“Hurry up Anwesha! We’ll be late and I cannot afford to miss Ma’s preaching on your birthday!! You’re stepping into your teenage years.” Asma screamed at her daughter, as she hurriedly packed some documents into her handbag. Anwesha came from her room, sulking and rolling her eyes. It was not only about waking up at 6 AM on a Saturday Morning, all the more so on her birthday that bothered Anwesha, she wouldn’t wake up any other day, at any time for Ma’s preaching.
Ma meant Mother but Asma wasn’t referring to anyone’s biological mother; instead she was referring to Ma Savitri. Ma Savitri was a religious ascetic who only dressed in saffron and read holy books & sang hymns and listened to devotional songs and performed rituals with incense and light. None of these bothered Anwesha - what bothered her was Ma Savitri read horoscopes. Worse yet, Asma believed them all.
Asma parked the two-wheeler and tip-toed quietly to the venue along with Anwesha. The session had begun & Ma Savitri was seated at the center of the stage, talking about a chapter from the Bhagavad Gita - the holy book for the Hindu religion. There seemed to be about 50 people in the audience. Asma & Anwesha seated themselves where the seats were available. Asma paid attention in full swing to what was being told and immersed herself in the knowledge shared. On the other hand, Anwesha could hardly take it. In her mind, she ridiculed all these people. She had nothing against their religion or their belief system; she simply loathed the fact that Ma Savitri charged a dime for predicting the future. Her predictions worried people endlessly, robbed them of their present, made them indebted to her forever. This was Ma Savitri’s business model that has worked in her favor for trapping her blind followers.
The spiritual discourse took nearly an hour and a half to complete. The other half hour was spent in followers networking and making connections. Anwesha wished she could run away, because the next one hour was exclusively reserved for believers who wanted to have their horoscopes read. Asma was there for this hour - she wanted to ensure Anwesha’s horoscope hadn’t changed after 13 years.
On the day Anwesha was born, Ma Savitri had predicted - “The stars have aligned on this auspicious day to indicate that your daughter will lead a wealthy life - she’d stay in a bungalow, and be loved by all for her benevolent deeds and earn a handsome stipend. All these only if you name her from the alphabet ‘A’. Bear in mind, that her name also has to end with ‘A’. That, my child, will signify a full circle.”
Asma didn’t want a single thing of the above prediction to change. She needed to be reassured and hence she was here. For the same reason, Anwesha didn’t even have a pet name. She was always called Anwesha - in its full entirety.
When it was their turn to meet, Asma acted like she was star-struck. Ma Savitri held out her arm & invited them wholeheartedly - “Hello Asma, it’s so nice to see you!! How have you been my child?”. “I have been good, Ma. How have you been?”
“Likewise, Asma. I see our Anwesha is here too. All grown up. Oh, how little she was when I last held her in my arms!! It’s a delight seeing you Anwesha, you don’t come here very often.”
“Thank you” replied Anwesha half-heartedly.
“So, what can I do for the charming mother-daughter duo?”
Asma said “Ma, it’s Anwesha’s 13th birthday. Please check if there’s a defect in her horoscope.” As she spoke, she took out the documents that were in her bag. Anwesha’s birth certificate, birth chart, fingerprints were all handed out to Ma Savitri.
“Oh, happy birthday dear Anwesha… you’ve turned into a pretty teenager & headstrong at that. Let’s see if there’s something in your path for a wealthy life.”
Ma Savitri read through one document after the other, fully focused. She occasionally did some calculations and went back and forth between the pages. She then spent some time looking at the document she had predicted. Asma had done an exemplary job in preserving the document.
Ma Savitri looked up and said “Hmm… in my tenure of service, I have never seen such consistency. Anwesha’s future is safe & secure. I still stand my word. The word that I had told 13 years ago. Stay bereft of worries, my child. I pray for you.”
With a huge sigh of relief - Asma took Ma Savitri’s leave.
On the drive back home - Anwesha shouted “Mom, stop! Just stop! I don’t get it.. why do you follow her blindly? I’m even disgusted to call her Ma. She dupes people in the name of prediction and does no good. We are nowhere near her thoughts - she doesn’t care. In every visit of ours, I am more convinced about the business gimmick of her. She said my horoscope hasn’t changed one bit because she wanted to secure our visits every year, should anything go wrong in my behavior. She missed the business from our end when we didn’t go all these 12 years. She knows teenagers are hard to handle & she doesn’t trust you enough to handle it. After all, you are a single parent. She’s just looting us. Open your eyes, mother and think for yourself. ”
Asma was dumbstruck! She had no words to address the audacity her daughter had to question people’s faith system. Asma didn’t have anything to say, after all it was for her daughter’s future.
Asma quietly started the engine of her scooter and signaled Anwesha to sit on the pillion. All along Asma thought of Anwesha’s words. If only Anwesha knew...
For generations, Asma’s family believed in horoscopes. Her grandfather was an astrologer - and aside from being a lucrative profession, he had told his children tales of how the alignment of planets and stars played a vital role in people's lives. Before her father could pass on the profession, he expired and while her father and his brothers found other professions, they had asked Ma Savitri to be their astrologer.
Asma had always been respectful towards Ma Savitri despite her predictions being incorrect. When Asma was born, Ma Savitri had predicted “The charm of the planets is seen on her palm. She will lead a long, happy life with her life partner.”
Just 2 weeks after tying the knot, Asma’s first husband had passed away in an unfortunate accident. She remarried and the couple had a baby girl. Ma Savitri chirped with her prediction much to the annoyance of the father. There was trouble in paradise. Her husband believed Ma Savitri would predict contrasting events and didn’t want gloom to overcome Anwesha. Asma, on the other hand, was hopeful that at least Anwesha had a prediction related to her career. Asma wanted nothing but to watch her daughter being fiercely independent. The conflict had ended with her husband abandoning them forever.
A silent tear escaped Asma’s eyes when she thought of all these. Anwesha didn’t know half of these events, she had grown up to be a child with low self-esteem. Neighbors, classmates, teachers, everybody asked her father’s whereabouts. This deterred Anwesha. She had neither answers nor friends.
Asma could never reveal her past to Anwesha. Because Anwesha was sure to think in her father’s way. She had equipped Anwesha with the best education and didn’t deny her of anything - she facilitated whatever it took to bring the prediction to life.
But Anwesha only criticized it.
To study Anwesha had access to textbooks, reference materials and even had a computer at home. They even had a generator too in case the power should go off abruptly. Asma had toiled to make ends meet to ensure Anwesha had a hassle-free education.
Anwesha would do her assignments well but wasn’t a top-scorer. She’d work very hard, but not smartly. She complained that her syllabi were out of date and irrelevant. She’d rather learn taxes and finances instead of science and literature. She didn’t even want to look it up on the internet. She wasn’t willing to walk the extra mile. Not even for her interests and hence she didn’t believe a word of the prediction. It simply wasn’t her. She had made up her mind to work for a decent company. She was never after high-paying jobs or positions. She felt all the things were already invented and that there was nothing she could do.
She didn’t open up to her mother about their feelings. They seldom spoke about Ma Savitri after that day.
5 years later
Anwesha geared up for University in a different province, away from her mother. She was all by herself. She had enrolled for a Bachelor's in Software Systems. Her introverted self hated group projects & in the first semester, she was paired with her classmate - Dev. It was the day of the presentation and after working on it for 3 months they were to show what they had implemented.
Dressed in formals, Dev looked like a sure shot nerd, highly intelligent and smart-working. Minus the suit, Dev was indeed a nerd. He asked insightful questions & was the professor’s favorite. Software, technology, finances, sports, agriculture, films - he could speak on anything for hours; for such was his mastery. He was very well-read and had several hobby projects in varying domains. He had put his heart & soul for this project and also had helped Anwesha get to the root of it. Anwesha often felt intimidated by him. He was a perfectionist.
As expected, the professor and the panelists liked their project and persuaded them to pitch for an investor. They believed it was a profitable solution. Dev was elated - he knew it was innovative. They had worked on a party planning application
On the other hand, Anwesha froze. This seemed like pressure on her. An overachievement. It was primarily Dev’s plan, she just played her part. She felt she was getting credited for nothing.
After they got off the stage Anwesha said “Dev, I know this is a dream-come-true for you. You always wanted to be an entrepreneur, solve problems, give people employment. I am lucky I got an opportunity to learn from you...but I just,...I mean I don’t want to share this with you. It’s YOUR product. I played a very minimal part. I was honestly in it for academics. I am not comfortable pitching something that’s passionate for me….”
Dev couldn’t believe his ears. He looked straight in her eye and said - “What on earth are you telling Anwesha? Are you in the right state of mind? It’s true that I worked on it, but you have shared my workload. What took 3 months now, could have taken 6 months if I were on my own. I guided you, you learnt & implemented correctly. Though I gave you minimalistic stuff, you did a great job. Though the novel components were coded by me, without your contribution, we wouldn’t even be having a minimum viable product. What you also didn’t think about is the documentation - which carries 10% of the total marks. You ensured you did it thoroughly, a layman could understand our product because of it. You deserve to be a part of this as much as I do. It’s team-effort for a reason. You have been a great asset to the project Anwesha, be one for yourself too. You do as directed, that is only one half of it. The other half is where the magic happens. Thus far, you have only & barely existed through it all. I want you to live through it. I want you to believe in yourself. Continuing this project can instill it in you. Think about it. Take your time.”
Dev was dead serious as he spoke.
18 years of life flashed before Anwesha’s eyes. Her mother, Ma Savitri, her being a timid student in school, complaining about her syllabus, the fight with her mother on her 13th birthday, three months of University reeled through swiftly. She finally knew where the problem was. It wasn’t her mom believing in Ma Savitri; nor was it her outdated-school education. It was within her. Her outlook. She was in tears.
“I don’t know what to say to Dev. I did as directed because I was intimidated by you. I felt like we were competing. I have trust issues. ”
“Anwesha, I’d be feeling that if you left the project that way. Think about it. I don’t expect an answer right now, but if you’re denying the offer - I want a valid reason. I have no intention of being harsh on you, I want you to get rid of the low-confidence before you turn into an adult. The going gets really tough then. Work on yourself when there’s still time. I’ll leave you with that.”
“And if I agree, will I be a successful adult?” Anwesha tried to ballpark if the prediction would after all come true.
“That depends on how you do the market research of the products in our domain. Meanwhile, I will look if the demo we have at hand meets the legal standards.”
Anwesha liked what she had heard. It’s like Dev believed her & rooted for her even though she didn’t. For the diligent student that she was, she didn’t want to let him down. She not only did the market research but also found several pitching agencies.
It took them seven pitching competitions for the investor to agree. Even then, the project had to be tweaked to a certain stent. There was work to do alongside the course load. They were left with little to no free time. She was busy; and she had started liking it. That way, she didn’t have time for Ma Savitri’s talks. Her classmates who previously inquired about her father now wanted to know her next academic venture. She found herself being very inquisitive and passionate about what Dev and she were building.
The success of the project came 2 years later. They felt rewarded - they both could clear most of their education loan and still had a decent amount to splurge on themselves. Anwesha & Dev soon started working on their next project. This time it was about food-delivery & they found success within a year.
Soon they started working on inventories, created platforms for technology, trained people, had consultancy. Without doubt, they were awarded as the “Best Outgoing Students”. They were invited to talk-shows, radio. They conducted workshops and they led their best life.
It was Anwesha’s 23rd Birthday and she was celebrating it with Asma. She was really proud of her daughter. Anwesha had helped her mom financially after her successful entrepreneurship. Asma thought Anwesha would find success by climbing over the ladder of positions when she joins a company, but at 22 her daughter was a co-founder of several ventures. She could afford a furnished place with a farm. Ma Savitri’s prediction had come true indeed although she had stopped her practice after ailing health.
“Mom, did you ever visit Ma Savitri after she stopped? How is her health?.”
“I did, she was doing okay. She had predicted I’d live a loved life with my beloved…it just turned out I lived a fulfilling life with my daughter.”
“That’s too cheesy mom. In my case, her prediction was positive. But that didn’t contribute to the future. My actions did. Dev believed me & showed me the way. Ma Savitri could have done the same thing to her disciples instead of giving them an incomplete prediction. I couldn’t convey this when I was 13.”
“That’s okay. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Also, what do you think about Dev? Should we ask Ma Savitri about the romantic prediction?”
The mother-daughter duo chuckled as the stars above them twinkled.
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[Ma Savitri was a religious ascetic who only dressed in saffron and read holy books & sang hymns...] When you say 'only dressed in saffron' did you mean saffron as a colour or do you mean the spice. Just curious.
Hi, I meant the colour. Usually worn by sages in India.
Any suggestions will be appreciated. :)
I can't believe DESI is a tag(genre) in reedsy. I am wondering who added it here.
Hahaha. I was surprised too, but I decided to go with the flow. :p
I think that this was a good story that you did and i hope that you'll continue to make more stories on here. Though only when you aren't busy or anything like that. 10/10 :)
Thank you very much for taking time off to read. I do have ideas for future stories, I will build on them as the prompt comes. :)
No prob :)