The next morning Bangalore Cousin and I are having tea before meeting the pandit. “We can do some shopping today. What is the first thing on your list?” she asks. “Saris,” I reply. “Where are you going to wear those in America?” Bangalore Cousin asks. “I get invited to formal events now, living in Manhattan, and I don’t like boring black dresses. I want desi formal-wear in bold colors," I reply. While there is a very strong part of me that's a hall monitor, there's an equally strong part that's a non-conformist and she wants to wear hot pink and turquoise, together, with matching glass bangles up to her elbows.
An hour later Massi, Bangalore Cousin and I pile into the car. The driver starts the engine and eases us onto the slim street running in front of the complex before edging into the turmoil of trucks, buses, scooters, cars, bikes, rickshaws, pedestrians, dogs and cows that is the main road traffic of South Delhi. The three of us are silent in the wake of learning the pandit’s prediction of my matrimonial settlement. I tilt my head to the side and stare out the window. The chaotic energy and pace of Delhi is transfixing in way that is reminiscent of New York. I think that’s why I didn’t have such a difficult time adjusting to life in a big city. Sure I battled loneliness, but most people who come to New York do in one form or the other. In New York, you can be surrounded by millions, yet feel so isolated and alone. New York does not have warmth like New Delhi.
I continue staring out the window and feel an anxious panic rising. Plastered all over Delhi, on what feels like every other corner, is a pretty famous Indian eatery that bears Town and Country’s surname (no relationship to T&C). How can I be 10,000 miles away and unable to escape him? Why isn't Dr. Froggy's name all over the country? Or mine for that matter?!
The driver pulls up to the pandit’s modest house and the three of us go inside. The pandit’s assistant ushers us through the room where they perform the pujas (prayers) and into a back office. The pandit with a white tilak across his forehead and a bushy moustache says, “Ah, please, welcome.” He’s wearing typical Indian clothes, a tunic and loose pants. There are two chairs in front of his desk and Massi and Bangalore Cousin sit down. Immediately the house boy appears with tea.
“I have charted her stars,” the pandit says to Massi and then looks at me. His look says, “wow these are some of the shitty matrimonial stars I have ever seen, what, and to whom did you wrong so badly in your past life that God does not readily grant you a mate in this one.” “And?” Massi asks with trepidation. You know, I am at a point in my life, where if I could cultivate my writing into a career that could support me, I’m okay with being alone. But the sadness that creeps into Mom and Massi’s face that I may die alone is too much for me to endure. And which, if I am honest, is why I date feverishly, like it’s a blood sport. I have never lived my life for me, it has always been in the service of and concern for others.
The pandit enters more data into the computer. (Sidebar: I find it completely fascinating that this Hindu soothsayer, chart master of the stars and mixer of holy powders has a binary program to recreate my stars and planetary alignment, or misalignment, whichever may be the case). “She will have to wear some stones. A pearl for peace of mind, a yellow sapphire for prosperity, and a coral for depression.” “My cousin is not depressed,” Bangalore Cousin argues. “She is. I have seen her chart,” the pandit counters with authority and continues. “Her best field is communications. She has had bad times for the past two years and that will continue for two more months. Her good times will start after that and go through 2013. And her marriage will be complete by this coming June.” Well, then. He sure seems confident, and I fight the urge to tell him that for the past seven years the pandits have been saying I will get married and yet, no marriage proposals. But I presume he must know that too, so I reign in my jaded and cynical New Yorker, and decide to wait and see. There is something about being in India that makes me feel closer to God.
“What can you tell us about the boy. If there even is a boy?" Bangalore Cousin asks. After a pause she continues. "If there is no boy, that is fine, too. We can prepare her for a spinster’s life. She's very well educated and lives in America where she has a career and friends. It's more than enough for her. She's not a typical Indian woman from India whose identity is caught up in her husband and kids. Alone, my cousin has travelled all the way from New York and we wish to settle this once and for all. Is there a marriage or no?" Bangalore Cousin demands. “No, no, I am telling you. She will get married. I have been doing this for a long time. I stake my career on this. Yes, true, her stars are bad. But the match is a good one. To someone technically qualified. Finance. Computers. And she will have one child. Most likely a girl,” he insists and points at various parts of the computer screen, as if that will ease my mind. I don't know what the hell he is pointing at!
I shake my head and clear my throat to catch my cousin’s attention. She is privy to my emotional Town and Country roller coaster ride of a “relationship”, as well Dr. Froggy’s existence. Neither of them is in finance or computers. “What about a doctor?” I ask. “Yes, yes, but a technical doctor. One who uses his hands,” the pandit says and enters more data into the computer. When he is done, he looks me square in the eye and asks, “Dentist, surgeon, cardiologist? Are you knowing someone like that?”