My hand roved over the deck of cards splayed out in a layered bow on the table. This was real tarot. The wafer thin paper plies were sputtering out the sides of the cards and they were browned with use. With my eyes closed, I chose the cards that called to my hand with tendrils of heat I felt not on my skin but in the intelligence of my skin.
Novi’s house was pleasant and lush for the intellect. It was neatly and carefully designed to display books, collected furniture and art. There was a wide space all around and up to the slanted ceiling for comfortable breath. We were in a little side room, like an alter, where she performed her readings. It was raining thick outside, splattering against the window behind Novi with big banana leaves of water. This meant that the world outside had shut me in, to remain under Novi’s perceptive gaze. I had shared nothing about myself with her, except my name, date of birth, and where I was from.
“You have two protectors,” Novi began as she stared at the ten delectable cards that I had chosen. “Ganesh and Tara,”
I did not know who Ganesh was but I had heard the name in many sanskrit mantras. I certainly had not heard of Tara.
“Ganesh is the elephant.” she explained, “He symbolizes joy, happiness and a hungry appetite for experience. Ganesh is a rebel. He does not like rules or commitment. He is like a child. He only thinks of the exquisite joy of being alive. He wants to try everything and do everything.”
I saw myself in all those aspects of Ganesh that I slowly and imperceptibly slipped into a quietude of pure receptiveness as she continued.
“Tara is that one, the green one.” she said, pointing at the Hindu figure in the picture frame to her right. A cross between the green giant on those tin cans of beans and an anime version of a shrewd baby. Tara was a lady swathed in flowers and birds.
“Tara is the essence of mother nature. You are so connected to the Earth,” she said this with the enthusiasm of someone sipping a particularly fine soup. For the first time in my life, I felt that the abundantly green part of me was being brought forth, finally, to the high alter of my being and told she was validated. My green part kneeled there, hurt, denied and parched. All the pulls and longings I felt in my heart, all the tears I shed, since childhood because I longed to be where it was green. I longed to know the names of flowers and trees, to grow them and grow with them. I felt the absence of all the pets I never had, all the horses I never whispered to, or the jungle cats I never looked in the eye. I thought of how jealous I always was of Mary’s secret garden and the long-lived anguish I felt for not having been born into L.M.Montgomery’s verdant books. I thought of my “pumpkin house”, which was a fantasy I used to have in my early teens about a small forest cottage, secluded and surrounded with witchery, pumpkins growing in the garden, and only my soulmate to share it with. And then my recent cravings carving deep unfulfilled pathways where I desired a simple life in which I have an herb garden and grow tomatoes and help the bees…somewhere far far from the desert…
“Your Tara is angry,” Novi said, “She needs to be always connected to nature but where you grew up, you were isolated from the energy of the Earth and living creatures. And you need it so much.”
I cried. Yes I did. And no one had ever seen this deep private pain of mine but Novi because, where I grew up, no one realized how much it mattered, how deeply the deprivation of pets was felt and how much sorrow it caused not to be able to wake up and see a rolling countryside outside my window every day, not just on vacations, but in my “everydays”. Nature that was mine, not a sample or a condescending offering for peace with my Tara. I wanted no more samples or peace talks. I wanted to finally rest in green.
“Tara is beautiful and feminine. People might look at you and say ‘Oh she is independent! She is a warrior!’ but really you are a princess inside, so feminine.” Novi said, “Tara is peaceful and loving. She gives and nourishes like the Earth. But because she is angry she has suppressed these qualities in you and she has become like a strict mother to your Ganesh. And because of that, your Ganesh rebels even more, always running, not enjoying.”
Oh how true, swirling as it was in lyrical Hindu poetry! I sighed deep from that well within that rings when it hears the truth.
She proceeded to tell me things that were accurate and specific to myself. I just sat in silence listening to her in the mood of one who had surrendered to an enchanting song. Novi knew everything. Most of her predictions matched Putu’s. His was the summarized and succinct version of my fortune. Novi’s was an elaborate and jaunty ramble into my psyche, my past, my future, my heart, and desires. She even told me it was important for me to dance, because dance was the way to celebrate and move my prana. Putu had seen a dancer in me. I too had always believed that if I had chosen a different path early on in life, or if the opportunities were presented to me, I would have been a dancer.
She revealed the cards as she went along. There were three cards left now. She lifted one. I saw her look at it for a teetering moment on the cusp of something, then, her clever eyes met mine.
“In a past life, you were a Balinese priest.”
That reached my consciousness like the sudden glare of the sun rising over a wall. Then, the brush with nirvana that I felt with Putu returned to me, striking and outside of itself. Rays of astonishment spread through my limbs and my gut. I mouthed at her.
“Yes, in a past life you were a Balinese priest. This is why you were called to Bali. You synchronize so strongly with the energy here.”
I still could not speak. And when I finally could, “Yesterday…”I began, “I had a healing session and I saw a vision of a Balinese prophet walking alone by the sea.”
I described to her the vision and the communication I had experienced under Damien’s spell.
She smiled at me fondly. So fond she was of people’s discoveries about themselves, wasn’t she?
I did not know if I believed in past lives. I’m not sure, even now, but I know this: I like the idea of past lives because it allows more room for playfulness and mistakes. It allows you to sit well in the knowledge that if you fuck up this life, you will get another chance. You will also know that you will have the opportunity to experience being different kinds of people in this wonderful three-ringed circus, this masala stage play with its deafening chilik-chilik sounds. But for the moment, I let my past life as a Balinese priest sit quietly on the shores in me that received information.
“You were meant to be a healer,” she continued, “Your hands are magic hands because the prana there is very strong. Anyone can channel energy but you can channel it ten times stronger.”
She searched my face and smiled. “You can be any kind of healer, Maram. Even with your writing you can be a healer. It can be energy healing, it can be writing, it can be just a smile. You were meant to heal hearts, especially of the people in your part of the world. Feminine energy is so oppressed there.”
A mist of tears rose from my heart to my eyelids. This pilgrimage had been pointing in this direction since the start. I was looking for magic to heal me but it turns out I was meant to be the healer. Hearing it, as solid as a block of butter, from someone who not only knew all aspects of myself but created the loving space to explore my pathway with me, with the intent, the playfulness, and the heart to truly care. Novi was not just a fortune teller, practicing real tarot, but also a designer. With motherly affection, she had brought forth those aspects of me that questioned and raved and waited and sulked and hoped. She guided them with her mango juice to one big heart-slaking ball of karma that was so ready to roll merrily on its path to fruition. Novi was born and raised Muslim. Later in her life, she had converted to Buddhism. It was that well-roundedness in her that spoke to me, aside from the juice in her soul.
“You must come to Bali every six months to renew your energy. Your Tara will thank you.”
I’m sure she would, I thought. My Tara had been weeping and sobbing her thanks to me ever since I arrived here to witness the rhapsodies of the Earth.
“Also, you must go to the temple of Uluwatu. That is were you must go to register your soul! So you will always be welcome here. It’s like getting a spiritual visa!” she joked. But I understood what she meant. I must go to say I’m here. I’m finally here. I heard the call.
The session continued for some time. When she was done with the ten cards, Novi opened herself to questions. I asked her many things and she answered me using her knowledge of the cards, flooring me every time with her inscrutable accuracy. And also, her kind and loving wisdom.
I asked her about my past relationship, the one that had broken my heart over and over. I noticed that, after my meeting with Putu, the weight of that separation lifted immensely and the air whooshed in the way it would into a deep hot hole underneath a boulder. Up to that point, I might have still been carrying some suitcases and purses of shame, regret, and guilt however.
“Pick a card,” she said quickly, with the healthy exuberance of one who was eager to solve a math problem in time.
I picked a card. She opened it.
“Hmm! Yes! You were his teacher in a past life. You were meant to meet over and over and will continue to meet in your lifetimes to teach each other unconditional love.”
Why did that feel so right? My relationship with this loved one had always felt karmically loaded. And when we last separated, I had this sudden and frightening conviction that this has happened before. Imagine the sharpest deja vu you ever had and multiply that by ten and then feel it in your whole body, let your soul soak in it and shake you to the core of remembering.
So I let him go.
My little pack of cards back at home were feeling a little peevish by now, a little presumptuous maybe. The fact was, I might have met many charlatans in Dubai. But I'm glad I could not find a tarot reader when the curiosity awoke on my birthday a few months ago. Because Novi is a real tarot reader.
I left the little room with an incredible calm I had not felt in so long. There were questions and seekings hovering around the ceiling of my mind like those flies and moths that you can’t seem to get to settle down, neither by net, nor the batting of your hands. Novi had dropped a soft blanket over everything so that it all landed in purring content. You know that feeling when you’ve found a big squishy beanbag and then you drop into it so that it molds itself around your butt and your back with delicious perfection? That was what I carried with me except that I felt it in my heart.
I sent a text message to Dewa.
“Do you know how to go to Uluwatu?”
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Disclaimer: I used some images from google images because I did not take any pictures of Novi or her house, in respect for her privacy.