I sit sweltering, legs crossed, feet bare, hands cupped in my lap, back bent. The cool black marble floor of the front room of my grandmother’s house chills my thighs through the thin fabric of my salwar kameez.
This is the greeting room. The room where all guests not privy to the inner sanctum of the home are entertained. It was once the portico, but was enclosed to give it greater status. The stiff formal chairs circle, gossiping and giggling, while I sit on the floor and endure yet another attempt by my mother to gather details about my future marriage.
“Our fate is written in stone,” the fortune-teller-priest warns prophetically. “I can only tell you what is already decided. Karma cannot be changed, only delayed.”
The landscape of his bare chest, marked by a spattering of curled white hairs and a white thread from shoulder to opposing hip, gleams with a patina of perspiration. I am trying to focus on his words, but my eyes are mesmerised by the forest of black hairs sprouting from his ears. I never knew ears could grow hairs. Perhaps this is where he would harvest from for his thinning pate.
I am interrupted in my plans for the future of hair transplant donors by the monotonous chanting from the priest. His hand picks shells from one chalked square on the floor and moves them to another. The heat and humidity build and I begin to feel pressure-cooked. My eyes droop. Little beads of sweat spring up beneath my lower eyelid. My mouth falls open. Even the flies are languorous in this heat, buzzing fatly in creeping circles across the room.
The priest continues his game of musical shells, plucking from this square, placing in that. I’m uncertain how this is in any way enlightening, but it’s not my place to question him. I’m supposed to just sit here quietly, waiting patiently to be told defining features of the man I’m to spend my life with.
The priest stops chanting. He gathers the shells. Everyone stands. I scramble to my feet, keenly aware that the numbness in my left thigh will make walking impossible. It appears that the predictions are done. Was I asleep for that bit? I don’t remember him saying anything about my potential groom.
My mother palms some money to him and her hands move seamlessly into a Namaste as she bows imperceptibly. The priest nods. It is beneath him to acknowledge anything so unclean as money, though not beneath him to accept it.
“What did he say?” I ask, trying not to show too much interest. Any hint of weakness on my part and she would pounce. I have put her off pursuing an arranged marriage for too many years. Her desperation to intervene and take charge of my marriage campaign borders on military strategy worthy of Julius Caesar.
“He told us what your husband will look like.” This isn’t her first rodeo and she knows how to play it cool.
“Amma, you know what I mean,” I sigh exasperatedly.
A triumphant smile spreads across her lips. She knows she’s got me hooked.
With enormous thanks to the Yeah Write staff and community. I am humbled by your votes.