate conception, at best. Still, Roshan, in nine months, we could have our own Christ-like child who will be highly intelligent with a lovely smile."

    I suggest you continue this story if possible.
    Many laughs and much metta,
    Rohi

    ReplyDelete
  2. A fun read. Amusing and sad in equal parts as this reflects the state of the societal belief in all things astrological esp when it comes to matters of 'searching' for partners in the Indian community.
    Loved the humour injected n all those names, not to miss Wiz Yuvraj gone tech, etc. Gulabi of all names! Must have definitely been a 'rosy' canine:)

    Well Aneeta you have taken this one up a notch! Congrats n keep them coming!

    Where will Anjali and Roshan go from here? They'll brave tumultuous weather right?

    ReplyDelete

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