Portrait of a Fortune Teller

I feel cloistered and caged, literally. It’s a sad life when you’re just somewhat exotic and paraded around. People think I have all the answers to the universe. A cosmic encyclopedia, you can say. They don’t think about me as having any feelings, and they would never acknowledge my help anyway. This is my life. When you do nothing all day but feel exhausted right down to the bone, you realize that existence is such a drag. Can’t fly, can’t be, just strut around, and look poised, calm and stately, while inside you just want to end this. I don’t really know what to do, but what else can I do?

My owner is fat old woman. She refuses to let age dictate her and wears bright blinding yellows and tangerines and reds- the rainbow would take a bow. Jasmine and roses are piled in her hair. Her lips are red, probably from the betel leaves she has been chewing. Today, we have company. There’s another old lady sitting beside us, taking our expert opinions and future predictions about her life. She has her hand held by the fat lady, palm facing upwards, and regaled with tales and predictions. A montage of future and past which is shrouded in mystery and marvel, omens and affirmations, things that match her life exactly and things that don’t slightly. Her son is not disobedient really, but then maybe he is. This gypsy woman has to be right, she thinks. They all do. She certainly was about at least four things.

The four things she mostly right about are: a) you are, at heart a simple person. Well, who isn’t? Even a crime lord would agree. b) You like taking care of people around you. Whoop-de-da. c) You never get the money/care/future you definitely deserve. Well, does anyone? And d) You have come to a grave trouble recently. These dolts are sitting on a threadbare mattress believing that me, a parrot will guide them to their future. They have grave troubles all right. The woman, whose palm and life is momentarily in another’s hands, is nodding her head eagerly, as if to reassure herself and the other woman, to go on. What more can you tell me? Will my daughter get married again? What about my husband, is he happy wherever he is? Is his spirit in peace? What about money? Will I get more this month? Would things be better? The fat lady sighs as a doctor would, wondering what to tell this patient, that I don’t know what this disease even is, leave alone it’s medicine.

Then, at the end of that whole routine, the fat lady opens my cage, if you can call a four by four (centimeters, in my case) old and smelly contraption that, with a flourish.The sun is a mammoth blinding orb, which I get to see once in a while, like now.I walk on the cards arranged by her side on the mattress. I pick one out, hovering, walking a little, as much as I can get away with without the fat lady being suspicious, and then pick one of many ancient looking moth infested cards. Then, as if giving me a prize she throws three or four (on a good day) grams.  My foot is tied to the cage. I’m practically seventy percent of her sales pitch. I go back in and the solar system is in alignment again, as far as my owner is concerned.

The card is picked up, studied, lamented and nodded over. Then with a graveness that signals one to hush, the fat lady explains to the woman about everything. Yes, her daughter would get married again next year. The man would come to them himself. Yes, your husband seems happy and tells you to not mourn for him anymore. If you are wise you will save a lot this year, and by the end of next year you may unexpectedly come about a lot of money. Yes! It is clear from your cards. These don’t lie, my dear. Have faith. Oh, the ennui!

After one or two questions where the client realizes that nothing else comes to her mind, she pays her from the little red purse she takes out from her blouse. She gets up slowly, her bones cracking and walks ahead, to the vegetable vendor.

We’re alone again. She gets up as well, buys some food, ready for the long day ahead. Talking to other people among whom prominently there is the woman selling vegetables, the cobbler, and the boy making sugarcane juice, the man having the stall selling dried prawns, the man who sits on a rusty machine and sharpens old knives. She talks about her son. Can they give him a job? Also, do they know of a remedy for coughing? Do they also have grand children? She tried asking me for some predictions, whatever card I picked up, she threw. I guess I’m not that supernatural after all. At the end of the day, we go home and then I’m kept in the corner of the kitchen where I talk just to hear the sound of my voice, until someone gets irritated by that and clouts my cage. Fortune telling is hard work.



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