Superstition Or Stupidity
Superstition Or Stupidity10 mins 16K 10 mins 16K
Malati poured a bucket of cold water over her sleeping son Ravi. He had overslept till 8.00 AM although it was Sunday. She was a strict disciplinarian. She believed in rising early before the sunrise. She terrorized everyone in her family. She belonged to a typical Tamil Brahmin family settled in New Delhi. She had her own set of ideologies that she imposed upon everyone. She was a good woman and went out to help those in distress. Her family loved her, yet no one dared to antagonize her. Her parents-in-law found her to be a dutiful daughter-in-law. She loved them. She couldn't tolerate anyone speaking ill of her parents or parents-in-law.
Her husband Jayaraman had announced his voluntary retirement from the bank. Her twenty-five-year-old son Ravi worked in a multinational company as a zonal manager. Her father-in-law Sadashivam had celebrated his ninety-second birthday last week. Their relatives poured in from all over the country to seek their blessings.
Malati was a pious woman. She would observe all the rituals religiously. However, she was an expert gossip monger and extremely superstitious. Her family tried to persuade her to use her common sense rather than relying on astrology. They were worried about her.
Ravi grumbled, "Why can't you be more liberal? Today is Sunday. Why don't you allow me to relax?"
Malati hit back, "You have slept soundly snoring like Kumbhakarna for nine hours. Seven- eight hours of beauty sleep is enough for you. I don't think you are a Brahmin at all. You don't perform Sandhyavandanam. I haven't heard you chanting Gayatri Mantra. How will you get married if you don't pray to God?"
Ravi said, "I have decided not to get married at all. I can't deal with two nagging women sucking my blood under the same roof." Malati twisted his ear and thundered, "Are you implying that I am a blood-sucking vampire?" Ravi teased her, "You don't look like a vampire. You remind me of Phoolan Devi without her gun. Don't roll your eyes like that. I will start chanting Hanuman Chalisa for your appeasement." Malati burst out laughing. Ravi had an excellent sense of humor. Rest of her family never bothered to argue with her.
The breakfast was ready. The family feasted upon hot Pongal and Vada with Sambar. They had a hot cup of coffee. Jayaraman was reading the newspaper. Ravi went to his room and switched on his laptop. His grandparents went for a walk. Malati was about to cut the vegetables for lunch when her mobile rang. Her best friend Padmavati called from Chennai. She said, "Hi, Malu. Hope all of you are doing well. My brother in Madurai is looking for a groom for his only daughter, Abhitakuchalambal. I asked him to contact you for further discussion." Malati almost dropped her mobile when she heard the girl's name. She apologized to her and said, "I hate to disappoint you. However, my son wouldn't be interested in a girl with such an old-fashioned name." Padmavati convinced her to see the photograph of the girl before rejecting her outright.
Malati consented to her proposal. They chatted for nearly half an hour. The cooker let out a whistle demanding her attention. She disconnected the mobile and resumed her cooking. She saw a message alert in her mobile. Her friend Padmavati had sent her niece's photo through Whatsapp. Malati did not like her. She was very dark and skinny. She thought, " Poor child! I pity her. She is neither gifted with good looks nor her name is nice. She will get crushed under the weight of her silly name Abithakuchalambal. She looks like she has never taken a bath in her life. She is malnourished as well. Ravi would kill me if he sees this photo."
She finished cooking by 11.00 AM. She called everyone for lunch and served them food. She cleared the dining table before going to her room for an afternoon siesta. Her neighbor Mrs.Sharma came for gossiping at teatime. She said, " Mrs. Jayaraman, yesterday I went to see an astrologer at Karol Bagh. His prophecies are very accurate. His name is Ashok Kumar. My sister suggested that I should visit him at least once for consultation.
He read my palms and revealed everything about me. He advised me to feed a cow daily. Today I fed some chapatis to a cow. I was surprised to find a five-hundred rupee note lying outside the pavement. His remedy has already started working out for me. I have his visiting card. Please make sure to offer him Rs.500/- as Dakshina."
Malati took the card from her. She was happy to find an astrologer who would answer all her queries. Mrs.Sharma hurriedly got up to leave after seeing Jayaraman coming from the bedroom. They loathed each other. She greeted him with a fake smile and went away.
He snapped at Malati and said, "Don't you have anything else to do apart from gossiping with that witch? She has spoiled you to the core. I don't want you to follow her bullshit advice. Is that clear?"
Malati had never seen her husband in a foul mood. He had never forgiven Mrs.Sharma for initiating Malati into superstition. The two friends had paid a visit to a self-proclaimed baba in their locality. Malati had forced everyone to wear yellow clothes on Thursday to appease Lord Brihaspati( Guru). They had unexpected visitors who called upon them on that unfortunate day. They thought that the entire family was going on a pilgrimage. They thrust money into Jayaraman's hands asking him to pray for their family. He was so humiliated that he refused to have his dinner. Malati pleaded with him to forgive her and have his food. Finally, he accepted her apology. Jayaraman was a sensible man. He loved and respected his wife. He rarely argued with her over trivial matters. He was fed up of her illogical reasoning when it involved superstition.
Malati simply nodded in agreement. She went to prepare tea for everyone. She had already planned to visit the astrologer with Mrs.Sharma. She wasn't going to breathe a word to anyone.
She was silent for the rest of the day. "Amma, are you alright?" asked Ravi in concern, "You haven't spoken a word to anyone. You did not even scold me for breaking your teacup" His father said, "I scolded her for chatting with that blabbering bimbo Mrs.Sharma. She feeds her with all sorts of insinuating ideas. I feel sorry for her poor husband. Your mother is upset because of me."
Ravi hugged his mother to cheer her up. He said, "Come on, Mom. Be a sport like Dad. He never sulked like you even though you blasted him for no rhyme or reason." Malati did not argue with him as it was the truth. She became cheerful again.
She woke up very early in the morning on Monday. She finished preparing breakfast and lunch before 9.00 AM. She packed Ravi's lunch box and sent him to the office. Jayaraman was surprised to find her practically running in the house to finish her chores. He said, "Relax, Mala! What's the big rush? You have already sent Ravi to the office. I am no longer employed. Amma and Appa have gone to the temple. Don't exert yourself too much."
Malati replied, "Thank you for your concern. I met my friend Indu in the market. She has invited me to a bhajan program at her house. I will be leaving shortly." Jayaraman offered to accompany her. She was alarmed as she had lied about her intended destination. She said, "Why don't you relax at home and watch TV? The program is meant only for the ladies. There is no need for you to tag along with me like my tail." Jayaraman was very suspicious. He thought that his wife was trying to avoid him. He decided that he was going to follow her.
Malati got ready to leave with her handbag full of money. She stepped out cautiously to avoid unnecessary questions. Mrs.Sharma was waiting outside her gate in her car. Malati joined her as they sped away for their rendezvous with the astrologer, Ashok Kumar.
They did not know that Jayaraman was following them in his car. After reaching Karol Bagh, Mrs.Sharma led her towards an exclusive villa. Malati was awestruck by the grandeur of the place. A butler opened the door for them. He ushered them in. He asked them to sit on the plush sofa and switched on the ceiling fan. He offered them glasses of cold water. Malati said, "Please pinch me, Mrs.Sharma. I want to be sure that I am not dreaming. This place is heaven."
Jayaraman stealthily crept towards an open window to get a better view. The butler served them tea and snacks. Jayaraman cringed at the sight of Mrs.Sharma. "My wife is a hare-brained creature", he muttered to himself, "Why does she allow this vermin to take her advantage? She has some nerve to defy my order."
A middle-aged man wearing a saffron robe greeted them. Malati and Mrs. Sharma bowed their head as a mark of respect. Jayaraman grumbled, "Look at those two morons. That rogue is planning to cheat them."
Malati gave her family's horoscope to the astrologer. He examined each horoscope using his magnifying glass. He appeared to be grim. He said, "You have come to me at an appropriate time. Your husband's life is in danger. His stars are not favorable at the moment. They are under the negative influence of The Saturn. You need not worry. We will perform a sacred ritual at your house tomorrow. It will cost you only R.10,000. I want you to purchase these items. What do you say, Mrs.Jayaraman?"
She gave her consent for the rituals and paid him Rs.500 as Dakshina.
Jayaraman wanted to slap her. He muttered, " Rs.10,000, my foot! I won't pay him a single rupee. I am going to teach Mala a lesson she would never forget." Mala and Mrs. Sharma got up to leave. They thanked the astrologer and left the place. Jayaraman was suspicious about the astrologer. He had an intuition that the latter was probably a fraud.
He took out his smartphone and switched on the video recording. The astrologer was laughing aloud with his disciple. He said, " What an easy way to earn quick bucks! That poor foolish woman believes every word that I told her. She is going to part with Rs.10,000 and all the valuables in her house. Make sure to add chloroform to the ingredients for the rituals. We have to wear a face mask for protection against the intoxicating fumes. We will escape with the loot. Let us start preparing for our big day."
Jayaraman recorded everything and went to the police station. The inspector could not believe his eyes when he saw the video. He thanked Jayaraman for helping the police to catch the missing scoundrels. The astrologer and his disciple were in fact fugitives in disguise. They escaped from the police custody while on their way to court.
The inspector and his constables followed Jayaraman to the astrologer's villa. They arrested both the master and his disciple. They recovered valuables worth crores of rupees. Jayaraman had taken a right decision in following his wife.
Malati apologized to him after learning that the astrologer and his disciple were crooks. She appreciated his presence of mind to avert a major disaster. The state government awarded him a cash prize of Rs.100,000 for capturing a dreaded criminal. The family rejoiced in his moment of glory.
The father-son duo decided to tease Malati. Later that evening, Jayaraman wore a ridiculous outfit evoking fits of laughter from Ravi. He wore an orange shirt and a purple pant. Ravi too was dressed like a clown in a pink shirt and green shorts.
His grandparents giggled at their appearance. Malati yelled at them, " Get out of that gaudy outfit. I don't want you two stuttering around my house like a pair of buffoons. You look like chimpanzees."
"Relax, Amma! My friend's father is an astrologer. I showed my horoscope to him. He asked me to wear colorful outfits to ward off any evil eye. He also suggested that Appa should wear Orange colored clothes on Tuesday to please Lord Hanuman, " said Ravi.
Malati retorted, "Listen, Mr. Wise Guy. I have stopped believing in horoscopes and astrology. Please do me a favor and wear normal clothes. I have already expressed my regret for being superstitious. What else do you expect me to do?"
Jayaraman laughed heartily. He commented, "Your mother has finally seen the light of the day. I stopped believing in horoscopes after I got married to her." All of them burst out laughing.