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September 09, 2011

It seems that the more you find out, the more you wish you hadn't asked.

thalai ezhithu: Noun

Literal translation: head-writing

Meaning: Tamil slang used to indicate that our futures are set in stone and to occasionally explain away a lack of enthusiasm in cumbersome activities such as studying.

Use: What’s the point? Its my thalai ezhithu, even if I study I won’t pass.

Call it what you want- destiny, fate, the inevitable or head-writing, it will still remain quite annoying. Irrational beliefs and being overly superstitious is one thing, but having someone tell you that if you don’t get married next year, you never will? not insane. Believing the genius who divulged that piece of information to you, is however probably not a very logical thing to do.

There are things I love about our culture, but the existence of horror-scopes is not on that list. I would probably be the first person to admit that the existence of psychics and people who can predict the future is not entirely impossible (mostly because I like to think that if aliens didn’t exist life would be quite dull). The knowledge that, at birth a document was drafted which seals my fate, in terms of business, love, life and health is absolutely unbelievable.

I’ve watched my cousins’ “kundlis” (horoscopes) being rolled out the instant they turn 25 - (arranged) shaadi time. Many (perfectly good) prospective suitors turned down because of blemishes on a yellowed piece of paper that are invisible to everyone but panditji. But, that’s really not the biggest problem in the world. When the great enlightened kundli-logist looks at the paper, gasps, looks back at the paper and then pauses for effect before revealing a supposedly painful (but inevitable) truth - ’if she does not get married in the next year, she never will’ or ‘he can try studying as hard as he wants, but he will not pass the CA exam till 2014’ or even ‘I’m afraid you will start to lose your memory at the age of 45, everyone will take care of you, but you will not recognize them. To delay it you can probably wear a ring of with a sapphire stone’ and then hop around the city while chanting the name of Krishna. So, maybe I made up the last part, but the others are predictions I’ve actually heard being made and I’ve watched the faces of the recipients crumble and fold like an unfortunate pastry.

There’s this form of fortune-telling called kili-josiyam, in which a parrot is used to pick a card, and based on the parrot’s choice, the fortune-teller spins you a bird-brain story, literally. Its a bit like tarot-reading. There are the old ladies who infest the beach sporting saris that are as wrinkled as their skin, who wave sticks around like wands. With a flourish they read your palms, playing off of your reactions. The fun thing about these women is, you have to pay them only if you like the prediction they give you. A lucrative deal - they tell you what you want to hear and you smile and hand over a 20 rupee note.

There are also the ones that list out everything that might go wrong for you in the future and proceed to tell you what precious gemstone (which they coincidentally happen to sell at a “very reasonable” price) you should procure to avert said disaster - ’around the age of 38, you will be swayed by a married woman, wear a ruby on your left pinky-finger and you can avoid this trouble’. These are the swanky upmarket astrologers / palmists, who set up base in hotels and malls and go home with a fat check worth anything upwards of 50,000 rupees.

It really is ridiculous how people are thrilled to have strangers tell them things they know about themselves layered with some unverifiable forecasts for their lives. Ridiculous...but entertaining.

Photo credit: Puneet Bhatia 


  • Rashid Mohammad
    Rashid Mohammad
    27.08.13 12:10 PM
    Astrology is the oldest science, dating back thousands of years to when primitive people noticed objects in the sky overhead and watched the way object moved. Astroloagy has a long traditional of practice results, such as are current understanding of the stars, day & nights, the sessions and the phases of the moon.
  • Nivas
    17.10.11 09:19 PM
    I guess love marriages are near impossible in our tradition. The caste, subcaste, "horror-scope", as you put it, and everything has to match. Any love that isnt in line with the rules is blatantly rebuffed. There's simply no way you can love and get married to the same person. I once got into a heated argument with my mom. I said that I would like to marry a girl whose tastes agree with mine, without giving regard to caste or horror-scope and guess what, my mom threatens to disown me. WTH??

    There's probably a LOT more irrational stuff than that in our tradition. Ive been so agnostic (that I stopped solving exponential equations on account of my skepticism towards higher powers) since I started comprehending the world and my mom KNOWS it. Yet she imposes on me a volley of irrational rules everyday under the pretext "Periyava sollirukka".

    Vaasal padi la ukkaradha; Netthi ettukko; Always wear your poonal and do sandhyavadhanam everyday; Dont touch me - I am in a state of Madi; Or evenworse yet - Im dhooram, which means you and dad are going to cook and take care of the house under my command; Today is Ammavasai - If you dine out, you should eat atleast one spoon of Saadham at home;Dont cut your nails or go for a haircut on these* days of the week or after dusk; and a lot more which I cannot recall readily from the top of my head... ( I feel elated that I was able to list this much from my already bad memory)

    There are however a few things I love about our culture. The Iyer Baashai, for instance, ranks first in that list. It feels so good to talk in that dialect. For a guy in Chennai who is used to hearing the local slang, I believe ours' is the most refined form of Tamil spoken today.

    *heck, Ive never paid attention to all that, that I dont even recollect which days of the week they are!
  • Vidhya
    11.09.11 10:28 AM
    I've grown up in an orthodox home and I don't believe them. Its individual opinion I guess, but my point was for even those who belief, they should know that its not definitive, and that most of the fortune-tellers, Jyotishts and Pundits are frauds spinning crap for gullible superstitious people.
  • Sunil Deepak
    Sunil Deepak
    11.09.11 10:19 AM
    I think that all these predictions work only if you believe. Plus the human mind that forgets all those times when predictions didn't work and remembers only those when they did, so it reinforces the beliefs in predictions.

    Sometimes, I pride myself on my rationality and disbelief in such superstitions but then I think that it is a result of growing up in a house where people didn't believe in them. If I had grown in an orthdox home, perhaps I would have been different?
  • Ashwini C N
    Ashwini C N
    10.09.11 06:35 PM
    The thrill in life to is to live anticipating the next moment.It's no fun, and not possible too, If we get to know our future.
    And there are just a few genuine people out there, rest are all well..we know
  • sandy
    09.09.11 07:18 AM
    i get your point completely-but i still do think there is science behind astrology that even the west is finally acknowledging now. I think the problem is that the majority of these puandits and greedy hoaxed who have tarnished the image of astrology in our minds by these 'sapphire ring', 'upay' methods

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