by Nuggehalli Pankaja
The night was cool; A serene air hung over it; The ripple of the river meandering behind the house was enticing.
It was with great reluctance that I tore my attention from this calm beauty and met the vocal artillery of Ramalinga Pillai, our co-guest as he expounded on astrology. My friend Shambu,who had been instrumental in persuading my one day stay at SubbaIyer’s, alone sat silent, apparently awaiting our incoming train.
“There is truth in all branches of astrology”-Subba Iyer exclaimed-“One example is the generally scrutiny of horoscopes before arranging a marriage. What did you say? Superstition? No sir, no! What? Psychological? Certainly not!”. SubbaIyer snorted with disdain-“Since the destiny of man is controlled by his stars, and since the life of a husband and wife is intertwined, it is the duty of every parent to see to it that there is harmony, and not clash of the ruling planets”.
“And, is a flaw in one horoscope detrimental to the happiness of the couple?”
“Rubbish!” - RamalingaPillai laughed derisively –“It is nothing but a silly notion of our elders. Very strange that this generation is also entertaining such superstitions so unbecoming with the progressive trend! Scrutiny of horoscopes indeed!
Can you give me one incident in which the happiness of the couple was marred owing to overlooking this procedure?
Instantly reminded of an incident narrated by my uncle a few years back, I took up the challenge. Leaning back comfortably, and between puffs of smoke, I commenced thus-
“Believe me, this is a real incident; There was a rich landlord with a beautiful daughter; I can give you no names since I know them not; The girl made a love-marriage, probably with one of her classmates. The wedding was celebrated with great pomp and without much observance of age-old customs, not to say of this horoscope business.
Years fled by, the young couple remained childless; Undoubtedly it was like a cloud over their happy married life. Slowly a great change came over the hitherto modern family. Yatras to holy places were made, vows undertaken. Special pujas to Subramanya- the serpent-God, were performed, and eminent astrologers whose very sight had been loathed hitherto, were consulted with the utmost zeal but to no avail ! Some two years must have elapsed thus when a calamity overtook this otherwise happy family.
Of a sudden, the robust son-in-law fell ill, but from what disease no one could diagnose; There was a gradual swelling of his body till he had expanded to thrice his former self; Numerous expert doctors were consulted, but none could fathom the reason nor check the peculiar disease, which suddenly took an alarming turn! Little by little, the whole body started decaying !
The father was simply devastated. He was prepared to stake anything for his child’s happiness but little could he do except watch the ember of life slowly depart from
his son-in-law, and with that all the hopes he had cherished for his daughter. “
Here I stopped the narrative to ask of Ramalinga Pillai “Have you by any chance heard of Venkataramayya, the famous astrologer?”
“I do, what about him?”
It was Subba Iyer who replied; Something in his tremulous tone arresting my attention, I looked at him sharply.
Just then I felt Shambu’s grip on my shoulder. “Don’t!”-He hissed.
to comprehend, I continued in the jolly vein of a storyteller.
“Well, my uncle sent for him. A serious conclave of four other eminent astrologers ensued.
“This is the result of a bad deed committed by the girl three janmas (birth)back”. They informed the grief-stricken father. ”Poverty goaded her into pilfering a gold vessel at a friend’s place They led a comfortable life thanks to the costly spoil, but alas, theft of metals spells ruin to health and happiness, especially gold. Added to it, this vessel had been kept for worshipping purposes. The third janma had seen the reunion of the same couple along with the parties indirectly involved in the crime, and the effects of the sin are now slowly taking place“.
“But surely there must be a way out-there usually is, through shanti-pujas-vratas,etc ?”- The old an, completely shattered, wailed.
Yes, there was a way ,only one way-Venkataramayya knew it,but did not disclose. . . . . . . . . . .”
Here,a sudden gasp diverted my attention; I glanced up to feel Subbaiyer’s bewildered eyes upon me.
“Go on”-He said quietly-“What was the remedy?”
“Not at all an easy one sir”-I shrugged my shoulders-“The astrologers thought that the ill luck wrought by the wife’s deed could be swept away through lifelong separation. . . . . . .”
“Yes, the wife should depart from the husband’s side never to have any sort of contact with him again-not even a glimpse! Then only would the complaints of the invalid vanish. Besides regaining his former health, he would be blessed with children through his second marriage; But alas, the sentimental astrologers thought it a crime to bring separation between such loving couple, hence refrained from disclosing; The poor
son-in-law got worse, and one morning saw the last of him. Fate is indeed cruel! Now,what do you say regarding the veracity of astrology?”
I looked around enthusiastically to study the impressions of my listeners. I was puzzled. A terrible gloom seemed to have enveloped the place.
“Is it true what you tell me?”—Subba Iyer’s grave voice broke the silence.
. “As true as I am sitting here”-I replied triumphantly, for had I not proved my point?
Again there was a silence-cold and uneasy; I stirred and shuffled feet.
Sudden muffled sobs, rustle of a saree reached our ears; Then, without any warning, a charming young lady rushed into the verandah and flung herself on SubbaIyer’s lap.
“It is too late appa”- She lamented between racking sobs-“They never told me this! Do you hear? Venkataramayya hid it from me-the wife! Was it right?”
“Hush Leelu,hush!”-Subba Iyer clasped her in his arms. The old man’s face was drained of all color and his shriveled hands shook
“TOO LATE!”- The girl moaned,wrenching herself free, and wringing her hands-
“Appa, why did they not inform me? I would have left my Gopi, sure I would have,just to save him,to make him happy…I would have allowed him to remarry and forget me. . . . .and ..and,Gopi loved children so much ! Oh my fate, why was I not told? Now, it is too late. . . . too late. . . . TOO LATE!”
As the servant announced the arrival of the train, I left the place with the words echoing in my ears-“Too late…Too late…..Too late…..”