The Fortune Teller

Image credit: TourIndiaKeralaHolidays

Image credit: TourIndiaKeralaHolidays

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.

©Asha Rajan

With enormous thanks to the Yeah Write staff and community. I am humbled by your votes.


35 Comments on “The Fortune Teller”

  1. Great take on the prompt. This made me smile – despite being a very different culture to my own, it seems a revulsion/pondering of nose and ear hair is universal. Really enjoyable read!

    • Hahaha! Thanks so much. You’re right, there’s something decidedly universally unsettling about nose and ear hair.

  2. I love this! Your attention to detail is wonderful. “Even the flies are languorous in this heat, buzzing fatly in creeping circles across the room.” What a great line. Loved the story!

  3. Oh, this is so good, Asha, and funny. No matter the differences in culture, we’re going to stare at the hair in the ears. 😉 And you used one of my favorite words: languorous. Languorous flies, no less! And the ending is precious. ❤

    • Thank you Meg! Ear hair is baffling. And there appears to be no definitive medical reason for it either. Thank you so much for your lovely comments.

  4. What a wonderful tale. You smoothly took us into her world within the first few sentences, and you made me laugh out loud as her mind veered off into hair transplant territory. I really enjoyed this, and have to admit, her mother had me hooked, too 😉

    • Thanks so much, Shannon! I think I’m onto something with the potential harvesting for hair transplants… 😀

  5. What an engaging story about a moment in a girl’s day. I, too, laughed along with her tangent on hair transplants while I waited patiently to find out what her future husband would look like.

  6. Your word choices! I want to bottle them up! Opposing hip, the contrast of the stiff chairs giggling, the conversational aside that the priest won’t acknowledge money but will accept it. Well done! Is this your first fiction piece here at yw?

    • Thanks so much, Nate! Yes this is my first fiction submission for yw. But the comments have been so lovely and so kind, that I’m encouraged to submit more.

      • I hope you don’t mind, Asha. I wrote about your story as a source of inspiration in my Shot of Espresso column in yeah write’s coffeehouse. I talked about how you brought the reader back to your setting, almost as if the heat and humidity were another person in the room.

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  9. Really enjoyed this story – was quite disappointed when it ended as I too was/am curious 🙂 The imagery and attention to detail was just outstanding.

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