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?...is 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