Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Astrology Expert

It was a Sunday morning and we were at our pinni's (mother's sister) house which is also the place where my grandmother lives now. I was woken up and hauled into the living room unceremoniously. As someone who lived most of his life at boarding schools being at home meant vacation and during those times I only wake up early enough to give my mother a send off while she leaves for work, if at all she does, for she tries to apply for a leave whenever I am at home. And one would think Sunday during such vacations is a time to wake up whenever one felt like, right?
I didn't even brush my teeth yet but my grandmother silenced my protests by showing me to shut my mouth up by a fierce show of putting a finger to her lips. She said, in a voice is that is low for her, "It's about to start", and showed me into a chair, beside my dad who was already waiting eagerly sipping away his tea. One might think that it's telecast of the swearing ceremony for a president of a new world order for everlasting peace given the way I was dragged to the TV, but no it was to see the weekly horoscope details delivered every Sunday for the upcoming week. To be precise the Mulugu Siddhanthi ji's Rashiphalalu.
Although amma watches it time to time, my dad and grandmother are ardent followers. And it would certainly do him good to know a little of that for he is considered a little of Astrology expert among his circle of friends and colleagues. I sighed defeatedly and sat down in the chair show to me while trying to present a cheery face to my aunt so that she would think I have already brushed my teeth and give me a coffee. Ufff, too much to do in too early in the morning. As the show progressed my aunt and amma settled themselves in chairs before the TV, all of them listening to the commentary with most rapt attention, which means no more fiddling with remote trying to see if I can change the channel to HBO or MoviesNow.
And suddenly my granny pinches me while I sit there dozing in the chair, throwing me a reproachful look, as the guruji starts telling about my own weekly horoscope. And if he says something nice and lucky my granny's face would light up and she would crack her knuckles on her head and bless me. And if he says something unlucky she would ask me to be extra careful that week, to not forget praying to gods in the morning and says in a resigned sort of way more to herself than me, "It may be fated thus, but doesn't mean we can't tweak it a bit," and then she would cheer herself up commenting, "It doesn't hurt to be a bit more cautious, does it? After all, all these horoscopes exist so that we try and avoid the mistakes we might make."
Also, my granny would call me on the eve of every new year asking me to turn onto so and so Telugu channel to listen to  Mulugu Siddhanthi ji about how the next year is going to be. I grunt something like an assent not giving a proper answer because a proper answer would be 'NO'. I feel bad saying no to granny but then I tell myself there is no way I can get access to a cable TV given that I would be in a boarding school or college hostel, although I am not really sure that's indeed the reason for I never made any effort to find a TV with access to cable like I would normally do if there's a cricket match.
My dad who doesn’t really care about his own horoscope details waits palpitating as the details of my and my brother’s horoscopes are told. He then remembers what days we need to be careful upon and if a particular week is predicted to be indeed very unlucky he will take me or my brother, whoever has got the bad prediction, to the temple and make us commensurating charity. You see there are different types of charities for different types of bad lucks. The most common thing being donating rice, the others being donating oil or sesame seeds etc. He would look out for the right time for the charity to be done a time which is devoid of evils of the day. A time that agrees with the stars that govern us.
At this juncture, I’m compelled to say something about the calendars in my house to make things clear. Calendars at my home is a daunting subject and I don't intend to give you a complete picture of it for I might not be up to the task, so I'd just try and paint the picture.
There are mainly two types of calendars: Type one in which you have to turn the leaf over as the month changes and the second one where a large picture covered 90% of the space of the calendar and a small strip of paper beneath it showed the calendar, and in this type two calendars the calendar is merely an optional function the image displayed being its primary function.

As a kid when we were finally moving to our own new house, leaving the one which we were on rent, dad asked me to pack the calendars. And I diligently packed only the ones belonging to that year, leaving the old ones to their nails. Well, they were useless and I didn't bother packing them. Boy was I wrong? I got the backlash and after a little scolding and shouting, little because my mother intervened, he uttered some silent muttered curses, something about getting no help at all and started packing them himself. Each family of calendars was sorted into separate shopper bags. Their places in the new house have already been decided long before our beds/furniture have been decided.
Not all calendars at my home flutter in the wind. Except for the two solitary calendars, the SBI calendar, and the town bank calendar, rest all are heavily protected by sentinel their brethren, stacks of old calendars, each weathered up for a year before another calendar has pushed it back and took the top place. And the old calendars couldn’t be removed because all the calendars, except those two solitary calendars, have pictures of gods. And how could an ultra-conservative, ultra-pious family like ours ever even dare to dream to throw a paper which contained a picture of a god, we who heavily pray for forgiveness even when a blank paper happens to graze slightly on our legs accidentally?  So each nail took a family of calendars. While some calendars like the one with a painting of Lord Vishnu and the one which showed the giant statue of Lord Hanuman from Samalkot, our village (or a town I’m still not sure which one of it is it?) have become favorites and they are always to be brought upward even if their nails have gotten new calendars.
Dad would later give that Hanumanji calendar to me when I went to join my first boarding school. Hanumanji is the remover of fears and vanquisher of evils. So whenever I went to a new place dad would get me a new Hanumanji calendar. Not just any Hanumanji calendar but the one that showed the giant statue of our hometown. And having reasonably decent influence within our hometown he would get another one of those calendars in a jiffy. You see, we never ever bought calendars, we always get them from well-wishers and each year we get more calendars than we require and accommodate. Every year dad gives away some to others. And having studied in a Christian missionary school, I and my brother always received a new calendar each for Christmas. Although my dad is cool enough to let me study in a Christian school and allowed me to go to church, it's too much expect him to let me hang that calendar among the other Hindu gods' calendars. And that meant two of his Christian friends invariably get those calendars every year promptly.
Dad always used SBI for thithi and related details and Town Bank to mark out the pending bills. Town Bank calendar is a type one calendar with large square blocks for each day, on which dad would mark those days when we would go on a trip or to nearby town etc, (mostly we just leave to Kakinada), and cancel the day's supply of milk. This then he would use to tally up after the month while paying the milkman. And town bank calendar is the laziest of all. Well, you can't count those type two calendars from which dad already tore away the months part and kept just for the sake of the picture of gods. But among the calendars that we still used Town bank calendar was definitely the laziest. After every month when we have to pay our local bills dad would refer to that calendar and only when all the bills were taken care of, would the month be progressed on it. But to collect the money for the milk the mail milkman would come usually delaying it by a week or so. Until such time the calendar has no business progressing into the current month. It waits wretchedly while some of its neighbors move along to the new month. The longest I remember was it lagging a full month when the milkman dawdled and collected payment two months worth of milk in the third month.
The SBI calendar, like Hermione Granger ready with her hand in the air with an answer, is always the first one to progress. Dad would turn it into the new month when he sits for his usual morning puja.

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