CHENNAI: As we enter Marina Beach, we spot three women sitting under a merry-go-round with palm leaf baskets. Lakshmi, Karumariamma and Kanakam are kuri josiyam tellers who have been in the trade for over 40 years. Visibly tired by the heat, they sit for a cup of tea before splitting for the day’s job. Signaling us with their wands, adorned with silver plated embellishments, they invite us for our fortunes to be told. “These wands are ordinary. But since we are committed to the oath (Jakkama vaaku), it makes our wands special,” says Lakshmi.
Settled in the city 40 years ago, these women from Ettayapuram, Thoothukudi were sworn into the profession of kuri josiyam at the age of 15. “This is our family profession and Jakkama blesses us into this. We visit the temple in Ettayapuram once a year and give a part of our income there,” says Lakshmi. As another customer approaches the trio, Lakshmi taps the palm of the customer thrice and invokes Jakkama to bless her with the vision of predicting her future. ‘Jakkama vaa....’ says Lakshmi as she continues reading the palm of her customer. “This art is called kuri solrathu. But most people don’t understand that and we have to use the term palm-reading to make them understand,” exclaims Kanakam, who claims to have appeared on a popular TV debate show. “A couple of years back, we used to go around the streets and tell fortunes. But, now we stopped doing that. We come to the beach each day and stay here till 8pm.”
“We are bound to the oath and our children will also come into this profession when Jakkama tells them!” says Lakshmi. While most of their young clients come to them just for a session of entertainment, the trio says, “Older people believe in our predictions. They know that our predictions are accurate. College students and school children come to us out of curiosity and when we say something bad, they tend to lose belief,” Lakshmi says.
Sometimes charging a whopping sum of `500 for predictions and to chase away evil spirits, Lakshmi says, “We don’t always ask for a huge sum. But sometimes our customers who think our predictions are accurate come back to the beach and give us money. Sometimes even `1000!” she smiles. But, their income isn’t always stable. “There are days when we don’t earn even a single rupee. But, that doesn’t stop us from coming back.” This is the only means of survival for them. “We will come here even if the sun is scorching or it rains heavily or even a tsunami!” adds Lakshmi.