Meherbai always says, “Dikra, I am not superstitious at all – touch-wood, touch-wood! Only, I don’t walk under ladders and I stop in my tracks when I see a black cat (mui avvar kaari bilari).” She refuses to see that the black kitty is also God’s creature like any of us and has as much right to walk anywhere like the rest of us.
Last year, Meherbai visited Hong Kong to meet her sister-in-law’s, in-law’s in-laws – wait-a-minute – she can’t say it in English (mui angreji). She visited her Kakiji’s Jethani’s Vehvaan’s Naran’s Vahu’s Mamiji’s Sasuji’s sister, all of whom Meherbai calls “my very close relatives (Ghanaj Najdikna Sagaa), who always invite me”. In Hong Kong, they’d say Meherbai doesn’t need an invitation – she invites herself over! But I digress…
In Hong Kong, Meherbai learnt that the headquarters of many banks established there were designed by Feng-Shui masters to make use of the ‘positive energy sources’. This made Meherbai think, although Merwanji always told her, “Don’t think – thinking requires a brain!” Meherbai thought – no banker is likely to waste money on something that doesn’t work. What’s more, she also saw some builders’ vans that carried the ‘Yin and Yang’ symbols advertising a Feng-Shui consultancy. Her head was bursting with ideas when she returned to Mumbai. She corresponded with a certain self-appointed Feng-Shui Master who was actually a failed film poster-painter, and a con-man. She went about trying Feng-Shui in her Cusrow Baug flat.
First, she bought a very expensive Feng-Shui lucky painting of a horse. “Are you mad?” Meherwanji screamed. “For this price, we could have bought three MF Hussain’s horses!” “I don’t want MF Hussain’s horses or a Victoria Ghora-Gari no ghoro. I want a good-luck horse!” replied Meherbai. “Tamey nahi samjho!”
“I just hope it doesn’t prove to be a Trojan horse which brings bad-luck,” remarked Merwanji. “Chalo! Sagan no Gathyo Bolyo!” she said as she snapped her fingers thrice (tachakri) to nullify the negative energies of her husband’s words. She also bought books on Feng-Shui and was very impressed by the Chinese belief that lack of cash is the root of all misery. (Columbus discovered America- her children said!)
She invested in a three-legged frog to magnify prosperity; three Chinese coins suspended from a red silken rope to increase good fortune; a huge mirror to counteract the inauspicious CHI (energy) coming from her jealous neighbours – Jaloo and Aloo; a miniature water-fountain reputed to bring exceptional good fortune; and red and yellow paper flowers to increase some Yang energies. All this while Merwanji’s bank-account was dwindling faster than the hair on his head.
As required by the so-called principles of Feng-Shui, Meherbai had the sharp edges of every piece of furniture softened and put money-plants on every window-sill. The TV was put in the West, crystals in the North and South-East corners. She moved the huge dining-table into a diagonal position, so everybody had to walk around it for every little thing in that room. A huge mirror covered the wall to increase the sense of space, taking care it didn’t reflect the door which would then show luck and money on its way out. By now, it was very difficult for the entire family to get around the house but Meherbai wanted to squeeze every ounce of power out of the Feng-Shui promise ‘advertised’ in a certain Parsi Weakly (oops!! Weekly). Then she sat and waited for good-luck to fall out of Heaven but with her back pointing away from the door so she couldn’t be betrayed (according to Feng-Shui rules.)
The effects were immediate – she fell off the wobbling chair she sat on and broke her ankle. When she returned home after fixing it at a Dhobi-Talao Bhim (Hadvaid), she found Merwanji with a bandaged head. You see, the lucky horse painting had fallen on his head when he tried to clean the damn three-legged-frog.“Langro-Derko!” he cursed. In the days to come, the three Chinese coins lay on the floor as the cheap red silken thread broke and the wind-chimes flew out of the window. The huge mirror fell to the ground, damaging second floor’s Jaloo and Aloo’s flat leading to a spat with these two battle-axes. There was a stinky mould on the water-fountain, her money plants were half-dead. The TV conked and no family member was willing to talk to her. The once happy family ate dinner in silence on the now diagonal dining-table.
Meherbai phoned the Feng-Shui master who wouldn’t pick up the phone, having fleeced her of a tiny fortune and making a monkey out of her. She went personally to his address and found that he was an old, disillusioned man, ill with misfortune writ on his face. He lived in one tiny room with his wife and ten grand-children. The room was a pig-sty, dirtier than the bottom of a parrot’s cage and without any trace of Feng-Shui.
“You fraud, you cheat!!” Meherbai screamed at him, all the while trying to hit him with her walking-stick while he ducked and escaped. “You promised me wealth, prosperity, name and fame! Shame on you!”
“Arrey memsaab, aapko samajhna chaihiye! Paisa, name, fame, Feng-Shui karne se aa jayega kya?”
Meherbai retorted: “Then why did you promise me all these things, you liar?”
“Yeh toh advertising hai. Dog biscuit mein kutta aata hai kya? Petit-Biscuit mein lady Zardaloo (Zarbanoo) Petit aata hein kya? Arrey Madam, actor log sub products endorse karte hain, woh khud uska istimal kabhi nahi karte! Aap educated hai. Zara socho. Soch kar samajhney ki koshish karo!”
Meherbai was disgusted. She went home, collected all her Feng-Shui things and disposed them onto the middle of the road outside the Cusrow Baug gate! And lo and behold! All her bad luck disappeared in a jiffy and she lived happily ever after with her loving family!!
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