Maureen had finished her call with Rani smiling and told Monika how much she was enjoying herself. Monika, happy for her loved one, had listened to her enthusiasm smiling, they had taken possession of their room an unpacked and that evening had a small feast with their hosts and the young man, who would be their private driver for the next couple of days.
The next morning, after a call to the RI to see if their visit was convenient, he took them there and promised to be back for lunchtime, to take them to his parents’ restaurant for a meal on the house. That, his father had said, was the least they could do in return for the honour of having two wise and holy women to grace their family with their presence at the daughter’s wedding. Then he dropped them off at he Royal Institute.
Monika and Maureen spent the morning talking to several people at the RI about the imagery of the chromosomes, but all they heard was how helpful it had been, while nobody could really explain how, just that it had helped to isolate certain genes, that were suspected to cause the diseases they were following up on. As for the rest the colouring only followed significant separators between genes, but was completely random.
Maureen could see the temper growing behind Monika’s eyes without being able to divine the reason. As they finally left the institute for lunch she asked her.
“I am reminded, Maureen, of what my chartered accountant said, when I was 27 and we went to meet with people at the tax office in Hamburg. He looked at me and sighed. Then he said, that he would never have expected to find a group of immature kids playing at being adult to run the show there.”
She rolled her eyes.
“There is nothing, Maureen, really nothing about what they do here, that is really scientific. They are ruled by instant gratification. They are looking for a bread, but as soon as they find a crumb, their view tunnels and the whole gets lost from view. Fachidioten we call those people in German, which means they are good with a tiny fraction of the necessary research, but perfectly incapable of doing anything else. They are a bunch of university kids, playing in a virtual sandpit completely removed from reality. Now we have to open this can of worms and try to find someone who actually is able to think out of the box.”
To say Maureen was surprised by Monika’s assessment would be an understatement, but then she did neither have her scientific background nor experience. But the more she went into her love’s sentiments the more she realised, how much truth she could feel in them.
“Darling, I am so sorry, but I feel that our visit is not in vain. I think we need to speak to the actual programmers of the imagery and perhaps ask Jacqueline to come a day early, so that we can brief her on what to find out?”
Monika put her arms around Maureen’s shoulders as there was really no place for a hug in the taxi.
“Thank you, sweetie, that is just what I need right now, loving encouragement.” she whispered. At that they had reached the restaurant, a nice, well kept cosy affair in Hounslow.
Maureen, who had but little experience of Indian food, was treated to a taste of what was to be at the wedding, but with reduced spices, while Monika happily had the same what her hosts would have. Maureen took one taste from Monika’s Biryani and had to wash it down with half a glass of Raita, some yogurt and half a neutral naan, before the hot taste in her mouth subsided and the tears stopped.
“Oh my God, my love,” she sighed afterwards “why do they make it so incredibly hot?”
“It’s how they know it, mein Schatz. That is the way people in hot climates kill possible bugs in the food.”
“And how can you eat that stuff with such apparent joy?”
“It’s an acquired taste, really, sweetie.”
All Maureen could do was roll her eyes.
Nevertheless their hosts made every effort to accommodate Maureen, and soon she was enjoying her food just as much as Monika. When they had finished the family all came out to personally thank them for being there and coming to the wedding, which they promised to make an unforgettable affair for them. When Monika asked if there was a quiet place to make a couple of phone calls she was led to the small office and left for privacy, while everyone else surrounded Maureen asking her about what they were doing in London and why. In return Maureen asked about the family and the bride and groom. The daughter, Deepika, a small and beautiful Indian woman, was actually one of the serving girls at the restaurant and present, so Maureen asked to hold her hand while she talked about her fiancé. She could clearly feel the reciprocated love between those two and thought, that at least this part of the trip would be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Monika meanwhile had rung Malcolm’s office an asked to speak to Jacqueline. It took a moment for her to understand, what Monika’s problem was, but she had already heard of the wedding invitation. Like Claire she had never known about the fact, that within certain religious parts of India it was deemed good fortune to have Hijras at a wedding. Given her experiences in the UK she had a hard time believing, that a perfect stranger was welcome to something as personal for a family as a wedding, that it was even more than welcome. Monika explained in a little more detail what a Hijra was, leaving out the actual castration ritual, but that they mostly lived in temples and had a wise one guiding them. That, she said, was her role here. Jacqueline giggled. She warned Monika, though, that her programming prowess might be quite a bit less than what was required for the RI thing. Monika went back into the main restaurant area and found her love n deep conversation with the bride to be. Her face broke into a smile.
“I hate to break up this lovely gathering,” she said “But we need to go and open that can of worms, mein Schatz.”
Most of their hosts looked at her in incomprehension, the can of worms was evidently not in their vocabulary. Monika just said it was one of the typically English idioms and not important, that is was just sort of code for going back to the RI. On the way with their driver she explained to Maureen, that Jacqueline had agreed, but was not sure if her programming skills were adequate.
“I nevertheless have a good feeling about her coming, darling. Don’t give up hope yet, Moni.”
Monika just sighed. They entered the RI again, only this time they asked for someone responsible from the IT department. To their surprise the man who showed up looked hardly thirty and was an Indian. He took one look at Maureen and greeted them with Namaste.
“I never thought I’d actually meet the two wise ones my sister cannot stop talking about. Her best friend is invited to a wedding, where several Hijras are expected to bless the union. I think there hasn’t been such an event in London in a long time, if ever. The rumours say the red headed one is vidya. Is that you?”
“It seems like London is a small village.” Maureen giggled “How did the news spread so fast?”
“Dear Lady,” he replied “if someone with the social standing of a Cardinal came to your place in Ireland to bless your daughter’s wedding, how long do you think it would take the news to spread?”
Monika laughed and smiled at the young man.
“Don’t you think that is a bit of an exaggeration? The Cardinal thing, I mean. Her name is Maureen, by the way and mine is Monika.”
“Oh,” he replied with a smile “no, not really. My name is Prasad. Are you the two researchers from Exeter, who came in this morning? And if so, I hope you were not too disappointed with those kids, who play at being researchers here.”
Maureen started giggling at that. Prasad looked questioningly at Monika.
“Well,” she said, barely able to suppress her laughter “That was almost exactly what I called them after our visit. Immature kids playing in a virtual sandpit.”
“Well,” Prasad asked “What do you expect from kids, that have worked their ass off to become so highly specialised, that they have no life experience whatsoever? They have known nothing but school and then university all their lives. For quite some of them what we do here is just a more complicated computer game really. So what is it you actually are looking for?”
“Do you have an office, Prasad, where we can talk? Or shall we take you out to a nice quiet café?”
“As the head of IT here I actually do have a nice office.” he replied grinning
“Can I treat you ladies to a coffee?”
“Sounds great!” Monika agreed.
He did have a nice office and a secretary, who was also Indian. She, again, greeted Maureen and Monika with Namaste. Maureen, who had looked into the young woman’s eyes, took her hand.
“I bless you, child, and the new life under your heart.”
Both Prasad and the woman looked at her in shock.
“As you said, Prasad,” Maureen went on “I am sometimes able to see the true shape of things. Your child is only two days old yet, but is going to be healthy and a joy for both of you.”
The young woman bowed deeply and kissed Maureen’s hand. Prasad smiled and asked Monika:
“Did I really exaggerate? In our native country someone like your friend Maureen is even more like a saint than a Cardinal. And if I remember the rumours correctly you must be the wise Hijra, that will bring your three disciples to the wedding.”
“Oh,” the young woman sighed “I wish it was our wedding, Prasad.”
Monika gently touched her cheek.
“All you have to do is invite us.” she replied with an angelic smile, that earned her a squeeze of her hand from Maureen.
Prasad and his fiancée were almost in shock.
“Do you really mean that? I’d raise heaven and hell for you if you do.”
Maureen laughed with joy.
“Would you believe, Prasad, that you are exactly the man we need? One of Monika’s disciples is studying IT and the other is helping in my granddaughter’s research, as is Monika. She will be better suited to tell you what we need and Jacqueline is coming down tomorrow.” Maureen explained and then addressed herself to the young woman “But I still don’t know your name, dear child.”
“My name is Arya.” she replied “You are so different from the holy people in India, but I know you are vidya, because even Prasad and I didn’t know yet, that I am pregnant. We will have to marry soon, if we do not want to shock our families with the news.”
“In that case,” Monika said “tell them I said this is the most auspicious moment for you to do it. That should get them over the question, what the hurry is.”
That got both Prasad and Arya laughing happily.
“You really are very different.” Prasad finally said “But I already feel blessed to have met you. Now let us get to what YOU need.”
Prasad led them into his inner office, that had a nice seating arrangement with four armchairs around a round coffee table. While Maureen, Monika and Prasad sat down, Arya went to get them some real coffees from the cafeteria, where they actually had an Italian Espresso machine, after all there were a lot of geeks working here. The other three made small talk until she was back. Prasad and Arya were again amazed at the respect and consideration, those two elder women paid her.
“I wish,” Prasad said “the respect for women a lot of Europeans have would give an example for India.”
“And I wish, Prasad, your respect for people who are Hijra, or better transgender, as the recent term seems to be here, would inspire the western world.”
“I hope we’ll all learn from one another.” Arya sighed.
“Bhavana, our young Indian friend in Exeter said, we’d freak out 90% of all holy men in India.” Monika said with a laugh.
“Well, if your abilities with astrology, and I assume you have them, given your comment about auspicious moments, are anything like Maureen’s sight, I think she may be right.” Arya replied.
“Yes,” Maureen changed the topic now “her astrology is what brought us here in the first place. My granddaughter Maureen is working on a double doctorate, genetics and psychology. Her Dean and the genetics professor agreed for her to lead a research project along those lines, but her data didn’t really make sense to her. That was, when her fiancée, Stephanie, had the idea to call Monika for help.”
“Since there really are only very few known facts about genes and how they do what, when I found the site about your 2013 successes of actually giving graphical images of actual living chromosomes, I thought we might combine the interpretations of a celestial situation with the images of a chromosome at that moment to get more insight that way.” Monika added.
“So,” Prasad asked “you actually apply your astrology to medicine, Monika?”
“It is not my idea, Prasad. That was my teacher Wolfgang Döbereiner, who founded the system, the Münchner Rhytmenlehre.”
“I heard a lot about him, when I did my PhD in Munich. I was always sorry no to know enough German to actually understand his books.”
“Don’t worry, Prasad, not many Germans understand them either, at least the later ones. I actually met him several times while he was still travelling and teaching. Even in his seminars not everyone always got his gist. I – on the other hand – had a good enough education, to either know or know how to find the original meaning of most the terms he liked to use. Translating him into English, though, needs a lot of knowledge of both languages. Just as well that I am bilingual and have spent quite some time living and practising astrology in England.”
“I was wondering about your English, actually.” Prasad said “I am third generation Indian in the UK and to me you sound like a native. So you are German by birth?”
“Yes, I am. But can we leave the personal stuff for later, please, Prasad, I am dying to know what you can do in terms of that imagery and what is needed in technical terms to make the required snapshots.”
It was then when Prasad and Monika completely lost Arya and Maureen.
Prasad was surprised and happy finding a thoroughly technical mind in Monika. She, on the other hand, was happy to find a “geek” who not only had life experience, but also a very practical mind, too. The two of them got on like a house on fire. It didn’t take Monika long to explain, what she wanted and Prasad rightly pointed out to her, how very little actually was known for a fact about genes. Monika reposted by explaining, that if they could manage to at least have the colouring of the gene strands persistent, the images of certain moments, combined with the astrological chart for the moment, could yield at least indicators of what certain strands being more exposed to contact had in effect. Prasad was impressed.
“There isn’t really a box you do NOT think out of, is there?”
“It all started, when I built flight cases for the drummer of a group called Spliff. He had all this stuff that would not fit rectangular boxes without wasting a lot of space. I remembered the tourniquets we had on the ambulances in the early seventies and went to see my old Station chief and asked him where I could buy a couple of hundreds of them.”
She laughed again.
“He asked me if my workers were usually as stoned as the musicians we supplied and regularly cut limbs off with the table and wall saws. The man really had a strange sense of Humour.”
Prasad could nor believe his ears.
“I explained that the straps did exactly what I needed for saving space in a square box for round things. They would hold everything tight against the foam cushioned walls with one pull and could equally quickly be released. From then on I looked at everything and every material with new eyes, always asking myself what things could be used for that was not the original purpose.”
“Early seventies?” Prasad asked aghast “you were a paramedic then already?”
“Yes, I was nineteen and a half when I finished my training.”
“I can hardly believe that, seeing the fit and healthy beautiful woman in front of me.”
Monika blushed but smiled too.
“You’re very sweet, Prasad. I am used to all sorts of things, but compliments for my beauty I never had before.”
“Both, you and Maureen, I assume are of similar age?”
“Yes, Prasad, we’re both in our sixties, I a little more than her.”
“If you hadn’t told me the story, I would have thought you abut fifty.”
“Oh, sweet Prasad, now you are exaggerating.”
“I am not, ask Arya, she’ll confirm my estimate. I just cannot believe, Monika, how much of a difference there is, between you two and the same generation in India.”
They had been returning to Prasad’s office from the technical side of the computer department while they were talking and they found two equally engrossed women there. Maureen turned to her love as the door opened.
“Back from the cloud, my love?”
Monika wasn’t quite sure, if Maureen was aware of the meaning of ‘cloud’ in the computer world, but didn’t put it past her. Both Arya and Prasad laughed.
“Hmm, sort of.” Monika replied.
“Did you have a good time? We did.” Maureen said putting her arm around Arya’s shoulders. “There is no way we could miss this sweet girl’s wedding, Moni.”
“Not to forget her very bright, knowledgeable and kind husband to be.”
This time it was Prasad, who blushed, and Arya laughed. The four of them decided to have a coffee together, before they’d split, and Arya and Maureen informed their partners, that they’d have a sight seeing tomorrow, while Monika, Jacqueline and Prasad would work. So four very happy lovers finally left the RI together, Arya and Prasad to go home and Monika and Maureen to have another Indian meal with Deepika and her family. This time Ashok and his mother were there, too. The evening was truly enjoyable.
The next morning Claire and Jacqueline arrived together and the family matriarch was not to be talked out of personally receiving the two distinguished guests herself. They had shifted already booked guests to friends, who also ran a hotel in the neighbourhood, so that she could house all of the special guests for the wedding. That evening, she announced, her other son would e catering for their meal at the hotel. Sh wanted to have the pleasure of welcoming Monika’s disciples herself. As Monika and Ashok were taking the two upstairs to their room, Maureen was treated to dadee ma’s gushing about the beauty of the two Hijras and Monika.
“Wait until you meet Stephanie.” Maureen said “She is not only a beauty, but wise beyond her years, kind and full of love, also her singing voice is to die for.”
“You two are so special,” the matriarch said “it is no wonder you are attracting all these beautiful beings. Now I am very much looking forward to meet Rani and see, what she has created. I am sure she will develop a proper following here in London, her grandmother is already full of praise for her.”
Neither Jacqueline nor Claire had yet seen, what Rani was creating. They had thoroughly been measured but there had been no fitting yet. That, Rani had said, would happen when they all were in London together. She and the rest would arrive that evening. Claire was happy to join Maureen O’Connor and Arya for the sight seeing, looking forward to what an Indian woman living in London would want to show them, while her friend Jacqueline, Monika and Prasad would talk shop. So after the obligatory chai they all piled into the spacious black taxi, that would take Arya and the two visitors around, after they’d have left Monika and Jacqueline with Prasad.
Arya and Prasad were both as amazed, as Ashok and his mother had been, when the saw the two pretty women, who both were once boys. The two of course were equally amazed, at the respect that was paid them by people, who definitely had to know about their ‘history’. Neither Arya nor Prasad could stop complimenting Claire and Jacqueline respectively, even after they had split. But then Monika put her foot down and got Prasad and Jacqueline to work. While Prasad showed and explained the technology involved to take the ‘snapshots’ Monika worked on the colour scheme she envisioned. The three of them had lunch together at the RI, never stopping to talk about the project. By five in the afternoon they had reached a point to take a first snapshot of one of Monika’s supposedly Y chromosomes. She made sure to have the exact time for the snapshot, then got on her notebook and ran up her chart and the corresponding transits. The releases in the birth-chart and the septars, she said, could wait for a more thorough investigation. She wasn’t expecting anything significant from this first attempt and would look at it later. For now they had done enough.
The people who ranthe cafeteriat even followed Jamie Oliver’s advice about using fresh produce and buy as locally as possible. Apparently the food Guru himself had visited the place once and commented to the positive. Over lunch Prasad had kept asking Monika about her life and career. He was incredulous, when Monika started talking about the touring Rock stuff and the sizes of the systems she had worked with.
“Why did you stop, Monika?” he asked and Jacqueline was equally interested.
“Too much stress, too unhealthy hours and a bad diet due too the strange hours. It is a job you have to stop mid thirties at the latest.” she replied” I changed for theatre then, doing the technical side of two festivals and some lighting design. Later I went full time for and with astrology for almost fourteen years. Then I started to get interested in renewable energy and sustainable lifestyles.”
“That sounds like I could listen to your stories for weeks and still learn stuff.” Prasad remarked. You’ll have to spend some time with us, when you come to Arya’s and my wedding.
“Another wedding?” Jacqueline asked.
“If you want, you’re invited, too.” Prasad said with a grin “Maureen just told us we are going to be parents, so it’ll have to be soon. Our astrologer said It’s a most auspicious moment.”
Both Prasad and Monika laughed. It took Jacqueline a moment to get the joke, but she joined in the laughter quickly afterwards.
They then went back to the distinguishing and colouring of the genes, that seemed to really wiggle like worms. Prasad pointed out the ones his colleagues from the genetics department thought to be involved in sexuality and Monika decided to use only one range of shades for those, orange. They created a link to the Pantone colours to get as wide a range as they could, that would stay true in a printout and began the long journey of trying to colour even the unknown genes consistently, according to their structure. It was a long and tedious work, so Prasad promised to set some IT interns to it, so that he could teach Jacqueline the more important stuff. Then they assembled a list of what hardware Exeter University would have to acquire and Prasad promised to help setting it all up and debug Jacqueline’s programming. So Maureen had again been right in what she had seen, before she told Monika it would all work out.
Prasad and Arya insisted on coming back to the hotel with Monika and Jacqueline, so that they both could meet Maureen the younger and her Stephanie, Claire, Bhavana and Madelaine and most of all Rani. Bhavana had been right, this could be quite a breakthrough for Rani into the capital. As a result they had to form a little convoy of the taxi and Prasad and Arya following in their car. At the hotel Ashok had installed his mother in a comfy armchair in a place, from where she could overlook the reception. When Monika, Maureen and their friends entered she wanted to get up, but both, Monika and Maureen got on their knees besides her and told her to stay seated. Then they introduced Prasad and Arya.
“As I said,” the old lady told Monika and Maureen “you two attract special and beautiful people.” then, addressing herself at Prasad and Arya “Namaste Prasad, Namaste Arya. It is very kind of you to want to help these two wise women and their children in their endeavour. We feel truly blessed with their stay at our hotel.”
“You are very lucky indeed,” Prasad replied “to have Monika and Maureen bless your place with their presence. We wish you all the best for your family and the upcoming wedding.”
The old lady motioned to Arya to come closer.
“Another very beautiful woman. It is a real pleasure to meet all the people who are involved with Monika and her Maureen.”
Just then another taxi dropped off Maureen, Stephanie, Bhavana and Madelaine. Bhavana, seeing Monika and Maureen kneeling next to the old lady, took Madeline’s hand and walked over, stopping to greet her respectfully with the gesture and “Namaste, dadee ma.” Madelaine copied her. Bhavana was wearing a beautiful very high quality silk saree, Madelaine was her usual chic Parisienne.
“Namaste Bhavana, Madelaine, come closer children. It is a great pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure, dadee ma, is all ours.” Madelaine replied.
Then the old lady turned to Maureen and Stephanie.
“There is no secret,” she said with a smile “as to who you two have to be. Namaste, Maureen, Namaste Stephanie. I have heard a lot and only good things about you two.”
“We feel honoured to be invited to your granddaughter’s wedding.” Stephanie said, going on her knees in front of the matriarch “I have never been invited to a wedding before and was certainly not expecting to be an honoured and welcome guest here.”
“You cannot possibly imagine, dear Stephanie, what pleasure it is for me to see four people bringing luck and happiness to my granddaughter’s wedding. And it is another great pleasure, to welcome so many beautiful women here in my house. But don’t worry about an old lady like me now. I appreciate all your respectful behaviour, but I think now it is time to greet your friends and relatives.”
With that she sat back in her chair and looked over the assembled women and her son and Prasad with a content smile on her face. Maureen greeted her grandmother first, then Monika, who pulled her into a hug before she led her towards Arya and Prasad.
“Maureen, meet the head of IT for the RI, Prasad, and his wonderful fiancée Arya. Arya, Prasad, meet Maureen, who is the researcher in charge of what we’ll be doing.”
“It is going to be a great pleasure, Maureen, to be working with you and Monika on the research. I promised Jacqueline and Monika to help set up and program the equipment you need.”
While Maureen was speechless, looking from Prasad to Arya to Monika, Stephanie’s squeal of delight was not to be missed. She came over and hugged Monika, then Prasad, then Maureen the elder.
“I love you all so much, for what you are doing and have done for my love, she said with tears running down her cheeks, you are the most wonderful people ever.”
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