Kismat was born a month early, as if she was in a hurry to accomplish all the things she had set out to do.
Her mother, Sita, was just visiting the clinic for a regular checkup when the nurse told her she was going into labor. The entire delivery took under an hour.
At the time of her birth, baby Kismat was blessed with a thick, black mane; the mark of a lioness.
And in a world that was continually intimidated by the happiness of a woman, Kismat would come to find her unique roar – a laugh that was both hearty and loud.
Baby Kismat was underweight and had some yellowness in her skin which wore off as she gained sustenance on her mother’s milk.
No matter how hard anyone tried, the mere act of being born meant causing tremendous pain to someone who was inextricably tied to you. But for the rest of her life, Kismat tried to cause as little discomfort to those she loved.
The ways in which she would grow up to develop an even temper, a ruminative mind, and a benevolent heart; she was most certainly like her father, Ajay.
In fact, she was through and through Ajay’s bitiya.
This is not to say that she did not love her mother or that she didn’t imbibe any traits from her; just that Kismat’s affinity for Ajay was ineffaceable.
Ajay and Sita had to quickly come up with a name for the sake of keeping hospital records so for the time being they named her Minni, as it fit well with her brother’s nickname, Mannu. The name really had no significance. This was true of her other relatives who were known by Pappu, Guddi, and variations of such syllables, till death do them part.
The grandma was fondly known as Badi ammi (elder mother). A bold and strong-headed woman, she was never hesitant to speak her mind and told Ajay to feel fortunate that he was already blessed with a son beforehand. She was certain that since her daughter-in-law had picked two red bangles during the post-marriage festivities, she was guaranteed to receive two grandsons.
When Badi ammi held little Kismat in her arms for the first time, Kismat gave, what appeared to be, a glimpse of a smile. If you try to mask uneasiness with a smile, you might come up with the same constipated look. Though Ammi would always favor her grandson, she planted a kiss on the baby cheeks, accepting one of the few defeats of her devout beliefs with Kismat’s arrival in this world.
It was Ammi who named her granddaughter Kismat, meaning ‘destiny’ for she had an inkling that this little girl would not only change her own fate, but she had the power to change the fates of those around her too.
When Kismat was only three years old, she suffered a slight cut below her right eyebrow from an accident which luckily spared her eyes. Her father mentioned the accident to Kismat once, but she forgot about it and just grew to assume that the cut came as a package with her other birthmarks.
Besides the long mane, Kismat was born with two distinct black spots called ‘til’, one located on her chin and another one near the bottom of her right breast.
As Kismat grew older, her aunts used to tell her that having a ‘til’ on your face is a symbol of beauty. That theory sounded as comforting as saying that having a ‘til’ near your breast makes you kind-hearted. A few years later, another ‘til’ formed on the right side of her nose which gave the appearance of a nose-ring.
And then another one, on her back.
And one more on her left leg. This was turning into a game of connect-the-dots.
The same aunts also suggested, in jest, that since she had more tils on the left side of her body, she would be blessed with a daughter in her married life. Kismat quickly disregarded such theories about freckle sized dots.
By the time she was a teenager, there were a total of nine tils on various parts of her body.
The number nine was, coincidentally, very symbolic of her being.
The year of her birth was such that if one added up all the digits up to a single digit, it would produce the number nine.
The day of her birth had the same story.
The number, nine, as Kismat would come to realize, held a powerful significance over the course of her life.
Six months after little Kismat’s arrival, Karma was born in a maternity clinic in the city of Kochi. After spending a few hours under observation, both mother and baby arrived home without further incident.
Baby Karma was too young to fathom anything at that point in her life but her life held many surprises. She would be the first in her family to journey to a foreign land. And one day, her parents would arrange her marriage to a complete stranger. But her decision to agree to the arranged union would be wholly colored by her love for her mother, Lakshmi.
Within a year, Karma gained a healthy weight, while Kismat remained considerably thin. It seemed as if Karma was already taking strength from Kismat that would prove to be instrumental down the road.
On the day of Karma’s homecoming, her countenance was one to remember. With both eyebrows arched in intent, and lips pursed, it seemed as if baby Karma was deep in thought. Either that, or she had just smelled something pungent; perhaps it was the aroma of curry leaves and fruit pickles that filled her house.
Her parents lovingly gave her the nickname, Rama, for it rhymed with Karma and borrowed all its letters from her name. But more importantly, it paid reverence to the deity Ram.
Baby Rama was loved by all who played with her. Many relatives who graced their home would immediately start pointing out similarities between the baby and her parents; their responses depending greatly on which side of the family they were from. It was a guessing game using subtle clues that were only discernible to the person that made the connection.
“She has your nose Surya!”
“Look at her smile. She will grow up to be just like her mother.”
In her first few months, there was this stillness about her that made Surya and Lakshmi worry whether their daughter’s faculties were in place. Karma’s grandma, Jyotimala, attributed Karma’s quiet nature to her husband, Ram Sankara Iyer, who had peacefully passed away in their native village at ripe age of eighty.
The nickname, Rama, was also in fitting memory of Ram Iyer, Jyotimala thought.
“Even he would act like this all the time – very quiet and reserved. I think he has taken a new life in our little Rama. A reincarnation of his spirit.”
Although Jyotimala meant well, she was always found to be speaking of a superstition here and there, likely imbibed from a saint she followed in her prime. She would preach odd beliefs with the intent to maintain peace and rid evil at home but more often than not, they created more worry.
“Surya, why are you clipping your nails today?! It is Tuesday. You know that we do not use any sharp device on Tuesday.”
“And make sure you don’t wash your hair on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
“Absolutely no carrots or potatoes to be cooked on Saturday and Sunday! Anything growing under the ground will attract negative spirits to our family.”
“No meat on Thursdays!”
No day of the week was spared.
Initially, Surya and Lakshmi didn’t give much thought to Jyotimala’s mystical thoughts. But after their youngest daughter, Sati, nearly succumbed to a bout of typhoid at age two, they started adhering to Jyotimala’s requests, thinking it was bettering their destiny.
On one occasion, Lakshmi was leaving to run some errands when Jyotimala proclaimed, “Lakshmi, don’t look at the sky today. It’s going to be a full moon. A bad omen.” A friend greeted Lakshmi near the bazaar, and Lakshmi, who had pulled the pallu of her sari over her head, whispered a hurried response and sprinted home.
Karma’s quiet demeanor and beaming face would make other mothers envious of what she was fed that she had such a peaceful aura about her. However, as soon as she commenced school, she changed into a vivacious spirit, dismissing Jyotimala’s first supposition about harboring her late husband’s spirit.
But this was only a start for Karma who would dispel beliefs and choose a life of reason. Karma would excel academically; her wit winning her scholarships and admirers down the road.
But those successes would not prepare her for a loss, so tremendous, that it would completely puncture her mind. And in her darkest hour, on the battlefield of her warring thoughts, she would meet the soul who would change everything she knew.
Every moment, there were thousands of other babies being born with their unique fates intact.
But Kismat and Karma would evince that destiny and actions do not supersede one another, but are ever leveled in their power to alter the course of our lives.
This is an excerpt from my book titled ‘Kismat and Karma.’
The eBook is now available on Amazon at the link below. Thank you for reading 🙂