• ~ Mark Twain

    ~ Mark Twain

    "Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it."
  • luv5

    Ma Luvoozia – Part V

    ( Express Today presents before you the fifth and concluding part of “Ma Luvoozia” series by Prof Rajesh Sharma)

    Panditji’s father must have been a genius born ahead of his times, the stuff Google legends are made of. And he not only dreamed and then proclaimed his dream but also put in place a workable strategy to translate his great dream into big cash.

    So every year Ma Luvoozia spends, like her husband and his father did, three fortnights, more or less equally spaced, near the ghats of Varanasi. ‘She has gone on pilgrimage,’ the clients are told. She stays in luxury hotels and, assisted by her daughter and son-in-law, does considerable data collection. She confers with certain trusted record-keepers of the dead, handpicked from the lot who swarm the banks of India’s sacred rivers like immortal flies, who have been commissioned in advance to dig out available data on the ancestry of those keen to have a view of their past and future. A script-writer’s clerk from Kolkata – a faithful and resourceful man– weaves little tales of virtue and sin around the gathered data plus whatever else Luvoozia hands him from her Ram-Ram designer bag in which she carries several little notebooks with names, addresses and dates scribbled, in a rather unreadable hand, in Hindi and English.

    The sojourns, described back home as pilgrimages, are workshops to stitch together fantastic fables that are the merchandise the fortune-tellers’ family trades in. There has never been a scarcity of dim-eyed dreamers in the land of Bharat who will drop on their chins to lick your toes if you can blabber out something of their ancestral past – for if you know the past, they believe, you would know the future too.

    But competition was taking its toll on the Luvoozia’s fortunes. Already business had been going steadily down since death had wiped out so many not-so-able-bodied men of this family of seers. The rival fortune-tellers’ murmurs had continued to spread and they undermined the potential clients’ interest. Moreover, Ma, Ma’s widowed sisters-in-law and their entire brood had found wealth so easily that they hated doing anything the hard way, much less learn Sanskrit. Without Sanskrit, their fortune-telling carried no style and little conviction. Hindustani, that too spoken with a Punjabi-Doabi accent, has never been a distinguished instrument of fortune-telling.

    One night the inevitable happened. Regular medical checks of Ma’s daughter had indicated a later time, but labour pains began unexpectedly sooner. The son-in-law was not in town. A new star of the family was lurking under the horizon, hesitant but ripe to burst on the scene any time.

    In her desperation, Ma telephoned a boy from the neighborhood. He arrived instantly, touched her swollen feet, and was instantaneously packed off to an astrologer’s home in a mohalla in the old city. ‘Wake him up and tell him I want him to find out the exact moment the child should make his entry into the world. They have already taken my daughter into the operation theatre. The operation does not begin until we know the auspicious time for birth.’

    The boy was young and not very tight-lipped. Ma’s injunction to keep secret the night’s mission tickled him so much that his tongue began to wag uncontrollably. Before long, the whole town knew that Ma outsourced fortune-telling to lesser beings.

    Ma’s turn to ma-dom had its seed in this misplaced kick she had planted, without the least foresight, on her own fortune’s bottom. And since she had freshly sipped from the cup of the serendipitous dream that had left a bhakta swimming in love, she was inclined to believe, given the great believer she was, that the kick from behind was destined to yield a leap ahead. That she might graduate from being a fortune-teller to Providence Incarnate. But she was too full of herself and lacked a competitor’s inverted eye. She just could not be a good enough actor.

    So she survives, a faded myth, on memories of better days. She still likes to be surrounded by strange things – including the frog who wears trousers and a shirt, an aging chameleon who has a buffalo’s lazy eyes and a flat-breasted woman’s uninteresting figure under a man’s head, and the bull with his overshaven sweaty face who will soon retire as a professor of many languages.

    The frog and the chameleon have never understood why she often steals a curiosity-laden glance at the bull when he seems to be looking away. They do not know she is trying to figure out why Panditji was so fond of this docile Taurus.

    Professor Bull visits her religiously. He spreads himself, like a meek cow, in folds on the carpet. Whenever she gets up to go and turns away, he stares longingly in her direction with the tentative look of an archaeologist searching for traces of some buried all-male civilization.

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    Rajesh Sharma

    Prof Rajesh Sharma teaches literature, culture and theory in the Department of English, Punjabi University, Patiala
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