A long time ago, a friend of mine, worried about the loserish state of my life, sent her astrologer to me. He’s great, she said. Everything he told me came true. My addiction to horoscopes, tarot readers and other such romantic predictive entertainments has not lacked for intensity, but it has been missing a certain earnest seriousness. This must surely explain why, though I have often pleasurably fantasised about forthcoming good fortunes, nothing anyone has told me has come true.
Having accepted that it is really the daydreaming (and flattery) that I might crave, rather than any anxious preparation for the future, I have now limited my encounters to various newspaper and online horoscopes which provide the pleasure without the lecture—something that I’ve found inevitably accompanies a personal astrological consultation. At least for me. To be frank, astrologers and I, we have a chhattees ka ankda— which serious followers will know means jldfjlasjdflajdfl;adjf;lasd f;kf’ejf;lkdl;ksd;asljdf fojsdfpjsd.
My most formative such encounter was with another of those famed super-predictors in Bangalore. He was a gentleman of a certain age who basically assured me I would be a failure in life. I should not learn to drive because I might have an accident. He concluded his series of unfortunate events with a line to a friend of his present, in Tamil: “Look at the way she is sitting. Without any shame. Should a woman sit like this?”
No dear reader, there was no immodesty as such in my posture, so curb your wild imaginations. I merely had my arm stretched across the back of the sofa and my back resting. At the time I had not been told that men are allowed to relax while women must always appear restrained. He was followed a few years later by the gentleman my friend sent. Said astrologer arrived with a striking red satin jhola. He looked at my chart and informed me that all would be well in my love life provided I was very careful to stay away from “paraye mard.”
I looked perplexed and asked, “But panditji, if I stay away from paraye mard then how will they become apne?” Surely one follows another right? Panditji looked displeased and continued predicting times of difficulty ahead. Now clearly, the panditjis both spoke from a concern for my well being. Yet, they fell short in their manly duties of protecting culture and womankind. Never mind—they can still learn from the Saudi religious police.
Every year Saudi Arabia has a cultural fair in Riyadh, called the Jandriyah Festival. It has two weeks of dancing, singing, traditional crafts, sporting competitions and displays of masculinity and milatirines by the armed services. Or at least that’s what I understood from the Saudi tourism website which quoted this verse to elaborate on the meaning of valour in battle: “Hanging by my side was a sharp, well-made sword; its broad blade glittered in my right hand. My fearless heart routs the enemy with it; it is my best companion on a dark night.”
Ummm, ok never mind my double meaning devil’s workshop. In fact it is exactly because of this devil’s workshop which is every woman’s mind that the festival is divided into men-only, women-only and family days. Although, do the military displays happen on the women-only days too? Or do only the boys get to have all the viewing fun? The festival is a destination apparently. So this year three impossibly hot, good looking guys also landed up at the festival, although it’s unclear whether their well-made swords were on display or not.
Alarmed by their good looks the Saudi police immediately deported them. Apparently they were extremely anxious, just like panditji, about the impact these men might have on the female population of Saudi Arabia, who as the panditji would have liked, are not supposed to hobnob with paraye mard.
There were only three questions in my heart when I read this. Dude, how ugly are Saudi men, that the women will lose it? Or, how wild are those Saudi women anyway? Third, and most important—can they send those guys to Bombay? Ok, can they at least send us pictures?! Well maybe it’s just that the mard that looks good is usually the paraya one, the more paraya, the hotter—not only because familiarity breeds contempt, among other things.
Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.