About two weeks back I visited an astrologer to try and find out why my career-graph had suddenly hit a plateau. I wasn’t much for it in the beginning. It was my cousin’s constant prodding that made me agree to see her once. “She will counsel you and guide you to the right path”, was what she had said. All of 20, my cousin consulted the astrologer at every crucial stage of her life. So I went.
Her name was Paromita and her chamber was a six feet by six feet cube nestled in the mezzanine floor of a residential building in Triangular Park. On entering the cube I was amazed to see at least fifteen people sitting inside it. I thought, I was suffering from an optical illusion, that the cube is actually twelve by twelve at least; or the cube is made of lycra, it expands. Nevertheless, I sat on a low stool among the fifteen people, majority of who were women. The dilapidated yellow walls were covered with pictures of various deities, and the goddess herself. Paromita was a heavy set woman with a complexion like liquid gold. She wore her wavy hair long and her parting was prominently adorned with vermillion. Most of her pictures were at least 25 years old or even more for she was a young and beautiful woman then. She was seen beside every who’s who in the city, from Ananda Shankar, Amala Shankar, Mamata Shankar and the rest of the Shankar clan to Kishore Kumar, Uttam Kumar, Supriya Debi, Moon Moon Sen, Jyoti Basu and the likes. In some of the pictures she was seen with a man and a child. Her husband and kid, I presumed. An old woman sat at a small desk inside the cube with a register where I had to er…register myself in exchange of two hundred and fifty bucks.
The next forty or so minutes were spent casually looking around and wondering what made these morbid looking people flock to this cube. The women wore the exact same expressions of awe and foreboding. Some had to get their daughters married, others in search of a lucrative career option for their sons. I assumed most peoples’ problems would border around these issues. The men were here, I presumed, in search of remedies for their arthritic problems, who not to include in their ‘will’s and a general question regarding their mortality/longevity. My thoughts inevitably spiralled back to my own problems and what on earth was I doing in an astrologer’s cubbyhole! I was simultaneously considering the option of sneaking out the door into the cool night, mentally calculating how fast can I do up my shoe-straps. That was when I saw the elderly lady come out of Paromita’s private chamber where she ‘saw’ her clients. The old receptionist signalled me to say it’s my turn now. I picked up my red handbag and quietly stepped in.
The private chamber was simply space scooped out from the six by six with frosted glass panels serving as partitions from the waiting area outside. The space was just about enough to accommodate two chairs and a desk and several thick, hard bound books that lay scattered on the floor. There was a ledge where statuettes of several deities graced the tiny chamber with their hallowing presence. Strong incense burned somewhere but I could see no smoke and…holy shit, there was a massive air conditioner on the back wall of the chamber. True, it was freezing in here and there was the deity of deities, the goddess herself: Paromita.
She must’ve been around sixty but her skin glowed all the same. Her hair, now hennaed red was left open like in the photographs. I noticed a strategically placed light bulb on the wall behind her lend a deifying glow to her thick mane and I could almost see light rays radiating out of her lustrous tresses. I could not help but let out a quiet sigh of awe!
Sitting down on one rickety chair, I saw her from eye-level. Though I couldn’t see her eyes hidden behind gigantic bifocals, the kind worn by our grandparents, there was no mistaking her smile that lingered just for a few seconds on those lips. And then she spoke. “You are getting married anytime soon?” Her figure doesn’t quite betray her voice which was a low squeak. I was annoyed at her blunt question and the fact that she put it forward like a statement. “Um no…I mean yes…well…not very soon but…er…” was all I could manage. She smiled that smug smile of the ‘all-knowing’. “I see a lot of trouble…” Yeah, so do I. “You will have a lot of trouble adjusting to your new environment. There would be clashes, quarrels, fights. But you have to keep your ego at bay. You have a volatile and extremely unpredictable nature. It would do you more harm than good. After all, you have to live under somebody or the other…” Excuse- me. Did I hear her right? Did she just say the words: have to live UNDER somebody? “Um I don’t understand what exactly you mean…” “What I mean is,” and she went on, “All your life you would have to adjust or stay under the authority of somebody. When you were a child, you were under the authority of your parents. After marriage wouldn’t you want to live under the protective authority and love of your husband?” That was it. I was on fire. I fought to try to keep my voice even. “Why do you feel that I need to stay ‘under’ somebody’s authority? Ha ha (tried a chuckle) like I’m some artefact or something!” “Well well young lady, you have been born a woman (thanks for the information!). And being a woman isn’t it your responsibility to obey and adjust all your life?” I immediately punched her face, her humongous bifocals split into two. I then took her face and bashed it on the wall behind her and asked her to tear into tiny pieces all the hard bound books that lay on the floor and then I stuffed those tiny pieces of paper down her throat till her oesophagus was full of paper. Of course, I did all of that only in my momentary reverie. In reality, I gave her a good advice. “Lady, if this is what you have been telling the women who come to you seeking answers to their questions, I feel sorry for them. I believe their problems have increased ten-folds after consulting you. I am not going to take any of your nonsense for I came here for some insights into my career not to hear sermons on domesticity. And if you are thinking I would want my Two-fifty bucks back, you are wrong. Keep it as a tip. Goodbye.”
While I bent down at the door tying my shoe-straps, I saw the girl who was scheduled to go in after me, get up from her seat. Her eyes were dancing with expectation and her full round face was brimming with joy of youth. She must hardly be 20. Another one bites the dust, I thought as she pulled down her tank top a little to cover her navel. In two seconds she vanished behind the door, ready to be chastised.