MARRYING THE 'VITCH'
"You vill marry…a vitch! A chap-vitch!"
My Mum let out an audible gasp, her small hand flying up to clamp across her open mouth. The armload of gold and glass bangles she always wore tinkled dramatically in the darkened confines of the cow-dung hut we were currently ensconced in. Her dark eyes were the size of lotuses, her long black eyebrows delicate arcs of astonishment.
Snorting, I turned my head and gave a hearty eye roll towards the life-sized, glowering statue of the goddess Kali that dominated a small shrine to my left. The tarnished brass idol was wearing a thick garland of marigolds and was mostly hidden behind a hazy film of jasmine sandalwood incense. The sticks of incense had been poked into a spotty banana and were shedding airy, turd-like droppings all over Kali's bare feet. There was a fly sitting on Kali's scarlet, protruding tongue. I crossed my arms over the yellow and orange sari I wore and slunk down in my seat.
This entire fiasco was rapidly surpassing the height of buffoonery.
"A vitch?" This was proclaimed by my mother dearest in hushed tones of great disbelief. She leaned forward, the dim candlelight catching on the numerous little mirrors that adorned her blue sari. She may have been a widow of twenty-three years but she had steadfastly refused to dress in the traditional all white of mourning. According to the locals, including her own relatives, she was a shameless slut for it. Being covered head to toe in six yards of blue fabric really brought out the tart in us all, apparently. "Maa, vhat you mean a chap-vitch?"
"Yeah, what do you mean exactly?" I piped up, wiping trails of sweat off my hairline. It was currently forty-three degrees Celsius and by this point I was sweating off layers my own skin. "Are we talking about a Harry Potter style dude or more of a Gandalf character?"
Kaala Maa – Hindi for 'black Mum' cast her pale, beady eyes my way. No one in my Mum's small Gujarati village knew what her real name was; she'd always gone by Kaala, on account of the black, amoeba-shaped birthmark that festered on the bottom of her pointy chin. Kaala Maa was a renowned local fortune teller…supposedly. I had my doubts. Sure she lived in a cramped-up hovel made of dried cow feces. Sure she smelled like the low-ballin' testicles of a water buffalo. Sure she dressed in rags that weren't fit to clean dried diarrhea off a toilet bowl with. Sure she made like she had severe rheumatoid arthritis and gimped around with a splintered scrap of wood that looked like a Cro-Magnon had used it to a kill a wooly mammoth.
She didn't fool me, that Kaala Maa; in spite of her whacky appearance and idiotic eccentricities, I knew she was a faker of the first water. After all, I'd been the unlucky nugget to catch the most unsightly sight of her taking a shit in the back of her hut the other day and no one with any type of degenerative bone disease would be able to squat down like that.
And then of course there was the fact that I didn't give two toasted hoots about any of this hippy-trippy voodoo nonsense.
Hundreds of people from all over the state came to visit Kaala Maa on a weekly basis, begging to hear their fortune and forking over thousands of hard-earned rupees. Case in point, my own dear Mum. And while I didn't believe in any of this pagan shit, even I had to admit that Kaala Maa made an impressive figure, in a dirty, starved, Third World Country sort of way. She was a tall, gangling woman with fingers and toes like shriveled brown grasshoppers. Her skin was the same colour and texture as an almond that had been sitting out in the Gobi desert for a few centuries. Her great hooked nose fought for facial supremacy with that massive black birthmark. Hard to say who was winning; it was like a double-whammy hitting you in the heart when you first caught sight of her.
"Nonono!" she thundered at me, clearly not impressed by my lack of cynicism. "His name is not of the HurryGundholf!"
I bit down hard on my lip.
"His name is of the…" Her heavily kholed eyes fell shut. She began to slowly swing her head around in lazy circles, her long, scraggly hair swirling around her in a great salt and pepper and dandruff cloud. Thick, guttural moans burst out of her cracked lips at fifteen second intervals. I knew this because I timed them. Her head began to move in faster ellipses, her groans growing in volume.
I caught my Mum's eye. I'd heard heavy metal from the likes of bands named Cryptopsy and Cradle of Filth that featured less noise than what was erupting out of Kaala Maa's shriveled yap. "Seriously?"
Mum ignored me. She was extremely good at that, having had twenty-three years to practice. I watched with resigned incredulity as my Mum slipped another wad of crumpled Rupees into Kaala Maa's strategically opened palm. It wasn't a pleasant sight because a) this just reinforced my belief that Kaala Maa was a first-class hustler and b) the dirt beneath Kaala Maa's yellowed nails was the same colour as her birthmark. I just hoped it wasn't matter of the fecal variety.
"Is coming to me now!" Kaala Maa shouted, her head coming to an abrupt stop. Her head wobbled a bit. I thought she looked like a decrepit bowl of Jell-O and my stomach growled. "Like the peacock who only vill bare his triumphant feathers to a potential mate! Is here now! The name of the husband-chap-vitch vill be…LUCAN!" This she pronounced 'Luck-un'.
"And his surname Maa?" Mum asked eagerly.
"Jesus shit," I mumbled, fanning myself with my hand.
I raised an eyebrow. Lucan Moretti? Can't say I expected that. "That doesn't sound like a Hindu name to me, Maa."
Kaala Maa cracked open an eye. This gave her the unfortunate appearance of a winking brown skull. "Vhen in Canada..." Or Kha-NA-da as she called it. "You vill have the Canada husband. Vhatchoo can do, hehn? These vhite mans, they are all over everyvere."
My Mum was ecstatic. She'd always maintained that she didn't care who I got married to as long I was 'not of the lesbian'. "In vhat vay is this chap a vitch, Maa? Does he have the...black eye?"
Kaala Maa shuddered theatrically and her hand scrabbled into a little stainless steel dish of salt. She threw a handful of it over her shoulder so as to ward off any witchy vibes. I found this to be ironic, considering how highly I'd been tempted to throw a handful of salt over my shoulder, when I'd first laid eyes upon her. Something about her just screamed psychotic worshipper of the Dark Arts. I'm sure the likes of Cradle of Filth would've loved to have her as a guest howler. When motivated, she sure could belch out an inspired yodel, complete with frenzied headbanging and all.
"This rascal has the soulless eyes of the deep ocean and a goatee-moustache like a Muslim." Here she paused to spit because she was a well-known hater of the Muslims. Though of course this fact didn't stop her from divining their fortunes or taking their hard-earned Rupees either. "He has body like bamboo stick. Is covered vith all manner of the drawing and the mathematics. It is the vork of many vitch-devils…vith pistols!"
Bamboo stick? Mathematics? Was my soon-to-be sweetheart a nerdy dude?
"Vill the marriage be happy Maa?" My Mum touched my sweaty cheek with her cool fingers. How she managed to stay cool while I was nothing more than a walking side of roasting pig on a spit was a mystery for the ages. "Navleen is my whole life. She is the rose vater in my gulab jaamans. I vould rather see her happy before having her to be just settled. I can have a son-in-law chap-vitch as long he is a good son-in-law chap-vitch."
Kaala Maa grinned at me. Her teeth were stained spectacularly from chewing tobacco and five of them were missing. "You no vorry, you no vorry, you no vorry. Navleen to have marriage to this Lucan vitch vill be of the most auspicious. It is destined that he vill give her a two pair of sons at least!"
My Mum burst into a sunbeam and hugged Kaala Maa so hard that her retinas bulged. "A two pair of sons you say, Maa! Hear this Navleen? A two pair! Hai Ram!" And she forked over the rest of her Rupees to Kaala Maa.
Oh I heard, alright. A tattooed dork and a gang of bratty monkeys. What less could I ask for?
Ahahahah, looks like our favourite math-loving tattoo artist is going to soon have his hands full! This is Lucan's story and hopefully it'll be a good one. Also just a quick FYI...Navleen's name is pronounced 'Nuhv-leen'.
Ciao and enjoy reading!