Oh! paramasukham -Chapter 22

The tsunami wiped  off not only happiness but all the accumulated values of the Krisnaiyuer family. Abandoning  all his deep rooted trusts in traditional values, the senior, hugged and hugged, kissed and kissed on the forehead, cheeks,hands, legs, every inch of  Unni’s body as if he was atoning for what he didn’t do all those years. 

Sharada took a vow on the spot, ” my suspicion has been confirmed. I want to save my remaining child atleast, from the fury of a brahamanan.  Swamy, you take care of Ammu; I am going to Kashi along with Baghyam” 

” No, Chetchi,  my cursed steps have brought this calamity,” wept Baghyam, ” I killed my Appa there, came here and killed my son not born to me”

” What a mahapapi, sinner am I ?” cried Swamy beating his chest, ” I could not even fulfill the last wish of my kid, leave away the fact that I could not be present here when my wife and children wanted me most”

‘Nan aakumda mahapai ( I am the sinner) mami sobbed  ” I should not  have stayed for a minute more in his house, when your Appa refused to accept my advice to allow Sharada in our house”

Mami’s two daughters refused to part  with the body of the child.  “Without Unni, we will not live in this world,’ they lamented.

After a few weeks, when things somewhat settled, Sharada left her daughter with Muthi. “Baghyam, let us go to Kashi; mami is better now. Her daughters can look after her” .Then she turned towards Swamy and said, “you too come with us “

Despite the repeated requests from Krisnaiyer family, the three went to Kashi and stayed for a month in Baghyam’s house . The daily dip in the coll waters of the Ganges and worship in temples removed to some extend,the smoke from their minds and were able to discus about their future.

” You may not be convinced, swamy, but I am, that we are carrying over our head, the curse of your father and there is no question of my continuing as your wife, though I will be with you whenever you need any support from me. you will marry Baghyam and Ammu will be with you. I will stop working and continue to concentrate on Chinmaya Mission.”

“It is not necessary for us to get married, Chetchi ” Baghyam suggested, ” I will take care of Ammu in mami’s house.”

” I leave it to you,though that is not what I want”

That is the story of Sharada teacher ” . Appa got up and asked me to get ready, “we have to go for Nirmalya darisanam (pre-dawn worship )in the Padmanabhaswamy temple”.

“Did they marry ?” I asked my last question. “No idea.none bothered to worry”

We had bath in the pond and went to the temple along with other family members.That was my first visit to the Padmanabha temple. The impressive recling posture of the Lord on the serpent bed, with a lotus evolved from his naval, in a thoughtfully and moderately illumined background left an indelible impression in my mind. I spent several minutes, intensely looking at that Divine magnanimity wondering at the depth and intensity of His meditation, in a most hostile surrounding; ever moving, uneven serpent in a noisy wavy ocean for bed; the divine consorts  close by; the Rishies and other divine devotees around. Only from the naval of such a great ‘thapaswi’ can evolve and blossom a lotus flower projecting the four headed, all pervading source of creation.There is no better, meaning full, poetic symbolic representation than the ‘Anantha Padhmanabhan’ which brings out the charm, magnanimity, greatness and importance of creation and its support for sustaining and developing.

“What did you ask from Him?” Ratnam wanted to know.

“Nothing; absolutely nothing,” I replied still my eyes partially closed. “I had a craving for one billionth of that cosmic energy, to face life; but I simply got absorbed in His majestic beauty. What a cosmic charm!” I lost words. How powerless words are in such situations!

While coming out of the temple, my father took P.M.S. aside and said,” It is a matter of shame for all of us that we played a cruel joke on our children. It may not be intentional, but it was easily preventable with a little more care and attention. I am not particularly blaming anyone. But we spoiled the lifetime memory of the children for which all of us are responsible” He continued: I want you to do one thing, P.M.S! Pack them off to Kanyakumari this after noon, in your car. None should know about this. See that they are accommodated in a good hotel preferably for more than one night and none accompanies”

I don’t know how this message leaked; by the time we got ready for the trip, there were nearly twenty families, who wanted to accompany us. We had to arrange a big bus. The whole crowd was with us everywhere, in the temple, in the boat, in the lovely sands from where we watched the sunset and sunrise and in the hotel. The seasonal rush at the tourist spot was so heavy that after accommodating the guests in the available hotel rooms, I slept inside the bus and I don’t know where my wife slept. The first night, in the blessed bed room with creaking doors, was merrier.

We returned the next day and got ready for our return trip to Palakkad

It was time to say ‘good bye’. Amman was sitting in a corner and it was obvious that he was trying hard to control his emotion. “Life without Ratnam is going to be tuff-‘korae vishamama,”. He put it very mildly; he was not used to strong words.

“Life with your daughter is going to be ‘vishamam’   (difficult ) for me!” I quipped, ” life with her is going to be ‘valarae vishamam’ (very difficult for me ) .

I went near him and hugged him in Hyderabad style. ”you have the simplicity of a crystal and sincerity of a mother. Though you speak less, we have understood each other so well and I hold you in esteem. Do come to your daughter’s house as soon as possible but a small request: leave your umbrella in a bank vault; no one uses them in Hyderabad in sun or rain.On my part, I assure you sufficient stock of Guntur tobacco and VIijayawada betel leaves.
“Rudram and Chamakam flow  through your blood; place your hand over my head and let that celestial flow enter my veins.”

“Bless us, Periappa!” I touched the feet of P.M.S. “Every thing is large with you: your frame, your mind, your family, your status, your name and fame. Let a fraction of that greatness pass on to my body”

‘‘I noticed the glow in your face, when you mentioned about my family size.”  It was his face which glowed, when he said those words.”I never worried that I had nine daughters as many others would have. In fact I was happy and proud”

“That was the first thing I noticed when I landed here. Periappa! Remember. There is always room for one more”

‘That is exactly my worry!” His wife replied. We all had a hearty laugh.

“Don’t forget me, konthai” said P.M.S. hugging me close to his chest.

“Can I? “ I asked him,” One person I will remember ever, when I go to bed is my P.M.S Periappa.”

“I erred and apologise to you for my carelessness” He pleaded for my forgiveness.

” Absolutely no need” I held his hands and laughed. “You have done it purposely to institute in our mind the importance of being together. A stage might come in the life for every couple, when one may long for the dissociation from the other, though temporarily. I know it is absurd to say so, especially on this occasion but as you know facts are facts. If it happens to us, you want us to remember the first night. Isn’t it so?  But tell me Periappa! Why a jack fruit in the bed room and not banana or apple?”

“You are intelligent; otherwise you wouldn’t have said, what you said now. So, ponder a bit ; you will get the answer”

“Ha, ha, ha I know the answer now. Hard and thorny exterior; cut it open and go deep .Plenty of hard seeds, encased in sweet, juicy, colourful fruits. Oh I go it, I got it. I laud your imagination. Shall I go further?”

‘’Enough! Reserve your poetic imagination for solitary moments” We laughed together. Those standing close by, with a sense of humour also laughed. Others do not matter; ignore those who do not follow jokes and those who cannot tolerate jokes.

He patted me affectionately. “Just realize that banana with no seeds and apple with a few, are no comparison with the kingly Jack fruit, with plenty of seeds.”

“And  the sweet, juicy and colourful fruits encasing the hard seeds” I reinforced his statement.


I had no words when I went to Athai for her blessings. She was a synonym for sacrifice .We just hugged each other, till her tears wet my hairs and face. 


“I am greatly indebted to you, Parasu, for binding me with this big family of loving people” I expressed my sincere gratitude to my cousin.” And also for giving me a wonderful life-partner, from the sacred soil of Anantha Padmanabhan and Sreekanteswaran. When I hear the call, ‘Ente sreekanteswara’ from the cavern  of the heart of devotees passing through the temple, my soul vibrates and reaches the Himalyan heights of elated bliss. My ‘Rudram’ and ‘chamakam”  rarely took me to such heights Yes, earlier, I did have  such experience while  the tram in which I was commuting, passed through the street close to the Kalighat temple. People irrespective of caste or ideology they follow, touch their hand on their chest and cry” Ma’.   That ‘Ma’ call, Parasu, shakes and kindles your soul.

The path of my married life is laid by you I will never forget this help”:

Parsu, I noticed for the first time, was moved. He blessed me placing his hands over my head.

The Trivandram railway station was full of our relatives and friends, who had come in colourful dress  and shining ornaments, to see us off. Amman, holding his umbrella, was wiping his moist eyes; my mother-in-law was consoling him. P.M.S , his wife and daughters behind him, was pacing up and down the platform. Athai, silently but with a heavy heart, was holding her niece close to her chest. Parasu was supervising the loading of luggage, vessels and eatables on to the compartment. sharada teacher Baghyam and Ammu were holding my hands and standing on my sides.Chami anna was standing aloof, making hand movements as if to say, “these are all part of life; anyway all the best”. 


“Lalitha rushed in, when our luggage was loaded; she was helping Parasu in that work.

“I love you so much athimbar” she was sobbing when she held my hands

“Then rush into the compartment” I said, “Oh, you don’t have your suitcase; that doesn’t matter. You can use your sister’s wardrobe. And there is no time to buy the ticket. Hide below the seat like a mouse but don’t pop up your head, to watch the movement of the ticket collector”

She didn’t laugh; she wept.


When the green signal flag fluttered, Venku ayyan rushed in to announce that Ratnam’s six aunts with their husbands would join us at Kollam and  would stay with us at our Palakkad house, for a week, till we return to Hyderabad. Magnificent  gesture!


Before I recovered from the shock inflicted by that news, P.M.S ,walking along with the just-moving  train, asked. “Hope you enjoyed everything here. Sukham aayille, makkalea?”


“Oh! Parama sukham, Parama sukham” I replied waving my hands.

“What is that second Parmasukham for?” My father enquired with a mischievous smile.

“For the gesture of the six aunts and uncles” I replied, with an equally mischievous smile.


Ratnam  too smiled. I knew the meaning of that.

That revealed her happiness on my appreciating the gesture of her six aunts and uncles!

She would have also realised that Paramasukham has only one meaning on all occasions. That is PARAMA SUKHAM!


Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 21

Swamy, on return from Kashi, had briefed his wife about their event- filled pilgrimage including his father’s request for marrying Baghyam. Sharada hardly paid any attention to that, as her compassionate heart was  worrying how the unfortunate solitary girl in Varanasi would be facing the life all alone. Recalling her own trauma when her father passed away, she identified herself with Baghyam.
“I will go to Kashi myself and bring Baghyam here ” She looked at her husband’s face, for permission.
“Wait for a fortnight ” Swamy suggested,” if she doesn’t come, then we will decide; either I will go and get her or you can do that.”  Sharada agreed.
Baghyam did come on her own and the couple received her and brought home. Sharada was instantly attracted by Baghyam’s childlike looks and simplicity .”I will not allow you to go back to Kashi, when mami regains her health”, sharada, hugging her with intimacy told Baghyam,
“you will ever be with me “
Baghyam  became a fish thrown back into the river. During the day time, she solely took care of mami and served the others in the family and Swamy shared the responsibility after returning from the office. Sharada came to meet mami, against Swami’s advice, when Krishnaier disapproved her visit, with the remarks, “you be happy, wherever you are and we will be happy wherever we are.”
Sharada teacher,wiped her swollen eys and was about to exit when Baghyam held her hand and consoled,” take it easy, chetchi (elder sister ); mama, in fact likes you.”
After returning home, while watering the plants, Krishnaiyer’s  words  continued to hurt Sharada. ” Even after ten years of our wedding, the wound caused by our decision has not healed in his mind. It may also not, before he leaves this world, which would mean that as a pitru, spirit, he carries the burden. Added to that is my inability to join my husband when he does the aparakriyas, shradham etc. Like a wild fire, the brahmanasapam, curse of a brahmin will burn my family and my progeny for several generations to come. I should atone for my crime in this life itself ” She decided.
In Krishnaiyer’s house, mami scolded him for his imprudent remarks, “ten years, not one or two, have elapsed since sharada has become our daughter in law and have you ever gone to her house ? Are not the kids born to her, from the seeds of your son ? Have you ever kept them on your lap, kissed on their forehead ? I have heard that pishorides are not sudras; they were brahmins like you, but due to some reason was degraded, why I do not know. Are you not drinking the milk and medicinal liquids provided by non-brahmins ? Remember, it is not long when we too will vanish like Sundaram and only the heart burn of that good woman will be accompanying you in your last journey”, she mourned..
“Appa, when our Rishies  wanted to search for a form, for the formless Super Reality for better comprehension, they could not have imagined a more ideal form than a huge Virat Purush, with countless heads, eyes, hands and legs, a magnificent manifestation, which grows to the hight and depth of the universe and even beyond that and which spreads to all the eight corners and even beyond that ?  It is the brahimins who spread vedas through their mouth; so aptly they were linked with the face of the virat Pursusha. How can those generated from the feet which happened to be janmabhoomi of the holy Ganges, be inferior in status, just because the feet happened to be the lower part of the body ? “

“Look, I am not a scholar to argue with you ” Krishnaiyer replied, “neither my father nor his father or any ancestor in this family had a non-brahmin wife. I follow their tradition, blindly “

“Yes,that is exactly the problem, Appa ” All his three children admitted in a chorus.  

Next day, Swamy had to leave on tour and when he was at the gate, his son Unni came running and pleaded, “Appa, I want to hear your singing, ‘karuna chaivan enthu thamasam’ song.”

” Sure my son, I will come back within a week and we both will sing together ” Swamy assured.

Two days later Unni returned home with high fever and sever head ache and the next day he was admitted in the hospital. Before the doctors could identify the cause of the fever, the child passed away. 

The last words, he blabbered , in delirium was, ” will you sing ‘karunachaivan’ for me just once, Appa? “

Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 20

” Once you have come out of the initial shock of seeing the dead bodies burning one after the other, in the open, Kashi is not that frightening during day times,”  said a pilgrim who observed Swamy standing like a statue, “we become philosophical, musing on the non lasting nature of life and other related matters. Nights are terrifying, though. The fire and smoke emanating  from the shore, the soul- slicing drum beats and the ‘ Hara, hara, Mahadev’ or ‘ Baba Viswanathji ke jai ‘ sounds, and even the vibration from the flow of the river below, induces horror in your mind .”   Swamy hardly heard.

Anyway, none slept in Baghyam’s house that night. Like a tiny bird whose wings were clipped, she lay on the floor in a corner while the guests sat curling their hands around legs as if everything was lost for them.  All the sounds suddenly stopped and there was absolute silence all around. Night became as silent as Death. That was most piercing. Sound, any sound would have been better, they thought.

Suddenly,  Baghyam cried, ” appa, appa,  bayama iruuku (I am afraid ) and came running towards mami, hugged her and mami too held her closed to her chest, patting her back as she would have consoled her own daughter. “Did you see any bad dreams, my child ? ” She inquired . There was no response.  Baghyam had slid into sleep, as  she was enjoying  the peace and safety provided her own mother’s lap.

Suddenly there was a gush of cold wind, followed by a shrill voice of a mendicant’s prayer, which flew in  the cold air through the ghats, slicing its silence.

“Namsthesthu Gange, thwadanga prasangad,
Bujangasthuranaga kuranga plavanga,
Anangari ranga sasanga Ashivango,
Bhujangadhi pangi kruthango bhavanthi”

Salutations  to that Ganga,
Whose simple touch makes,
Snakes,horses,deer and monkeys,
Even if they are in a huge herd,
Take the form of Shiva in the Shiva’s heaven,
And that of Vishnu in His heaven.
( Mahakavi Kalidasa )


Krishnaiyer had completed the rites as dictated by sastrigal and asked his wife to pack up.. 
 
” Come with us , my child ” mami pleaded, “we will take care of you as your father did. I have two daughters; you are the third and the eldest “

Bhagyam cried as if her own parents were leaving her in a forest as a prey for the hunt of carnivorous animals. All her bold talk of ‘ I can manage alone’  had vanished in thin air and she wanted to go with them . Dharmambal mami’s  motherly warm hugs  in the first night and subsequently every nights,  had almost brought her mother back from the grip of death or she thought so. 

 Patting the back of a cow which was passing through,  Baghyam  mused: ” They are good people, no doubt ; but  I never knew them till a fortnight before. How to go with them leaving my house and friends,.  known since long ?  I know Ganga mathaji  from the day one  I was born. Every dust here, every pinch of ash , charcoal, firewood, every panda,  all are  part of me. Even every dead body which turn into ashes before my eyes has become a part of me. My mother died when I was hardly ten and now, before my eyes my father just disappeared into the waters of this river,  like a darba blade thrown after tharpanam.  How will I leave all these and go to an unknown land along with these  unknown people ? How will I leave these narrow lines, crowded with men and cows covered with dust and dung, where I used to run like a little calf chased by the Divine Bull, Nandikeswara.
” Should I stay and fight or should I go with them ?”

Then,  the words of her proud parents, alerted her : 

‘ Stand like a stone pillar when a storm strikes ‘  were Amma’s last words. 

‘ Sorrows, like pilgrims are seasonal ‘  Appa mentioned just ten days ago, ‘ but Gangamaji is not ; she is perennial, she will feed me’” 


The solitary girl, suppressed her grief and spurting desire to go with the  guest, with great difficulty  and  saw them  off.

” Life has to go on ; that is what the perennial mother tells me”  said Baghyam, looking at the holy river, flowing non stop through millennia, while the guests were leaving .

While going in riksha to the railway station, Krishnaiyer turned towards the Ganges. ” Why did Sundaram wait for us to leave this world  or why did Ganges wait for us  to absorb him back into her eternity, till we landed here and met him ? There is a master plan behind this.” 

“People come here to get rid of their wordily attachments where as we have  acquired a hapless girls as our own”  Dharmambal mami wondered,  “a fortnight ago, I hadn’t heard about her but today  I am unable to forget her even for a moment. Instead of loosening and letting off the bundles one by one from my head , I am carrying back a mountain from here. Visalakshy, what is this game ? “

“You are right Amma,” her son agreed. “I too have developed an unexplained attachment with that girl”  

While travelling , Krishnaiyer, casually,  asked his son, “why don’t you marry her ? Amma loves her .We all like her. She is good looking; good mannered ”

“Bur Appa, I am married .” Swamy frowned,  ” I have a loving wife, two children “

“Marriage with a non-brahimin woman is not a marriage at all”  His father too was equally assertive,” it is only a samabandam “

“Then what about my children, are they not your grand children ?”

“They cannot hold neipantham “

” Damn with your neipantham and its imaginary vision to lead you to heaven”  Swamy’s voice was raising ,” Appa, let me make it very clear to you . I cannot leave Sharada and my children.  I can bring Bhagyam, get her a job, find a husband for her and do anything else you ask me . But, I cannot be her husband . I am already one for a worthy lady “

Then on, his father never mentioned about the neipandahan or  wedding. But in their mind, the memory of that Kashi girl was hanging like a granite stone. Swami too could not forget her.  

Baghyam found her lonely life miserable. The Ganges, friends, helpful panda families -with all that,  the absence of that single soul, her father was intolerable for her.  She  wanted to run away from there, fall flat on mami’s lap and weep incessantly.

Two weeks after she returned from Varnasi, mami slipped  in the bath room and broke a few ribs. 
A surgery was unavoidable, though not very ideal at her age. It would be another six months before she gets up and walks on her own.  Sharada was prepared, in fact she was happy, to avail long leave and stay with her mother-in-law and fully take charge of the household duties, though her daughter in law status was never accepted there. “Do you think appa will allow you inside ?”  queried Swamy when she asked his permission. A nurse could  be appointed but she would not be allowed to enter the kitchen . Eating hospital food was unavoidable but eating the food prepared at home by a non brahmin was unacceptable under any circumstances.. Krishanaiyer and his son were  equally ignorant of even preparing a good kanchi or coffee . The daughters should not forego their education and keep awake during day and night .  Mami, therefore instructed her son, to ask Baghyam to come to help the family.

“Vendam (no) we will manage somehow” said Swaminathan. ” Yes, we will, ” said his father. 

” I know how you will manage, ” mami protested, “you will starve and make me too starve ”

” Amma, Baghyam will slowly get adjusted to the reality there and try to live with it,”  Swamy again argued, “let us not disturb her now. There are other ways to solve the problem.”

” Bring her here if you want me to recover soon,”  mami was firm, “otherwise, I will die without seeing her face” 

“Is it your final decision, Amma ? I can arrange for a brahmin woman who will cook and also take care of you”  Swamy pleaded again, before posting the letter to Baghyam. ” Yes, it is my final decision ”  affirmed his mother, ” I want to see her face once again before I die “

Swaminathan posted the letter, reluctantly. 







Oh! Paramsukham chapter 19

“Has this word, ‘paramasukham’ a different meaning in Palakkad vocabulary ?” asked Ratnam, after PMS exited. “It has different meaning on different  occasions”, I clarified, what gives me ‘Partmasukham’ now is the realization that you are not a doll, as I guessed earlier but a gown up girl fit to be a wife” She smiled and evaporated like like a dew drop on a fresh flower.  I knew the meaning of that smile: that was just to say, “I share your loss.”
 The last two days have been full of action and adventures with no respite, for me; the arduous train journey, crossing the compound wall unnecessarily, wedding eve procession in the jam packed car, then by walk and then  the elephant ride, Charm’s sudden illness and last but not the least, the troublesome act of handling a pair of disobedient massive wooden doors and a huge jack fruit- I must get good sleep at least for a couple of hours away from the crowd.The clock in the hall struck one. With a ‘thorthumundu’ ( towel) on the shoulder, I sneaked through the backdoor, towards the big banian tree, adjoining the pond in the eastern corner. I spread the towel on the mud platform below the tree, when I heard a familiar voice. it was Appa’s. He knew about the non delicious night I had and was following me .The moment I saw him, my urge to hear Charm’s story suppressed that for sleep  and I begged him to continue.

“You are tired, try to get some sleep “,  he advised.

“Appa, remembering the childhood days, I will sleep hearing your story ” I pleaded . He agreed, reluctantly.

” Yes, After Swamy left, Sharada,  mused over the incidence,”what a humble and simple minded man, Swaminathan Iyer is !  So upright to admit that his sister’ studies would have been in jeopardy but for that small cash I gave him ! I will talk to ‘atchan’ ( father ) and try to help him. ”

 “I know his father ” Rama pisharodi said, when sharada mentioned about her new colleague. “In fact, it was I who recommended the youngster for a job in your school. Bring him home, sometime ; I haven’t met him.”

Next morning when Swaminathan master met Sharada, he returned two rupees to her. “Only eight rupees was required for the fees “

” Swamy Sir, you are too good to be in this era ”  Sharada joked, ” keep that small amount with you “

 “I will give to my sisters to buy bangles ” he said, “let that be your gift for them”

Sharada mentioned about this conversation too to her parents. “The junior has acquired the uprightness of his father”

Sharada took Swaminathan home and the elders were happy to meet him. They offered him fruits and clothes along with some cash. He refused  to accept the cash. The pisharodies then requested him to recite a few slokams from Sundarakanadam. Swami would do it only after bath which was arranged. Wearing the new veshti provided by the pisharodies, he recited the 36th sargam on anguleeyaka pradanam, Hanuman handing over Sree Rama’s ring carrying His name, to Sri Sitha.  Pishorodies were immensely pleased and they gave some cash along with betel leaves and an areca nut as a mark of respect and requested Swami to accept the cash as a dakshina which a brahmin was entitled for, after performing a religious or spiritual task. He accepted and thanked them by saying ,   “this is enough to buy medicines for my parents for two or three months.”

Then onward, Sharada’s parents used to invite him often and gift some cash and clothes for some homam or pooja.

The friendship continued and the simple mannered, modest, truthful Swaminatha Iyer  became Sharad’s favorite  Her father helped him to acquire a degree through private studies and also a better job.

When their friendship blossomed as love, trouble started. Sharada teacher’s parents had no objection as they were convinced about Iyer’s honesty. “Moreover, he is a Brahmanan”..

Krishnaiyer, Swaminathan’s father  protested and  threatened he would commit suicide.

“Appa, remember”  his son tried to pacify him,”if we are enjoying a square meal, it is because of her. If your daughters are getting education  and am holding a good job and a degree , it is due to her support . Our whole family is indebted to her. And above all she loves me, trusts me  I have decided to marry her”

Krishnaiyer thought for a while and declared, ” OK. if you have already taken a decision, go ahead. But live with her separately “

 The wedding took place in a temple. They  took a house not very far . Swaminathan used to visit his parents often. His sisters and later his mother too made frequent visits to Sharadha’s house but Krishnaiyer never went there, even to see his grand children, Unni and Ammu.

” How did Ammu land at the Ambattu sharam, while I was there ” I asked dad, ” She said Muthy was her Muthy too, which means, Muthy was Sharada’s mom ?”

“Yes, in fact  Swaminathan had come to the sharam once or twice during your stay there but you didn’t meet him

 Swamy escorted his parents to Kashi, on their request, where they met unexpectedly a close cousin Sundaram, on the bank of the Ganges. He had run away from home when his father refused to allow him to marry the girl he liked, determined to become a sanyasi. The girl he loved also decided to become a mendicant and reached Kasi, where they met each other unexpectedly. Having met in a place far away from home, they wisely decided  to eschew their interest in sanyasam and got married. They had a daughter, Baghyam, who was  taking care of her father in the absence of her mother who  passed away .

Krishanaiyer never expected to meet Sundaram there or  anywhere else as they had no contact for the past several years.  “What do you  do for your livelihood?” Krishnaiyer inquired.

 “I predict pilgrims’ future either by astrological calculation or through palm and face reading ”  Sundaram replied

 ”When did you learn them ? ”

“Annapoorna’s anugraham,  (blessings of the Godess ) ” Sundaram  conceded humbly,  ” Sastras are divine and y cannot be acquired by learning”

“True, true” agreed his cousin.

Krishnaiyer  casually mentioned about his failing health to his relative who quickly surveyed the old man’s palm and face and lamented, ” I pity you. Despite your strict adherence to the scriptural path , your own  path to salvation will remain dark, without a  ‘neipantham’ to show you the way.

 Suddenly the old man realized that he didn’t have a grand son, to lead his funeral procession, carrying a torch soaked in ghee, from a brahmin woman. That also lead to his another worry about which he never thought so far. His son too will not reach the gate of heaven as he  did not have a son from a brahmin woman, to uplift him from the dreaded depth of the hell called ‘puunagam’.  He became panicky.

He had not told Sundaram that his son was already married and had two kids. The union with a non-brahmin woman was not something to be  proud of. The astrologer cousin, therefore suggested that he accepts Baghyam, his own daughter for Swaminathan as his wife. Swami’s mother tried to say something but her husband pressed her hand to signal that she should not spill the beans. Their son was not there when this conversation took place.

At that time came Baghyam, with some washed cloth for changing for her father after the evening ablution . She was attractive and serene like a Tulasi plant at your house frontage.

“My corwn jewel Baghyalakshmi ” Sundaram proudly introduced  his daughter to the guests. ” I am looking for a suitable head to pass on this jewel . Give me your hand, Anna.”

Those were his last words. He didn’t rise from the water. A massive heart attack managed to take his soul to heaven without a theepantham to show the way. The man who was predicting the future of  pilgrims for the past several years never knew his future.

Every one was  shell-shocked. Baghyam became an orphan in a wink. His final plead, ”give me your hand, Anna” chocked Krishnaiyer’s throat.

“Why did the Destiny bring us here ? ” the dumbstruck old couple wondered,” to meet Sundaram and witness his death ?”

“What next ? ” asked Swami.” Who will do the last rites and how to console this girl, weeping like a child, rolling on her father’s  body ?”

The panda friends of Sundaram gathered awaiting the instructions for the disposal of the body, when  they learned that he was related to their friend..

” Appa, I will perform the duties of his son ” offered Swami..

“No, you have no right for that when I am alive,” his father clarified, ” I will do the aparakriyas( last rites )

The pandas  gave a fitting send off to their comrade. Attempting  to wink back the tears, Baghyam, looking at the unabated flames of her father’s pyre, told calmly but confidentially to his relatives, “I have never met you before  and I am extremely grateful for your invaluable  help and support at this critical juncture. You can go back now, I will mange”

  “You will manage,  How ? ” enquired Swami.  ” No, we will not go without you ” declared his parents.

  “I am the daughter of this Gangamatha. I was born on her lap and played as a child on these steps., grew as an adult hearing the the conch and temple bell sounds ” Baghyam replied, “leave me here. I  have a teacher’s job . I have leaned music for ten years. I know tailoring . Viswanath Babaji and Annapoorna mathaji will never desert me. There seems to be some master plan behind today’s sad happening. Babaji’s ways are unknown but I am confident of His unfathomable love for me”.

 “I am not going to leave this mother-less child who lost her father too, till her inner wound heals to some extent” Swami’s mother, Dharmamabal mami said categorically.

 “I too will stay and complete the last rites”  Krisnaiyer too made his intention clear.” Swaminatha, you go back and attend your duties and take care of the girls at home”

“Impossible”  Swaminathan replied,”  I am not an animal to leave high and dry my aged parents and this hapless girl on the burning ghat”  The flames from the pyre of Sundaram were still busy, swallowing his left over..

The  Dasaswamedh ghat was getting ready for the evening  aarti.

Boats carrying pilgrims were happily moving around as if nothing has happened on the bank of the river.There is no other place in the world where death is treated so casually as in Kasi. The dividing line between death and life is so narrow there and  I think it is to realize this truth that people throng there.

Narayanswamy stood like a statue alternately looking at the glowing pyre, flowing waters below and the girl standing near like another statue.

The pilgrims continue to sing in the moving boats, folk songs glorifying Ganga Mathaji

Sa ya eshonthar hrudaya aakasa: Thasminnayam Purusho manomaya : Amritho hiranmaya:
In the stillness and silence of my inner space, shines a dazzling brilliance, to describe I have no words “
“Give a hand-full from your plenty to those whose hands are empty”


Oh! Parama sukham Chapter 18

“I look to the sky at night and admire the beauty of the stars.

I stand in awe of their brilliance;

They are as shining and constant

and they have been since the beginning of time.

They light the heavens and fill our hearts with wonder.

When one burns out, another takes its place;

for they are eternal.

Wherever you are, they guide you from their home high above the earth.

At times, they seem close enough to touch,

as they transport your dreams far away.

Their magic compels us to offer up wishes for their consideration.

They make us realize that even when the sky is the darkest,

a tiny beacon of light still shines through.

They are God’s reminder to us that some things really do go on forever”.

‘Stars’

by Sherri Anderson

Some things really do go on forever in the midst of this eternally changing and evanescent world.

The sky and the stars are source of solace for us. When we hear a shocking news or are in distress, we look at them first. We look at them for comfort and guidance . We depend on them to accept responsibility for the happenings beyond our control. We don’t look down and ask Mother Earth why she  gave birth to us . We look up and seek the help of the sky.Though for our physical eyes, Druva or Arundathi were not visible in the sky, as Ratnam correctly said, we knew they were there.

A lot of thoughts have gone into the formulation of the wedding ceremony. Deeply rooted in vedic tradition at every stage and keeping the holy fire as the witness, the system takes care of spiritual as well as social aspects. The prayers of the bride-groom, reveals utmost concern for the health and happiness of the bride and she is assured a prominent status in the husband’s family. She is in fact, given the status of the ‘queen’ of the family and all others brought under her affection and care.

The social aspects also are taken care of and plenty of fun and entertainment are provided. Tasty food, added to that, makes the function enjoyable and memorable to one and all.

Lalitha, who was behind us, looked unusually dull. “What happened sister-in-law, why are your eyes cloudy? ” I asked.

” I should not have fought with you, Athimbar “

“Why?”

” You won’t buy an ice cream for me, when I come to Hyderabad “

“Ha, ha, don’t worry. I will find an ice cream wallah as husband for you.. Hei, why do you look at the sky again?”

”To thank the Heavens for giving my sister a life partner like you” Her eyes were moist.

“What happened all of a sudden?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Sister’s husband is always lovable, I know. But I thought you are made of a different metal.”

 ” I am like any other girl, though a bit quarrelsome. You are not only lovable to me, but admirable too.” she continued in a low voice. “I enjoy your pranks, your erratic behaviour, your lively jokes and the very way you face problems. How is it possible for you, Athimbar to laugh at every thing and behave as if life is nothing but a movie?”

“Because life is nothing but a movie, my dear. Come back to your normal cranky mood, sister-in-law,” I taunted her.

She was worried that soon her sister would be leaving her. In a voice choked with emotion, she continued:” what a match the God has made in you! Akka is dreamily absent minded, seldom speaking unless spoken to, slow and shy in reply; where as, you talk to walls and doors voluntarily. You never worry about tomorrow, whereas she plans for many years ahead. You will love her dearly, I am sure, but you love others too as well and as dearly. For Akka, you are her world.”

She closed her eyes and looking up prayed, “Ente Sreekanteswara!” Make their journey a smooth affair and be with them always providing shadow”

” Lalitha, my prayers may go unanswered; but yours will never”, I took her hand in mine and said,” “because you are pure like the waters of the Ganges at her origin”

Bursting in tears and flinging her arms around her sister, she wept like a child. Ratnam patted her back.

“‘We are proud of you, Lalitha” she said,” Athimbar likes you so much that he is going to miss you”

”You are not to spend your lifetime looking at the stars.” Vadyar was calling us.” Your presence is required for some more time. Some more homams are there”

Now, I want to share my first night experience with you.

 “What! You shameless old man!”

I can here your angry words. But I appeal to you , “Please stay back and hear me”.  I would even go one step further and invite your youngsters too, so that they will enjoy the fun of my first night.

Thank you.  I hear your whisper giving your consent unwillingly, after making sure that your children are not around there,

The bedroom allotted to us for our first night, was a high-domed, spacious, well decorated hall at the eastern side of the Kaithamukku madam. I was impressed by the selected Ravi varma paintings on the wall and the large ebony wood  cot, placed in the centre .With its shining planks and ornamental carvings and the circular mirror, the cot had a royal look. So were the big doors at the entrance, which  perhaps belonged to a dismantled palace building.

There was an old record player with a shining bugle, placed on a velvet cloth. The records of old- time masters like Veenai Danammal and Karaikkudi Arunachalam were nicely placed near it, covered by a muslin cloth. Nearby was an old Thambura, in a corner, well protected from dust. The presence of all these were  understandable but not that of a big jack fruit along with a long knife and a bottle of coconut oil and a few plates, placed on  a long heavy wooden  bench, at one end of the room.

The exterior of the room, however, was noisy. The well with its wooden roller screaming at every touch was close to the bed room as well as the cowshed . The noise  from the workshop, adjoining the bedroom, was much beyond the level of tolerance. Apparently, PMS had employed some labour force to expedite the pending orders for furniture.  .

Ratnam was least disturbed. She was trying her fingers on the strings of the musical instrument.

“Couldn’t your uncle find a better place for us, in this big house?” I asked as politely as I could, concealing my anger. Selecting a star hotel as venue was not in vogue, then.

“Everyone in this house has an emotional attachment to this room, because either they were born here or delivered here or both, right from my great grandfather’s time. I too was born here and so were my brother, sister and all the nine daughters of PMS. All my elder cousins spent their first nights here and…”‘

‘’And they are all proud and happy mothers today?”

“Of course.” she replied with family pride brightening her eyes.

“Don’t you think that it would be ideal to handover this room to a maternity hospital?”

 “The innocent one didn’t catch my joke. ”Periappa will never part with this house and especially this bed room”

“I see your point” Whether I saw her point or not, one thing was clear. I couldn’t bail out of that room! It had witnessed several just-married couple and just-delivered mothers.

So, the next issue was to see how best I could convert it, to serve the purpose. I looked around; the shutters of the large windows were inoperable. Bed-sheets were available in the cupboard . I collected a few and provided a temporary enclosure.

Then I went towards the doors and tried to close them.’GIRRRRRRRRRR” they screamed. Even Narasimha baghavan wouldn’t have yelled so ferociously, when he jumped out of the pillar.  Hearing that yelling, the entire crowd from the ‘Madom’ should have come running towards our bed room; but none came. Perhaps, that was the practice; no help whatsoever, once you are married and dumped into your bedroom.

We look at the sky for its benevolent intervention and help at such hours. I did it and to my horror, I noticed that the huge doors had no stoppers!

Situation was serious. If I leave my hold on the partially closed doors, they will return to the original position with vengeance. Other alternative was to push them some more, though they would protest again and hold them in that position with the help of some heavy objects.

I looked around. There were two movable heavy objects in the room; the cot and the bench. To move the cot, you need at least ten people or a big elephant and to move the bench, five, or a baby elephant. Both are impractical solutions.

“Shall I call boxer uncle?” Ratnam al last, came out with a bright idea.

” Please do. So that he would close the door and stand in that position through out the night?”

“So what?” I thought she would ask. Thank God. She didn’t.

“Why don’t I go out and seek the help of someone to fix the door stoppers?” I thought. But somehow, I didn’t like that idea. P.M.S. was a popular man and his son-in-law jumping out of the bed room, looking for a door stopper would become hot news for the local dailies.

There was only one option left; somehow I would close the doors and keep holding them, through out the night. Ratnam could sleep comfortably. Not a bad idea at all. But I thought again. First night, I presume, is not to be spent that way, holding the doors pressed from inside!

Right from the moment we entered the bed room, Ratnam was busy tuning her musical instrument and humming some songs, unaware of the big battle I was fighting alone. I didn’t like that. She has to be somehow involved in my activities. It is at that time, the big jack fruit grabbed my attention. With much difficulty I cut the fruit into two and then into several peaces. I separated the bright yellow fruits from their messy background with Ratnam’s help .She arranged them neatly in half a dozen big plates. We came out of the room, carrying the fruit plates.

People were so happy to have the tasty fruit; they didn’t ask why we came out. Only one person, the patriarch of the family, P.M.S, enquired taking the trouble of spitting out the tobacco juice.

” Pradama rathry sukham ayo, makkalea? (hope you enjoyed your first night, children?”)

“Oh!  pradhama rathri sukham, Parama sukham” I replied, grinning and pushing  a  fruit into his mouth.

“I look to the sky at night and admire the beauty of the stars.

I stand in awe of their brilliance;

They are as shining and constant

and they have been since the beginning of time.

They light the heavens and fill our hearts with wonder.

When one burns out, another takes its place;

for they are eternal.

Wherever you are, they guide you from their home high above the earth.

At times, they seem close enough to touch,

as they transport your dreams far away.

Their magic compels us to offer up wishes for their consideration.

They make us realize that even when the sky is the darkest,

a tiny beacon of light still shines through.

They are God’s reminder to us that some things really do go on forever”.

‘Stars’

by Sherri Anderson

Some things really do go on forever in the midst of this eternally changing and evanescent world.

The sky and the stars are source of solace for us. When we hear a shocking news or are in distress, we look at them first. We look at them for comfort and guidance . We depend on them to accept responsibility for the happenings beyond our control. We don’t look down and ask Mother Earth why she  gave birth to us . We look up and seek the help of the sky.Though for our physical eyes, Druva or Arundathi were not visible in the sky, as Ratnam correctly said, we knew they were there.

A lot of thoughts have gone into the formulation of the wedding ceremony. Deeply rooted in vedic tradition at every stage and keeping the holy fire as the witness, the system takes care of spiritual as well as social aspects. The prayers of the bride-groom, reveals utmost concern for the health and happiness of the bride and she is assured a prominent status in the husband’s family. She is in fact, given the status of the ‘queen’ of the family and all others brought under her affection and care.

The social aspects also are taken care of and plenty of fun and entertainment are provided. Tasty food, added to that, makes the function enjoyable and memorable to one and all.

Lalitha, who was behind us, looked unusually dull. “What happened sister-in-law, why are your eyes cloudy? ” I asked.

” I should not have fought with you, Athimbar “

“Why?”

” You won’t buy an ice cream for me, when I come to Hyderabad “

“Ha, ha, don’t worry. I will find an ice cream wallah as husband for you.. Hei, why do you look at the sky again?”

”To thank the Heavens for giving my sister a life partner like you” Her eyes were moist.

“What happened all of a sudden?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Sister’s husband is always lovable, I know. But I thought you are made of a different metal.”

 ” I am like any other girl, though a bit quarrelsome. You are not only lovable to me, but admirable too.” she continued in a low voice. “I enjoy your pranks, your erratic behaviour, your lively jokes and the very way you face problems. How is it possible for you, Athimbar to laugh at every thing and behave as if life is nothing but a movie?”

“Because life is nothing but a movie, my dear. Come back to your normal cranky mood, sister-in-law,” I taunted her.

She was worried that soon her sister would be leaving her. In a voice choked with emotion, she continued:” what a match the God has made in you! Akka is dreamily absent minded, seldom speaking unless spoken to, slow and shy in reply; where as, you talk to walls and doors voluntarily. You never worry about tomorrow, whereas she plans for many years ahead. You will love her dearly, I am sure, but you love others too as well and as dearly. For Akka, you are her world.”

She closed her eyes and looking up prayed, “Ente Sreekanteswara!” Make their journey a smooth affair and be with them always providing shadow”

” Lalitha, my prayers may go unanswered; but yours will never”, I took her hand in mine and said,” “because you are pure like the waters of the Ganges at her origin”

Bursting in tears and flinging her arms around her sister, she wept like a child. Ratnam patted her back.

“‘We are proud of you, Lalitha” she said,” Athimbar likes you so much that he is going to miss you”

”You are not to spend your lifetime looking at the stars.” Vadyar was calling us.” Your presence is required for some more time. Some more homams are there”

Now, I want to share my first night experience with you.

 “What! You shameless old man!”

I can here your angry words. But I appeal to you , “Please stay back and hear me”.  I would even go one step further and invite your youngsters too, so that they will enjoy the fun of my first night.

Thank you.  I hear your whisper giving your consent unwillingly, after making sure that your children are not around there,

The bedroom allotted to us for our first night, was a high-domed, spacious, well decorated hall at the eastern side of the Kaithamukku madam. I was impressed by the selected Ravi varma paintings on the wall and the large ebony wood  cot, placed in the centre .With its shining planks and ornamental carvings and the circular mirror, the cot had a royal look. So were the big doors at the entrance, which  perhaps belonged to a dismantled palace building.

There was an old record player with a shining bugle, placed on a velvet cloth. The records of old- time masters like Veenai Danammal and Karaikkudi Arunachalam were nicely placed near it, covered by a muslin cloth. Nearby was an old Thambura, in a corner, well protected from dust. The presence of all these were  understandable but not that of a big jack fruit along with a long knife and a bottle of coconut oil and a few plates, placed on  a long heavy wooden  bench, at one end of the room.

The exterior of the room, however, was noisy. The well with its wooden roller screaming at every touch was close to the bed room as well as the cowshed . The noise  from the workshop, adjoining the bedroom, was much beyond the level of tolerance. Apparently, PMS had employed some labour force to expedite the pending orders for furniture.  .

Ratnam was least disturbed. She was trying her fingers on the strings of the musical instrument.

“Couldn’t your uncle find a better place for us, in this big house?” I asked as politely as I could, concealing my anger. Selecting a star hotel as venue was not in vogue, then.

“Everyone in this house has an emotional attachment to this room, because either they were born here or delivered here or both, right from my great grandfather’s time. I too was born here and so were my brother, sister and all the nine daughters of PMS. All my elder cousins spent their first nights here and…”‘

‘’And they are all proud and happy mothers today?”

“Of course.” she replied with family pride brightening her eyes.

“Don’t you think that it would be ideal to handover this room to a maternity hospital?”

 “The innocent one didn’t catch my joke. ”Periappa will never part with this house and especially this bed room”

“I see your point” Whether I saw her point or not, one thing was clear. I couldn’t bail out of that room! It had witnessed several just-married couple and just-delivered mothers.

So, the next issue was to see how best I could convert it, to serve the purpose. I looked around; the shutters of the large windows were inoperable. Bed-sheets were available in the cupboard . I collected a few and provided a temporary enclosure.

Then I went towards the doors and tried to close them.’GIRRRRRRRRRR” they screamed. Even Narasimha baghavan wouldn’t have yelled so ferociously, when he jumped out of the pillar.  Hearing that yelling, the entire crowd from the ‘Madom’ should have come running towards our bed room; but none came. Perhaps, that was the practice; no help whatsoever, once you are married and dumped into your bedroom.

We look at the sky for its benevolent intervention and help at such hours. I did it and to my horror, I noticed that the huge doors had no stoppers!

Situation was serious. If I leave my hold on the partially closed doors, they will return to the original position with vengeance. Other alternative was to push them some more, though they would protest again and hold them in that position with the help of some heavy objects.

I looked around. There were two movable heavy objects in the room; the cot and the bench. To move the cot, you need at least ten people or a big elephant and to move the bench, five, or a baby elephant. Both are impractical solutions.

“Shall I call boxer uncle?” Ratnam al last, came out with a bright idea.

” Please do. So that he would close the door and stand in that position through out the night?”

“So what?” I thought she would ask. Thank God. She didn’t.

“Why don’t I go out and seek the help of someone to fix the door stoppers?” I thought. But somehow, I didn’t like that idea. P.M.S. was a popular man and his son-in-law jumping out of the bed room, looking for a door stopper would become hot news for the local dailies.

There was only one option left; somehow I would close the doors and keep holding them, through out the night. Ratnam could sleep comfortably. Not a bad idea at all. But I thought again. First night, I presume, is not to be spent that way, holding the doors pressed from inside!

Right from the moment we entered the bed room, Ratnam was busy tuning her musical instrument and humming some songs, unaware of the big battle I was fighting alone. I didn’t like that. She has to be somehow involved in my activities. It is at that time, the big jack fruit grabbed my attention. With much difficulty I cut the fruit into two and then into several peaces. I separated the bright yellow fruits from their messy background with Ratnam’s help .She arranged them neatly in half a dozen big plates. We came out of the room, carrying the fruit plates.

People were so happy to have the tasty fruit; they didn’t ask why we came out. Only one person, the patriarch of the family, P.M.S, enquired taking the trouble of spitting out the tobacco juice.

” Pradama rathry sukham ayo, makkalea? (hope you enjoyed your first night, children?”)

“Oh!  pradhama rathri sukham, Parama sukham” I replied, grinning and pushing  a  fruit into his mouth.

Oh! Parama sukham -Chapter 17

 

Paramasukham continues

“You are divine by nature “,  that is what the bridegroom tells her, when he leads the bride, holding her right hand, towards the homakuntam, sacred fire and makes her sit by his side, on a fresh mat, “the moon gave you strength, the gandharvas beauty and Agni, youthfulness so that you may give me your service.” 

Divine nature of wife is mentioned while she is at the threshold of becoming a part of our life and it continues till the end of the wedding function to be repeated often at different later events. ‘Subaghe !’ is a word often used to address the bride, which is the base for  à¤¸à¥Œà¤­à¤¾à¤—्यवती ‘soubaghyavathi’ in  our wedding invitations. ‘ Greha Lakshmi’, ‘ Soubaghgya Lakshmi’ ‘Ma inti Mahala Lakshmi’ – Wife is always divine.

The  ‘mangalasootram’ or ‘thali’  would have been a later introduction as there is no mention about that in the earlier procedural guides. But it became the most prominent identification mark along with ‘metti’ and ‘kumkumam’ symbols for the married status of women with living husband, ‘Metti’ is mentioned even in Ramayanam. It is made of silver.

Metti worn in feet is believed to contribute in the regularization of the  menstrual cycles and revitalizing the productive organs, promoting the conceiving capacity. Silver being a good conductor, absorbs the earth’s energy and passes it through the body refreshing it. Wearing silver at the lower part of the body is a practice in vogue even by males in some villages, either as waist belts or ankle rings,  by farmers and other working class . The upper part of the body was always adorned by gold. Somebody, someday might do some research on this subject and come out with scientific facts. There is some basis for every practice in our cultural and religious practices.


“I am tying this mangalasutra, my life support, on your neck, oh! Subhaghe! (auspicious woman!) may you live long happily.” 

And then, for Paanigrahanam, :

“I am holding this hand of yours; you have been gifted to me by the gods to head my family and present me with good offspring and be with me till my old age. May the auspicious  Saraswathy  protect this act. May the Universal purifier, the god Vayu, unite your mind with mine! —–”


The ‘Sapthpadhi’ manthras are equally meaningful. 


“You have taken the first step; May the God  Mahavishu follow your step  and provide you food.

“You have taken the second step; May the same God follow your step and give you good health.

“When you take your third step, may the God follow you to perform  your austerities.

“When you take your fourth step, may He follow you to give you comforts and happiness.

“When you take your fifth step, may  He follow you to give the wealth of cattle

“When you take your sixth step, may He follow you so that the seasons are favourable to you.

“When you take your seventh step, may He follow you to help you in participating in ‘homamas’ and other rituals (which are part of married life).


It was significant that holding the bride’s hand, I helped her to get from the seat and later, in moving each step ahead, around the sacred fire. The first body contact was thus established with a note of support to the bride and in such a way that she could depend on the extended helping hand of her husband not only to get up but also to walk around the fire, which again was  symbolic.


The next mantra of ‘sankalpam’, uttered looking at the bride, was poetic:

“After these seven steps made together, we have become friends. Let us remain together always. You don’t leave me and I too won’t. Let us be one in body and thoughts and let us do everything together. I am the sky and you the earth . I, the mind and you, the word. —–Come, let us join to enjoy life.” 

Beauty!

The subsequent homa mantras  as well, are  pregnant with meaning, consideration and compassion towards the bride and sincere prayers to the gods to make the married life meaningful and enjoyable. Not only for the wealth of worthy progeny but for their long life, health are sought from the Gods .The prayer for the long life for the mother so that she could enjoy the fruit of her action, is significant.


“Dasasyam puthranadehi, padim ekadasam krithy”. (Bless her to have ten children and make her husband, the eleventh”) is moving..


What a lovely way to start the family wife? 


My words, while helping the bride to step on the granite stone, were encouraging and meant to remove her fear in entering an unknown world.

“Mount it and be firm like this stone. Fight with those who fight, but tolerate the enemy ( if a need arises)”

Then came the bride’s turn to pray for the longevity of her husband.


The following mantra should open the eyes of those who unknowingly despise our scriptures for not giving enough importance for our women:

“Samrajsree swasurea bahva; Samrajsree swasruvam bavaha;  Nanandari samrajsree bavaha; Samrajsree  adhithea vrishu. ( You be a queen to your father-law; you be a queen to your mother-in-law; you be a queen to your brothers and sisters-in-law).

The next mantra  extends  the list to  all relatives of the husband and children and even property. 

Agnisakshi : Agni has a premier position among the gods in Vedams, the first Rik  Agni meele purohitam’  eulogizing Agni. Agni is the very symbol of the Supreme, the Paramatma, who makes the sun to shine,  illumines and energize the universe. Agni feeds through the products generated in earth from the sun shine and when the inner fire is extinct, when the prana vayu leaves discarding the body, It is Agni who purifies it and takes it to the Originator.


In a homam, He is not only the main deity; he is the chief priest who conducts the yagnam ; he receives the offerings and also  carries them to other gods. He is the sarva baksha, (who devours everything ) too. He is the fire of life, friend, mediator with the gods in the heaven . He is the Hothru who sings the Riks. He is everything. He is the Rishi, the first and foremost Rishi, says Rig vedam.

There is no mention of the lighting of fire, no homadraviam, no human priest, no yagnam, everything is Agni. In the micro level, our heart is the yagnabhoomi. The antar yagnam takes place in every heart. Churning and churning.

That reminds me of the Palzhimadhanam, the churning of the ocean of milk by the mightiest, using the strongest tools. Is it not the symbolic presentation of the war taking place in our own heart between the positive and negative forces, day in and day out ?. Deadliest poison as well as the life-saving nectar emerge.The poison gets absorbed if there is a Mahadeva within us and if not, it burns us, everything related to us. 

Coming back to the kalyanana panthal, that Agni, the mightiest power, the sacred purifier and benefactor stands as a witness for our union, accepts our offerings and blesses the couple with healthy body and mind and progeny. 

“Look at the star Arundathi.”  I asked my wife pointing to the  sky, “ How bright she is ! “

“Where is the star ?” asked the innocent girl.

“Look at my heart” I replied, ” Arundathi is there; and you are that star “


That star continues to shine there.

Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 16

An elderly lady, my sambandi’ s mother holding my grand child, Divyaa, her 4th generation progeny, close to her chest.. See how proud, satisfied and happy she is !
————————————————
Appa gifted mundu (dhothi ) for all those participated in the kaikotti kali and Kochumadhavi was one among them. She took it to Venku ayyan, placed at his feet and prostrated. “For me, why ?” He wondered.” I called you ‘animal’”,  she apologized  “you should not curse me, you are a brahmanan “. Poor venku was overwhelmed by joy .

”  The nine kinds of soaked serials ceremoniously in the small earth pots by sumangalies, is to invoke the blessings of ashtadigpalakas, guardian angels of all the eight corners , for a healthy life and progeny” Appa continued, 
“the ‘suttipodu’ or moving the coloured globules of cooked rice and lamps  in circular motion around you both and throwing the rice balls in all direction was to guard you against evil spirits “
“Are there any evil spirits even now?” I asked, dad.
“I really do not know, but our elders believed so ” he replied, ” anyway why take risk ? There might be some envious eyes anywhere “
” What harm can they do us?”

“Look, imagine there is a father who has not succeeded in finding a boy for his daughter. He may feel,’how lucky Krishnaiyer is ?” Our elders were anxious that even such air of disappointed should not harm the couple.”  

”The stage is getting ready for ‘kanyadhanam’” Appa alerted, “you will be welcomed now to the dais, offered seat and Amman will wash your feet.” 
 ” I will not be comfortable if Amman, who is almost of your age, touches my feet and wash.” I told dad .

“You are Mahavishnu now  and behave like the God ” 

” Behave like God ? ” I questioned  him. ” I can behave like a  crooked politician or even act on a stage donning proper costume, as Sree Ram or Krishna but sitting before an elderly person, behave like a God ! No, Appa, impossible ”  I said . 

“OK . Athimbar, can’t you sit like an idol ? ” Lalitha unnecessarily intervened, ” It is my father who is treating you as a Mahavishnu swarropi and he will consider you as a god, His bhavm is important is “. 
 
” You are taking sensibly for the first time, sister in law” I applauded her,”When we do pooja for an idol, our bhavam is what counts and not that of the idol “

“Don’t sit like an idol ” Appa instructed, ” repeat the mantrams vaadyar recites and don’t isturb him with your queries. I will explain the meaning later “

The Sanskrit word ‘Vivaham’ for wedding , I presume, originates from “Vahathi’ or carrying. The husband and wife, apart from sharing happiness and unhappiness,  also carry the responsibility of maintenance of each other and together they carry the responsibility of maintaining the family and meet their obligations towards the society. It is not just an agreement to live together. The mantras,  apart from covering the spiritual aspect, aptly and adequately covers mundane affairs too.


” Have a good heart and win the heart of your husband, parents and relatives by your behaviour”.These were the words I uttered to the bride, when I faced her on the dais,for the first time. How meaningful ! And continued, ” be devoted to God and be kind to humans and animals, which save you ” 
While that simple minded Amman, a suddha brahmanan, vaideekan, sat before me on the floor, bent his head and washed my legs, I silently chanted, ‘Narayana, Narayana ‘ so that the service he did for me really reached the one to whom it really belongs to, though the maeaning of the mantra I recited as dictated was, ‘let this water washing my feet destroy the evil spirits which are against this union. Let me have Brahma tejaz “


Amman’s face was shining. He  would not have had any problem, as I faced for he, had the sankalpam  supported by the mantram that, ” I am offering this seat to him, who is Mahavishnu himself. See how important ‘bhavam’ is ! 


The ‘kanya’ was a given as ‘dhanam’. The rights of the asset received as  ‘dhanam’ was fully with the receiver. The wife, those days completely depended on her husband and his family. A cow given as a dhanam to a brahmanan had to be with him only; so was a gold coin . So was  the wife. If you ask, was a girl a cow or a coin, I have no answer. But ‘dhanam’ was a much respected word those days. Dhanam opened the gates for salvation.There were great kings in our mythology like Mahabali, Sibhi chakravarthy and Karna who sacrificed their very life to keep up their vows on dhanam . So, giving a kanya in dhanam was not throwing away an unwanted stuff. It was a pious act, propagated by sastras  and practiced by great souls.The best asset was selected for giving and worthy receiver was chosen. 

 Now, educated and employed girls could go back to their parents or live independently .They have the means for that, which their ancestors never had. The girl, given  to her husband, completely identified herself with the husband’s family. My atahi, came back to her mother’s place after 60 years of marriage from Tanjore. By then, her mother was not their, not even the house which she left . My wife’s athai who became a widow soon after her wedding at the age of ten or eleven became a part of her brothers’ family and took care of a huge family, performed the wedding of her younger siblings and looked after their wards and again another generation. I know an elderly woman, who came from kerala as a bride to Sreekakulam in Andhrapradesh, some seventy years ago couldn’t go back to her place even once. In the initial days, she had no money, then she was entangled with her family duties and by the time her children grew up and was prepared to spend any amount for her to visit her place there was none

in the place of her birth whom she could recognize or who would recognize her. I have some relatives who saved every pie to educate their children who are now ready to take them all over the world. But what is the use ? The elders are unfit to travel, either the urine flows nonstop or do not flow at all.

Placing darbai on  the bride’s head, seated on her father’s lap and a mini yoke over that was all symbolic again, then placing a gold coin, after prayer to Indra to remove diseases if any from her body,followed by a prayer again shows how much care was taken to ensure that the bride was made fit by all means to become a wife and shoulder higher responsibilities. All these may look absurd now but remember the husband was accepting a big responsibility and only divine grace, he had to depend upon. Now we have many things to support us, wealth, education,job, power,  and so on and above all the woman who comes along with us can look after herself and if necessary, look after us too.

When the bride reruns to the dais wearing the ‘koorapudavai’ after mangalasnanam( auspicious bath ) when again the ‘golden waters from which  the sun and fire appeared’ were invoked, I tried a darbai chord around her waist saying, ‘ this girl who has prayed for long life for her husband, healthy and intelligent children and a healthy body for herself to serve others, stands before Agni ready to follow me  in my religious pursuits. To sanctify the marriage with her, I am tying this sacred durbai around her waist “




Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 15

Shiva as Nataraja

The great Master of dances 



Charm came to borrow betel leaf mix and Appa therefore, changed the topic of discussion. 

” So, we were discussing about the vratham ” he continued, ” Your adhyayanam ( education ) is complete, you have decided to enter into grihasthasramam
 (  family life ) and obtained the blessings of Indra and other gods. Now you can decorate yourself with panchgatcham, yoga vastram, slippers etc , a luxury disallowed during the student days. In North India even brahmacharies wear panchagatchm, though “

” Why cover my eyes ?”

” It  symbolizes your sitting in a quite place where even sunlight has no entry so that you can contemplate on your past and plan for the beginning of a new chapter in your life ” 

” I think it is time for Kasi yatra ” Charm reminded after collecting enough pan leaves.

” Why Kasi yatra ?” I asked Appa. 

“The bride groom is welcomed as Mahavishnu swaroopi (in Vishnu’s form ) and therefore, he has to make himself fit for that high position by self purification.The ideal method for that is by dipping in the Ganges and worshiping Viswanatha Swamy and other gods,  in Varanasi, the holiest place for a Hindu. Another purpose of this yatra was to get the aspirant for married life   exposed to the vagaries of the world around. In the olden days Kasiyatra,  travel by foot, was tedious  extending to several months covering several regions of different habits .The boy who was hitherto confined to his gurukulam 
(school ) , after the tour, returns prepared to accept fresh  responsibilities, better equipped, having learned how the people, work, live and manage their day to day problems.  The bride’s father, then welcomes him and offers his daughter’s hand” 

” Get ready for kasiyathrai ” alerted Vaadyar, ” the make up man has come “

Those days even women were not seeking the assistance of make-up experts and I was wondering why one, for me. ” Hope my son is not going for a cinema shooting ” my father too raised his eye brows.

“PMS wants everything to be done in style ” vaadyar clarified, ” our Seshu vaadyar is doing a part time job in his friend’s studio. Your periappa sought his help “

” Great ” I exclaimed remembering the arrangement he had made on the previous evening for my Janvasam, ” yes, PMS wants everything to be done in style”.

Seshu vaadyar did a good job. I looked like a genuine mendicant. Unlike the present days, the umbrella was not ornamental, the stick was thick enough to support a thatha of seventy and the fan, a real vaadyar visery, crude and heavy. 

My uncle, who had to lift me for exchanging garlands,  was no match for the body builder uncle on the opposite side, who joyfully lifted his niece like a dove, twisted and turned  but still the garlands from her hands fell exactly around my neck. A cousin with a better build came forward to help the weaker side, but that was not acceptable. Who would like to share a coveted post ?  My uncle  turned to his wife, grabbed the message from her lively eyes , made a ‘hoom’ sound,  grew like Hanuman and accomplished his task admirably. 

Later Appa explained to me the significance of the exchange of garlands, ” What you have exchanged is your fragrant hearts , your very souls. You are two in bodies but one in soul now. A garland worn by a person should not be used by another, as per our sastras. Here,  you have garlanded your wife with the one worn by you and she too has done the same, not once but thrice. See how importance this exchange is.”

” Why don’t we use that swing hanging from the tree ?” I asked vaadyar pointing the one in the front yard, ” with fresh air and chirping of the birds around, that will be more enjoyable “

” No” said vaadyar. “Why not asked?’ Appa. ” What is important is they should move in harmony. The to and fro motions represent the undulating waves of life and when the connecting link with the top is strong, nothing to worry. Only make sure that you don’t slip” He added, ” I can read from her face that Ratnam also prefers  the open air swing which she is familiar with.
There is another advantage. The women can throw the rice balls after ‘suthipodu’ in any direction they want, without the fear of hitting on someone’s face or head. 
One more advantage .Youngsters can not only sing, but dance too”

That was received with claps  by women and young ones. Who cares about the rest?

 “But, I am with the vaadyar ” Appa surprisingly withdrew his consent, ” the reason is that there is a chance of their slipping, as my son, in his  buoyant mood,  will rock forth and back in full speed. That will be construed as a bad omen by some.”

” can we at least shift the conventional swing from the hall to the open ?”
 I asked

“Why not ?” Appa agreed and it was done in ten minutes .The women drew kolam in different desingns, circles, triangles, dots, and stars .

I love swinging. Who doesn’t ? in the olden days, swing was there in most of the houses, in the main hall, simple or ornamental depending on the status of the house owner. Oonjal for the gods is an integral part of the daily rituals in the temples.  In Gujarat, every house has a swing even today. The women folk there, mostly are home makers and they have more time to swing. When their husbands return home from their work, they swing together. Very thoughtfully, the thing which goes up and down has been introduced in the marriage function. The married life is not often, a horizontal motion. Ups and downs are bound to be there; but you will enjoy even that, if you swing together. If The link with the top, your belief in God is strong, you need not worry of a fall.

Swamy Vivekanantha says, ” the Indian mythology has a theory of cycles, that all progression is in the form of waves. Every wave is attended by a fall, and that by a rise the next movement, that  by a fall in the next, and again another rise. The motion is in cycles” 

” The swing automatically and effortlessly slides down. When it is about to stop, one of you should give it a push at least by a toe-touch, when needed ” My father said,  emphasizing on the words, ‘one of you’ .

After the usual ‘Seetha kalyana vaiboghamae’ and other songs, Sharada teacher asked Appa’s permission for ‘kaikottikkali’ ” Go ahead ” Appa gave clearance. She collected a group of girls and there was merriment all around when women of all ages, moved around in graceful rhythmic steps, with mild claps on each otter’s hands accompanied by sweet songs in slow voice. 

A form of self expression through body movements that are rhythmic, patterned (or sometimes improvised), and usually accompanied by music, dance, one of the oldest art forms,  is found in every culture and is as old as almost our origin. As Prof Mithen  said: “all people are musical in the sense that they appreciate it in some way. We all respond to it.—-Music and language developed together. The Neanderthals would have had set songs and phrases, which could not be broken down like modern language. They would have used singing, clapping and dancing to communicate their state of mind. They didn’t have words. In a sense they were more musical than we are—Their get-togethers in caves helped group bonding—-The Neanderthals would have enjoyed it. They weren’t particularly creative people but they would have passed on little songs down the generations.—–They would have danced and slapped their bodies and banged sticks”
As in Greece, dance was highly religious in India where  the temples promoted that art form. Bharatnatyam, one of  the oldest documented classical dance forms in the world, dating back to 500 BC, blends pure lyric movement and pantomime drama and is highly developed and purely religious. Isadora Duncan. says “the dance of the future will have to become again a high religious art as it was with the Greeks. For art which is not religious is not art, is mere merchandise” Her views, however are not shared by many.

The dance has been a way of giving expression to internal tranquility and harmony, and  the unique charm of human body, from top to toe is revealed, when the body moves in a rhythm, when the heart overflows with happiness. Sometimes, even sorrow or anger, find expression through dance. Time or space matters little and that is why God Nataraja,  that divine master of dances was equally comfortable in a graveyard or on a mountain top always covered by ice. True to his life style, Krishna was choosy about the location and company, for dance. I have not come across any other human form as beautiful as that of dancing Nataraja, though I had occasions to view several statues of east and west and many of them did attract me. Symbolism enhances  Nataraja’s charm, by stimulating your thoughts while pleasing your eyes.

Krishna’s dance with mortals and Natarja’s in the grave yard, signify  the  Divine’s universal embrace of living and lived, present and past. Only from such union can one expect the evolution of a star of unique brilliance and bliss, the ‘Makarajyothi’, the star of hope, the star of future.  

Oh! Parama sukham–chapter 14

Parmasukham continues :

.
“Why am I asked to look at ‘appam’ and not at laddu, when the blindfold is removed?”

 I asked my father when we raised from our seats after the ‘vratham’ ritual.
” Laddu no doubt,  is more attractive with its golden colour and  perfectly round shape than Appam”  Appa clarified.  Because of.its sugar and ghee content, many like its taste too better.  But it breaks and falls apart by a gentle press.. Appam is harder .You have to open with a little force.  It has its own taste and flavour too, although outwardly, it is less glamorous than laddu. Married life too is not a gentle sugar-ghee mix. It doesn’t glisten always. It should not fall apart easily by a single touch. The partners’ behavior and talk to each other may not be sugar-coated and ghee-dipped always. They could be like Appam, 
a bit hard and not so pleasing outwardly. But open it up and enjoy.    
Another simpler reason – laddu could be a later invention” . He laughed. I too joined him.
“Why not I sow the seeds in those small pots; they are so cute”  I asked him pointing at the small mud pots for ‘palikai’, “Why only women are allowed to sow the seeds ?”.
‘‘You and me are only clouds; not soil. Women are fertile soils and they alone have the capacity to receive the seeds, develop them and bring out the plants.” Appa added, ” notice, only sumangalies, women whose husbands are alive, are eligible for the ‘palikai’ development â€˜â€˜You didn’t tell me about tying thread on the wrist?” I was in a mood to ask questions and he, to answer.

“You are no more an irresponsible vagabond, but a responsible house holder now,” my father said. “The string signifies the beginning of a fresh chapter in your life. This is to remind you the necessity of self- discipline, linkage with various agencies and centers of power and also your responsibility to your self, your family and society. It gives you a support in your determination or ‘sankalpam ’ It reminds you of your new responsibilities. A new string is attached to your wrist . Beware, a new life is going to join you and your family. That additional jeevan will be always with you as a part of you and your body, till it wears out and detached from you. . Before encircling your wrist, that thread has undergone a purification ceremony through a dip in turmeric solution and got sanctified with a  mantram. That is a sacred one. So is the girl who will be joining you today.

An umbilical cord connects the embryo with the placenta, in mother’s womb and provides nourishment till the former develops into a baby and sees the sunlight. So, even before you get your shape and movement, you are connected by a thread with your mother, through which, you receive your oxygen, food and mother’s love. As a boy, thread is tied at your waist, wrist and across the shoulder or around the neck, on different occasions. 

“Some threads like bakthi, love, compassion etc. are invisible . These become stronger, if you lead a good life with positive thinking and helping attitude and become weaker, if you complicate your life with undesirable thoughts, acts and attitudes.” 

I enjoyed his words of wisdom and requested him to continue. There were a few others too listening to him.

“There are thin threads, like ‘bisathanthu’ or the narrow thread developed from the stem of lotus which the god of love, Kamadeva uses as string for his bow, made of flowers. Then, there are thick ropes like the ‘Kalapasa’ of  the death god,Yama. Thus, there are several threads and ropes connected with life. Those may be mythological facinations or flowers of imagination but they do have a place in our life.  

For the car festival you pull the chariot with the Lord’s decorated idol placed  inside, with a very thick coir rope. The rope has to be a really strong one, if you have to pull the God, your way, through your street, through your mind. Your devotion should be strong, unbreakable like a coir rope. Some time even with a thick rope the chariot may not move. Then use a huge elephant to push it from behind. That elephant is your satkarmas, good deeds. Satkarmass support bakthi, devotion. Satkarmas without bakthi will be like pushing the chariot from behind. So, that thick coir rope is very essential for the successful parade.
Satkarmas carry the Lord on their back for the procession.. 
  
“There is another explanation: Like a puppeteer, remotely controlling the action or inaction of the puppets, a Supreme power regulates our moves, according to our ancestors.That belief runs through our veins. That is how our poets and musicians describe the Supreme power as ‘soothradhari’, the one who holds the soothram or string. In Sanskrit dramas, a ‘soothradari’ or stage manager used to introduce the story and actors to the audience.
So, the ‘soothram’, on you wrist now, is to remember that ‘Soothradhari,’ and also to remind you, your additional  responsibility on achieving a new status”“Why should I tie the ‘soothram’ around my wife’s neck?” I asked my genuine doubt, “Why shouldn’t she do it?”

“Fool!” Father always uses the apt word, to address me. “If she ties the thread around your neck, the responsibility of maintaining the equilibrium is on YOU!. .That thin thread is to remind her that she is the uniting force in her husband’s family and by accepting your thread, she accepts the load of your parents, siblings and other close relatives of yours. She becomes the real ‘soothradhari’ of you and your family. Similarly, by tying that thread around her neck you assure her of affection, care and safety.

But remember that tying the thread or ‘mangalya dharanam’ came to practice much later than original ritual prescriptions  for the wedding,

”OK, fine Appa, now you have to clarify my biggest doubt ” I requested, “you know what it is ? “

” Yes I know ” My intelligent dad answered with a smile, ” the mystery of Charm- Sharada relationship. Come. let me first have a pan chew.” He collected his betel leaf box and took me to the garden .

Here is a synopsis of Charm’s relationship with Sharada teacher.

Charm was born and raised in an orthodox family and he was a timid boy strictly following his parental instructions . The extreme discipline on one hand and the abject poverty on the other compressed his free thinking capacity and crushed his enthusiasm to achieve something of his own till  he reached his adolescence. Then suddenly,  there was an urge to establish his individuality and project himself as an youngster of modern thinking. The fear of his authoritative father combined with his genuine affection for his family, however, again dampened his spirits. He was not good in studies but somehow passed the matriculation examination. With the recommendation of his father, he was able to get a teacher’s job in a primary school, whose owner happened to be his father’s student. 

He met Sharada there. She was a graduate, teaching higher class students. She was a lovely woman, cultured and compassionate and from a family of better financial back ground. On the first day of his joining the school, Charm asked for a loan of Ten Rupees from the manager for paying the school fess of his siblings. The manager didn’t oblige. During the  lunch hour, Sharada teacher came to know about this when the new entrant went around his colleagues begging  for a cash loan. She gave him the money.While returning home  she asked him how he would have paid the school fees if he had not taken up the job or she had not come forward to help him..

” My sisters will stop going to school “,  was the instant reply of the simple man .Sharada silently wept.

Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 13

” I expected at least two more ‘paramasukhams’ and a few more head movements”  P.M.S teased and applauded, “that is the correct attitude. Enjoy even ills, worries and hurdles. Never get enslaved to negative thoughts. Everything is never lost. At least a bit will be at the bottom of your vessel, with which you can feed thousand hungry stomachs, if you have the blessings of the God.  It took years for  me to realize this truth. You are blessed that you can smile and even joke not only at jolts but even at blows. ”  Those comments from the father of nine girls in whose face I had never seen a wrinkle of disappointment, is still retained in my memory.

“Thanks for that, periappa ”  I addressed him for the first time, as my wife used to and enquired what went wrong in Charm-teacher relationship.

” Athai will tell you that story, but not now ” P.M.S, slapped on my bottom affectionately and alerted that it was time for me to get ready for the first function in the morning, ‘vratham’.

The melody waves from the nadaswaram, passing through the clear, cool morning breeze vibrated the clouds and birds in the sky and plants and animals near the Kaithamukku madam . However, many of our group members remained unmoved by those waves; they were worried why the morning coffee was delayed. When the whole world is illumined by the  benevolent moon light, there are people who sit inside the house  and look for the spiders on the roof , under candle light.

As per the practice followed, Vidwan Thangaswamy  was ready to accompany the bride’s party to the bed rooms of the groom and his people, to wake them up. But the groom and many of his relatives were already awake.They hardly slept the previous night and there was no need for the musicians to enter their rooms making sound. But Venku ayyan, who had joined our group on his own, in the pretext of helping my father, was not prepared to settle for anything less. “Let us all go back to our respective bed rooms and lie down” he suggested with a serious tone. The bride’s party accompanied by the band should come there and wake up our members. Customs are to be honored, under any circumstances.”

“Are you crazy, Venku?” my father contained him. Looking at Athai, he said, “Give him a third decoction coffee; that will keep his mouth closed for a while.”

My father, before we landed at the kaithamukku matam, the PMS house where the wedding took place, had given clear instruction to us that none in our group should take any undue advantage as bride groom’s privilege and  even if there were some shortfalls from the girl’s side, we should accept them with grace . ” Remember, every one including my eldest son”,  he cautioned looking deep into my eyes, ” what is to take place is a happy reunion of two wings of the same family.

Tell me if you have any grievance but never a word to the PMS family. Be graceful in your behavior”

Still, there were people like venku ayyan,  trenched in traditions  so deep that they identified themselves with the aprons they wear, forgetting that  aprons need change or at least a wash !

Apart from Venku ayyan, another person was unhappy with my father’s intervention- his son, me.  It was my dream to be woken up by a band. I have been eagerly waiting for that luxury, from the day I heard about my marriage fixation. I shouldn’t  jump out of my bed, the moment I hear the first beat of the accompanying ‘thavil,’  I had planned, but  wait for a while till one or two keerthanas are completed. But the watchful eyes of Appa were everywhere.

Right from my childhood, I had a fascination for ‘nadaswaram’. My maternal grand father, for sometime, was the ‘karyasthan’or manager at the Kalpathy Viswanatha swamy temple and its trustee, the Raja Etiikkombi achan, had allowed him to stay in a portion of his house, close to the temple, where I was born. I vividly remember My ‘thatha’ driving the tastefully decorated palanquin, carrying  the deity and  several children, including me, to the accompaniment of   nadaswaram vidwans.  His abundant tuft, well tied and tilted to one side and wagging to the waves of music, his pearl studded ear ornaments, bright ‘spadika malai- dazzling chain made of crystal beads, snow-white sacred ash marks at the appropriate places, better brightened by and on his ebony frame, whip on his right hand and “aug, aug” sound – all these are fresh, in my memory. Even after shifting our residence to Olavakkode, I used to eagerly wait for the swarlapanas, carried by the cool night winds across the Kalpathy waters. Father, never allowed us to move out of house, during night hours.
Yes, Kalpathy was a river then! Young Kalpathians, who have been seeing only  a  canal, stagnated between Olavakkode and Kalpathy, will not believe my words. Like the divine flow of  Bhagvath Geetha, between the warring groups, it used to flow slowly but majestically, between two rock ranges. Suppani vadyar,  without the hindrance of a mechanical device to distort his bell metal voice, used to guide hundreds of Brahmins assembled on the steps leading to the Temple, while performing the ‘Maha sankalpam’ for our annulal upakarma ritual .The echo of his ‘Bharatha varshe, Bharatha khandea,  (‘Bha’ not as in innocent ‘B’ for Balan or ‘P’ as in’Pavi’ but with the majesty due to that  consonant), used to echo in the distant blue mountains and that  would remain till midnight, when the cool moonlit waters used to repeat that sound, with a unique joy and satisfaction.

“Enna mukari vasikkarai – is this the way to play ‘mukari ragam?” Venku, asked the nagaswaram players, with the air of a popular musician or a respected critic.

“athu mukari alla sami, mohanama, – that is mohana ragam, not mukrari.” Kotchu Madhavi, the servant maid, who was swapping the floor, raised her head and corrected him.

“You, Trivandram people don’t know the art of making good coffee,” was the next remarks of the dissatisfied, Venku.

Kotchu, had a reply for that too. “Ithu kappi alla sami; chayaya – that is tea, not coffee. Coffee is on the other table”

Being a member of the groom’s party, he wanted to somehow belittle the host.

“Women are generally good looking in this house” was his next remark,” but their husbands are squinted eyed, potbellied or henpecked”

” This detestable babble should not be allowed to continue.” The wise servant maid decided and once servant women decides on anything, you know the result:  Looking at Venku distastefully, she remarked “ningal  manushan  alla  sami; madanu – you are not a human- an animal you are.”


I was surprised and also pleased to see  Sharada teacher’s ‘Charm’, unusually well dressed and pleasantly smiling. That old decaying, depressed looks was replaced by a cool and composed appearance and there was a dignity and decency in his behavior. “Doesn’t he look like, Devanand?” I asked Ammu. “You have seen neither Devanand nor Johny Waker” replied the naughty daughter.

“Shall we play hide and seek?” I asked those around me, when I was blindfolded during ‘vratham’. “We are ready” was the spontaneous response. The response was from the elders; kids were yet to get up from their bed. You would have noticed, given an opportunity, elders will be more eager to join any games than young ones. They would have missed such opportunities during their childhood; their parents or teachers would have forced them to study and keeping the books in hand, they would have been dreaming of the playground and games. Those hidden dreams and desires raise their hood, later and continue to do so till the end.   I have seen a respected retired judge, my neighbor,  sucking juice from a mango fruit, holding the fruit in his hand, while going for morning walk! He was not insane. The unfulfilled ‘vasanas’ or aspirations of childhood has to come out one day or other, in one way or other. Had the son or daughter-in-law of the old man happened to see the sight of their respected father walking through the street, sucking juice from a ripe mango, they would have removed it from his hands and thrown it to the trash bin. The old man would, then, carry that ‘vasana’ to his next birth. If he has one of course- that depends on the judgments he would have passed on while in service or the way he treated his wife!.

The general tendency is to try to re- live the life already passed by, after a certain age. Only kids wants to grow and become ‘big’ except when they see their younger siblings on their mother’s laps. Youngsters do not want to go back the way they came through, unless youth has no charm for them. They would never like  to leap into old age. No old man would get older; they would  like to get younger, if there is a way for that.  Unless the life is utterly intolerable, abysmally painful, none wants to get rid of it but it has to be forsaken. Anything which undergoes the process of birth, growth and degeneration has to face the process of termination too. There comes the  concept of rebirth,  for our solace. Complete one round , come back and enjoy the whole process. One more round, one more, one more like that. At every round, enjoy childhood, youth, manage or tolerate old age and then vanish. But one cannot run like that infinitely. Everything with  a start has to have an end. That is  moksham. When you had enough of the pains and pleasures of  all the climates of your sojourn in this world, when you  say willingly, ‘no more, no more ‘ Mother Divinity absorbs you as the fallen, dry fossil leaves are absorbed by the Mother earth. You have become an integral part of the earth. You have become THAT from which you sprouted.That is Advaitham. You do not exist as a separate entity. There is only ONE and YOU ARE THAT. “Thatwamasi “.

I love talking especially when there are people around  to hear. There were enough and mostly elder ones.

“Hope you liked what I said ?” I enquired.

” Oh, we did ” They replied, “porum, coffee vandatchu- Enough.  coffee is ready”

Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 12

Teacher’s whisper to my father, when he asked her to get inside and sleep, was ringing in my ears 

” Take care of  Charm. I can’t bear the sight of his drooping head and detached looks. His hair needs washing rather badly and some worries are pricking him from all around. I can read his face almost accurately “

Who is that ‘Charm’ ? Her son or a pet dog ? I should make a round tomorrow and find out who is that guy with drooping head and unwashed hairs . 

The benevolent moon, like an affectionate mother, was covering the sky and earth with her cool embrace. I went to the garden and sat under the mango tree.  

“You are already awake or you didn’t sleep at all ?”  That was my mother. She came and sat close to me. I placed my head on her lap and tried to sleep. Soon my father and Sharda teacher also joined. They were followed by Athai, Ratnam and a few more. Lalitha too came but rushed back to report to her sister that my head was on the lap of my mother !

” Amma, sing ‘omana thingal kidavao ‘ I requested my mom. Set in Raga Neelambari, that unique poetic  spring of Iriyamman Thambi,  composed as a cradle song, specially for the baby who later became famous as Swathi Thirunal Maharaja, used to flow often into my soul, as a kid. Reminiscing my childhood, mother sang that lullaby in her own inimitable style.The moon and stars, clouds and winds enjoyed that melody.  A few other elder ladies too joined mom. They sang for their children, small or grownup, married or unmarried, present in the adjacent  marriage hall or in far away lands, contended with the delusion that the children were lying on their laps.

 Even a mother lying in a hospital bed will try to fold her hands to hold her child close to her chest, when she longs for the child, might be oceans away.

Whenever some small functions or poojas take place at home, my mother used to peer through the front door to see whether one of her children, was coming to participate in the function though she knew that none would be going from their distant places of work. Recently my son- in- law landed unannounced,  one early morning to attend the shastiyabdha poorthy celebration of his father .
He wanted to give them a surprise, the best birthday present. His mom too, perhaps, was looking at the front gate though she never knew her son’s plan. All mothers are same, in their affection their towards children.

The melody flowing  from the garden awoke some male members too. Chamipattar was one among them. He looked highly disturbed. He wanted to sing but probably he could not. He approached my mother with folding hands and begged her in a pathetic tone , ” have mercy one me, Manni. Please sing the other composition of Iriamman Thampi ‘ Karuna chaivan enthu thamasam Krishna’ . I could not sing that song when my Unni (son) asked for that , from his death bed.. I see him now waiting behind the clouds, high above . My throat is parched like my heart  and I cannot sing ” 
Wiping the tears wetting his cheek, he continued,” let me seek the mercy of the God for my sins. I have washed my heart with my tears and it is now fit to receive His lotus feet.”     
 
My mother, sadly, was not in a position to oblige him, as she herself had lost her first child . Though it was long time back, the incident itched in her heart by a diamond-pointed pencil, was permanently there and the wound burst open now seeing the sad condition of Pattar, who  unintentionally stepped into the minds of my parents . They looked at each other with moist eyes. Mother got up and stood near my dad, silently, motionless. She wanted to be as close to him as possible and perhaps wanted to hug him and hold him firm  as if to protect him from a monster, nearing to grab . In fact, they too wanted to hear,’Karuna chaivan’ as Pattar aspired for.   
 
That song in Anandhabairavi, is a soul-stirring appeal to Sree Krishnan of Guruvayoor, “You shower your mercy on all, who seeks refuge in your lotus feet. Then, why this delay, only in my case ?” 

 

Athai who was aware of the family history of all those assembled there, signaled her niece Ratnam, to sing.

 

Like a house- wife entering the pooja room, after morning bath, with a saffron dot on her forehead and a bright brass lamp in her hand, the  dawn entered the  garden with a golden bowl in her hand. The rising sun, cold breeze, chirping  and cooing birds and blossoming flowers provided an ideal ambiance for the devotional melody. It flew cooling, comforting, purifying every heart .Almost everyone assembled there longed for the mercy of the Lord.

 

A few of course, longed for the morning coffee and wondered why the service was delayed.

 

The melody filled the air. When Ratnam sang the padam, ‘marakada manivrnan’, it reached its crescendo and  the trembling hands of Chamipattar, tried in vain, to reach those of Sharada teacher. His sobbing suddenly ceased, he became still as in a photo for a few minutes and suddenly collapsed. Like a dry palm tree, devoid of leaves, fruits and flowers, when pattar lay motionless on the garden floor, Sharada teacher, who was standing close by, moved towards him and  Ammu, rushed and sat near them.

 

” Move away, all of you, please” Athai  shouted instantaneously  and turning towards Teacher, commanded with an air of authority and finality,

“Sharade! Console him. Give him what you could not so far, during your journey, at least now, when he is  approaching the end of his road”.  Without waiting for anyone’s reaction, she called her brother P.M.S  and ordered, ” Konthai , call  Dr.Variar. He should be here in ten minutes. And be prepared for any eventuality.” Then, she turned towards Ammu and said, “take care of your father”

 

I was shell-shocked. I couldn’t stand the speed with which the events took place and importance  of the message it conveyed.

Extra marital relationship between the insipid, introvert, irritating, irrational Chamipattar and  the cultured, refined and majestic Sharada teacher?  And  Ammu, their daughter?  I couldn’t believe, but truth doesn’t care for recognition.

 

The doctor arrived and examined Pattar, solicited answers for a few questions from the family members and remarked, “seems ,nothing but a mental breakdown and there is no need to shift him to the hospital now. But keep a watch. Let the wedding function be over”

 

Now, Athai turned her attention towards Chamipattar’s legal wife and consoled her, “Baghyam, treat Sharada as your elder sister and give her due respect and a lot of love. Chami couldn’t give her either; Don’t ill-treat your husband too. He had little role in the events, which ruined the life of everyone in the family.  Let him rest; we will discuss the rest, after the wedding”

 

Baghyam mami sobbed. It was difficult to make out whether the reason for that was  her  husband’s  illness or his just revealed illicit relationship with another woman.

 

The wiser women just cooed ‘oh,’ to say, “ these are not uncommon with men “

For men, it was not a topic for discussion at all- because they were all gentlemen!.

 

Thus ended, eventfully, my first night at  T’puram and  simultaneously commenced the most important day of my life.

 

 


Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 11

“Sleep like a child ” said my dad to Sharada teacher.

”Continue,” teacher said, without opening her eyes. I continued reciting a few more slokams, but  mind got fully immersed with  their poetic beauty and it was my turn to close the eyes.


Many time it happens . Undergoing hundred problems, climbing the steep steps, waiting in the que for hours together, tolerating kicks, pushes and shouts you reach the sanctum of your favorite God and exactly at that time deeparadhanai takes place. When you can see the Lord in all His glory, though for half a minute,  you close your eyes, and stand still like a lamp post.  I go to Guruvayoor with a dozen complaints . I want to weep, scold and bombard the kid of Ambadi for His neglecting me. But when I reach  him , eyes swells, throat chokes and I am unable even to say, ‘ente Krishna’, my God ! That was exactly what happened to Kuchel Sarmaji when he met his classmate, Dwarakadeesh..

 When I opened my eyes, I saw shocked to see my father sitting near Sharada teacher. Contrary to my expectation, he didn’t raise his right hand towards the entrance of the house, and sound ’oom’, directing me to go inside. She was murmuring something to teacher probably to soothe her grief. She didn’t respond to him.

“Where are they going monae (my child ) in such a great hurry?” teacher enquired in a shy voice, partially opening her eyes, as if she was still under a trance, viewing the silvery clouds moving past the moon.


“perhaps,  to meet their mother or lover” I replied.

There was complete silence for a long time and I could realise that teacher’s mind was turning more and more turbulent.


” Why don’t you sing an ashtapadi, ammey ( mom ) ?”   I  suggested, “there is no better medicine to relieve inner turbulence and rejuvenate your sagging spirit, than that lovely song”. Yes, that unknown woman had drawn me so close to her, that unknowingly I called her mom.  “Ya Devi sarvabootheshu matru roopena samsthitha”—yes, that Devi had come in the form of the Sharada teacher, I guessed.


“I would love to sing” she replied, but there is no space in my heart now, even for that  Perennial flow of Love. And I don’t want my Lord to wait outside. You sing “


I tried to sing, but words were getting blocked within.


“After some time” I said.


She understood. “Thank you for sharing my grief” she said. Without knowing what it was, I looked at her eyes and hestatingly asked, ” where is your husband, mom?“


”Very close to me, but very far.” Her eyes were turning moist.


My father, consoled her, and suggested, “Sharade! get inside and  sleep like a child”


Like a little child, she obeyed him and went inside the house.


I too returned to room. The ocean inside me was roaring  and in that turbulence, Chami pattar’s snoring was hardly audible.  I didn’t dislike him now, after I heard from dad that he was carrying in his mind an Indian ocean and  his bursts and blows seen outside are nothing but the overflow of the inner turbulence.. We often judge people from their external appearance, behavior and fail in our judgement. 


 ”What is my dad’s relationship with Sharada teacher? What was the meaning of her words  “very close and very far?”  Why was my dad so concerned about her, as to come out and  share her solitary sadness?  Right from the moment I came to this place, she was showering unexplained affection on me. why?  


The incidents of the evening invaded me again. I had asked my cousin, ” Parasu, who is that charismatic lady with aristocratic appearance, long eyes full of compassion, little make up and liberal hairs, who followed me like a faithful servant, watched my movements and cautioned me like an alert mother and gave me bath like a devoted wife ? She can’t be our relative as she is not a brahmin. If she is a only a friend of this family why should she shower so much affection on me ? What is her relationship with me? “


Parasu, just smiled, pushed a handful of betel leaves into his mouth and moved away. My anxiety increased.

Krishnaiyer  was sitting alone in a corner of the hall , his  mouth also bloated with betel leaf mix. Unable to open it, he signaled to take a seat near him. The moment I sat down,  he got up  as if in  protest and moved towards the gate. The purpose, I realized later,  was to spit  the paste out his mouth. Had he said, ‘excuse me’ I wouldn’t have misunderstood him. But such formalities were unknown to the elders  those days. 

” Amman, can I ask  you  something ”  I muttered moving closer to him.  He moved his hand to tell that I could go ahead. You must watch the hand movement of the elders of yesterday.  Move the right palm up twice, as a child  plays with a small ball,means ‘go ahead’ or ‘he has left’. If that action is followed by raising eyes towards the roof, ‘ he  passed away’ . If that palm moves sideways  twice, it means ‘no way’ .  If  it stands straight combined with a slight movement of  eye lids,  the  meaning is  ‘wait for a moment ‘  and if the palm pushes air down, the meaning is, sit down.

The hand signals would have been the origin of our dance forms.


” For the heaven’s sake my dear Amman, tell me  who is that Malayalee woman ?” I pleaded, ” now that your moth is free,  I am sure that you will answer my query”


” Ask Ramswamy, your uncle ” he replied and as to avoid further prodding, he got up,  pushed his umbrella under his arm and moved away.  The seed of doubt was growing in my mind like a poisons tree. I rushed  into the kitchen, dragged my uncle to a corner and thundered,” who is that Malayalee woman to you ?”


” You didn’t  have your coffee ?”  He laughed away my anger and replied in a cool voice, “She lives close to this house” 


” I know where she lives ” I continued in the same pitch. What I wanted to know is, is she related to us and if so how. I want an answer and not your coffee.”


“She is close to all of us and closer to one among  us.”


” Who is that one among us ?”


Uncle lost his cool. Collecting his upper cloth and forcefully striking it in the air, he shouted, ” Have you come here for doing CID job or to marry ?”


Lalitha appeared from no where .’‘ What is happening here Mama ?” 


“Nothing much my child ” Uncle pacified, “this nephew of mine is pitying the boy who will land here one day to marry you ” Some people suddenly regain their normalcy, even without the hissing sound  a hot iron pan makes while dipped in a cold water tub.


” Athimbar ! ” Lalitha screamed and  held uncle’s  shoulders and shook them in anger.


” Why are you angry with me, my dear ? ” Uncle admonished her, ” he said something to irritate you but  you attack me  allowing him to enjoy the fun ?”

 

Lalitha turned towards me. “This is very unfair Athimbar, moving around in a suspicious manner at wee hours in your guest’s house and do some silly investigation “


“Your unwanted strong reaction is weakening you and brightening the image of your sister, Lalitha ” I admonished her  and added, ” for your  information, I am not a guest here. You will be one when I become the owner of this house in a few hours.”

” Sorry for that, Athimbar”, she tried to pacify me but suddenly raised her hood, “but please remember, my sister is not a planet to shine on borrowed  light. She is a star”

Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 10

A human form was there under a chenkathali vazha, a type of plantain.!


” I could learn many things about you in two hours, Appu chetta ” Ammu boasted, unconcealed happiness flashing as a benign smile on her face, while entering the gate of our house.


” You didn’t say a word about your parents though you talked a lot ” I chuckled, ” you are an expert in talking for hours, without saying anything”


” All girls are like that except Ratnam chetchi ” Ammu continued without allowing her smile to fade, ” she manages to say, what she wants to,  by her silence. My parents are here and I will introduce them tomorrow.”  


” I will introduce them ” Lalitha who came out of her room hearing our voice, intervened. ”No need Lalitha” Appa, who too came out asked her to go back to sleep and then sent Ammu  too o to her room. Looking at me and pointing to wards a side room, he  hummed, “oom’ . That sound was to reveal his disagreement for taking Ammu out, at the wrong hours.  


The snoring of Chami pattar welcomed me when I entered the bed room allotted to me. A bad room mate no doubt. His AADS-automatic air dispelling system was extremely efficient  His snoring was elaborate and thunderous, thought rhythmic at times. His yawning voluminous, vociferous and volatile.


I leave to your imagination the efficiency of the third AADS !


Sleep evaded me.The sweet memory of my  sojourn at Trichur was humming in my mind, in contrast to the noise in the room.The sharodies lived a simple but rich life.They had little assets but each member of their family was an asset to others and the family as a whole was an asset to the society they lived in. They knew little science and commerce but their common sense was admirable . I never felt that I was away from my own home while I was in the sharam. Sitting before the nilavailakku ( ornamental brass lamp ) they used to recite ‘Adyathmaramayanam’ or Harinamakeerthanams ( devotional compositions in Malayalam language,at dusk, and I used to join them in their prayers, despite Ammau’s mischief and deviation tactics.


I could neither sleep nor even stay in that room. I came out and scanned the surrounding, to ensure that my father had gone to sleep. Lalitha also had gone to sleep. I wished she hadn’t. She enjoyed my pranks, though outwardly she showed dislike for them. I have some readers like her. They contest every word of mine, but will quote volumes of what I said .Some couple are also like that. When together, they behave like ‘pampu and keeri ‘ snake and mongoose and if she goes to he her mother’s house for a day, the telephone bill for that one day? Oh, how funny and complicated is the pairing problem ! I know one couple. The wife was a symbol of compassion, elegance, friendly submissive and sweet talking. Nothing much to say about her looks. She was short, stout and dark-skinned.

Her husband was a charming six-footer, fair complexioned but arrogant and authoritative and abusive in his expression to every one especially to his wife. He was an efficient police constable, fit only for that job,.Mostly he used to be on patrol duty but whenever he came home, he quarreled with his wife. But, soon after the Amavasya night, the moon has to rise. It did rise in the womb of that good woman . 


Some elderly women were drawing ‘kolam’ and the cooks, under the supervision of my uncle, were boiling water and cutting vegetable. It was a pournami, full moon night. I could not ask for more. My aspiration to enjoy every drop of nectar falling from the divine sky, fully brightened by moon and stars was uncontrollable. Ah what a feast is going on in the great hall of heaven. Like a squirrel, hiding behind a tree, I am here in the corner of a house, when a glamorous festival procession is moving in the sky! Let my dad scold me or do whatever he wants to . Gathering courage, I came to the garden. It was full of plantain and mango trees . A human form was there under a chenkathali vazha, a type  of  plantain.! It took some time for me to know who that was.


 It was Sharada teacher! Her white sari, white hairs and fair complexion stood in the way of my instant recognition, under the expansive moon light. Teacher, all alone, at this hour ! She was sitting in meditation, closing her eyes, completely unaware of the surroundings . I went near her, sat close and recited Kalidasa’s famous stanza from Kumarasambhavam, describing Siva’s penance under the Devadaru.The Lord was sitting absolutely motionless with complete control of ‘pranas’, vital breaths, not allowing them to move in any direction, upwards, downwards or sideways.

  

‘Avrishti samrembha-mivambhu vaham,

Apamivadhara manutharangam,

Anthacharanam marudam nirodah-

Nnivatha nishkkambha mivapradeepam”


This is one of the six slokams in ‘Kumarasambhavam’ where the great master describes Siva, in great meditation, to a cloud full of water but not in a hurry to shed rains, a sea, devoid of waves and a non flickering lamp in an-air free space.


That last line, ‘Nivatha,nishkampa miva pradeepam’ will be on the lips of every Sanskrit lover!

If your sweet other half is a lover of Kalidasa, you would have heard this sweet line from her sweet tongue every time you sit immersed in your news paper when she struggles to get the  children ready for school,  in the busy morning hours.!


Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 09


Too big a load to carry


My thoughts went back. Soon after I left the college completing my studies, I got an assignment in a WHO project at Trichur and Dr.Vaidynatha iyer, my relative, asked his friend Sharodi, to accommodate me in his house, as a tenant.  ‘Sharodies’ basically are ‘ambalavasies’ , serving  the Kerala temples. My posting at Trichur was only for six months but that short period was one of the happiest in my life. We were a small team of physicians, social workers in specialized fields and  Lab.technicians and our task was to visit the peripheral villages  before the  residents go for work, study their physical condition, collect blood, urine or fecal samples, collect family statistics, treat them for minor ailments or take them to the city hospital for treatment, if necessary. I had to get ready by 6.30 when the Jeep comes to pick me up. The Muthi, the granny of the sharam, used to wake me up by about 5.0 in the morning: ‘Smaikkutty, Samikkutty, eneekku, panikkukku pokandae’ get up, my child, you have to go for work’  She had placed a photo of Guruvayoorappn and would take me towards it and ask me to look at the God first. Then she would hand over a packet of umikkari ( home made tooth powder made out of burnt paddy husk mixed with  some herbal ingredients ) along with a kindi ( a brass vessel with a long nose filled with water and an earkala ( thin rib of the leaf of the coconut tree ) for cleaning the tongue.  She would then give me a hot cup of tea, hand over my thorthumundu (bath towel ), soap box and a small pack of vibhoothi (holy ash to apply on the forehead etc after bath ) and escort me to the nearby pond, vadakkae chira and wait on the steps still I finish my bath and go to the temples. I used to visit every morning three main temples in the town and those visits, walk around the ‘Thekkinkadu’ central plateau, after a cold water bath used to inject tons of freshness into the system. Lovely maidens, in snow white dress used to visit tbe temples, early morning every day , although that alone was not the cause of my happiness. This is just a casual remark. The Malayalee women of Trichur have a divine aura around them! This also is a casual remark. But believe me for an youngster, moving out of  home for the first time, leaving behind the petting of affectionate parents and padding of siblings, there could not be a better platform than the sharam life, for take off. 
I became nostalgic and Ammu too, when she whispered at my ear asking me to go for a jogging, soon after we finished enjoying the night feast.  Like me, she too felt, the crowded marriage ambiance unfit for our celebration of a much-awaited union. I could guess that the memory of the evenings we spent together at the vast thekkin kadu ground, around the temple was blooming in her mind. I used to carry her on my shoulders though she preferred to walk, to establish her freedom, move around , fall twenty times and cry loudly every time she falls.“Appa, we will  just go for a walk around the town ” I pleaded for my father’s permission.” In this late hour ? ” he admonished, “you have to get up before sunrise tomorrow”   “Atchaa, please; anju nimisham, five minutes ”  Ammu too  pleaded and obtained Appa’s  permission . Every one looked at us with widened eyes. It was, however as usual, given to Lalitha to express the disapproval of the family to our innocent action.“Again the vedalam has climbed upon the tree,” Lalitha mumbled initially and later, asked her sister in a louder tone.  ” how, you a relaxing star, are you going to spend your life with this restless sea?  Akka, I am warning you, you are going to carry too big a load on your tiny head ”Ratnam   just smiled.‘Athai, will you please put this Lalitha genie inside your pepper- powder bottle and close it firmly?” I asked athai, “and don’t release her till I return to Palakkad.”

“How do you manage to convert every opportunity into a problem, whereas my sister carves an opportunity out of every problem,” Lalitha got up from her chair and asked me.“It is just eight hours since you have landed here, but every minute, you create a new problem, that too with the speed of light.”

“You, yourself are a problem for me, Lalitha!” I replied in a soft voice ” And your main problem is that you are meeting an intelligent man for the first time in your lifetime”

“ You are meeting an intelligent woman for the first time ” She chided, “Your abysmally low IQ level was perhaps the only attraction  for my sister. For that matter, every girl wants the boy she chooses, one step below her in all respects, of course except in financial status. No sensible girl would like to marry an intelligent man. He will neither live his life nor allow his wife to live hers. For me also that was the attraction in you. Otherwise, when you proposed to me, near the well…..”

Before she could complete the sentence, every one enquired, ”tell us what he proposed?”

“What will he propose ?” Her sister intervened to rescue me again, “he proposed a literary debate and Lalitha readily agreed. Both are good in literature”

I looked at Ammu and winked, as if to tell her, ”look, how she saved me!” This, along with her sister’s support to me enraged Lalitha. She changed her strategy. Addressing none in particular, she said,” that sweet little one, Ammu is going without eating payasam “

“I will eat after we return ” Ammu  said and I added, ” please ask the cook to keep three tumblers filled, on the table, before they go to sleep”

“May I know sir, who is that third person, me?” Lalitha  enquired with a mocking humility.

“No way; you will be inside the pepper powder bottle, when we return. Your sister will give us company’

“You expect your bride to wait for you, like a heroin in Tamil serials, when you return after dancing into small hours?”

“Isn’t she a star?” I asked her, “that is what you told me, a while ago”

“You are impossible, athimbar”. She surrendered herself.

Ammu was becoming restless. “Good night, everybody!” I wished and disappeared from there along with Ammu.

We didn’t go far. The  ‘thekkin kadu’ would be empty at night and we didn’t want to go there. We sat below an  adjacent tree and spent an hour or two, recalling our sharam days. 

We had much to talk about.



Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 08

The Vadkkumnatha Temple at Trichur

The lavishly  decorated Ambassador car in which I was made  to  sit, for ‘mappilai azappu’,  the procession on the wedding eve,  got packed within no time by enthusiastic children, encouraged by their parents, leaving hardly any space for me to move my limbs or even breath evenly. Sweating profusely, wrapped in a black suit and semi strangulating neck tie, I would have kicked the kids off the vehicle but a would- be son-in-law was not expected to behave so rudely. ‘Padmanabha!’ I called and sought the help of the presiding deity of the town, who , (God alone knows how) relaxes so enviably on a multi- hooded snake bed, in a wavy ocean, despite being encircled by several celestial celebrities.  Padmanabha did hear my cry and His merciful response came in the form an old woman, struggling to join the procession. I leaped out of the vehicle, pushed the old lady it and moved along with the crowd, receiving accolades for my consideration for the aged.

Self-serving acts, at time, snatches awards.

One middle aged woman, clad in starched, bright white sari was walking close to me. “Beware of the cow dung and banana skins, my son,”she warned me with benign smile,” I will arrange for another car ” she offered.I liked her.Don’t know why. some people attract you at the very first meet.

I enjoy walks, but not as the head of a procession, with a garland around the neck, fire works in the front and gas-lamps on the sides apart from a whole lot of curious onlookers, all around.Several people came out of their houses, pushing others to the sides, threw glances at me and withdrew.

The nadsawaram vidwans offered their pipes and encouraged me to play the instrument, “chumma oothunko sami”. I love to handle nadaswaram but a bride -groom was not expected to do that, leading his wedding eve  procession!

P.M.S., arranged for another car for the old woman and children, but they refused to get down from the decorated vehicle.

“Ithae porum; ithilae maalai irukkae ” This car is fine; there are garlands around this ” was the excuse of the old lady.

“Nikkada avadea- wait,” PMS detained a mahout, who was leading an elephant, that way.

“Mon chadikko!” come on, son, ascend the animal” he commanded. My parents were worried about my safety, as I had never tried my skill on elephants, though I was an expert in buffalo ride. Many pushed, pushed me up and put on the pachyderm. 

The high status, on the elephant, I enjoyed, but not the uneasiness below my seat. I never realized that it was so uncomfortable to sit on the elephant’s back. The fear that the animal under the influence of  powerful lights around and the sound generated by fire works could run amok, was also there.

Those who sit on elevated seats might appear to be happy; but that is not the whole truth.

At last, the procession reached the marriage hall. I was helped to get down.. My back was burning as if some one had poured acid.

“Ivadae varu ” come along, commanded that woman who followed me, pulling my hand, took me to the kitchen and asked Athai for some warm water and a towel . “Ratnam, give him a hot massage ” She ordered. Ratnam hesitated and when I was about to call my mother, the Malayalee woman mildly slapped on my face affectionately and said, ” no more Amma, hereafter “.  Along with Athai, she applied some balm at my back and gave a nice steam bath.  PMS entered the kitchen and seeing my plight surrounded by the elderly women, enquired,”ah, Konthai, Janwasam sukham aayi illae, hope you enjoyed the procession ? ” 

“Oh, paramasukham ” I replied , pressing my legs . That was just the beginning of my paramasukham. Much more sukhams were in wait.

After coming out of  the kitchen, I asked PMS,” who  is that lady, with grey hair, who followed me in the procession and helped Athai to give me a steam bath ?”

“Oh, she is our neighbour, Sharada teacher ” He clarified,  “‘a kind woman close to us but pushed far away by the Destiny”

My affection for her, increased. It happens sometimes. An invisible flow takes place within, the moment you see a stranger, about whom you know nothing. The reason will be revealed later.

Those was a formal nitchitarthm, presided by my mother’s uncle who was also a vaadyar and he was strict with regards to the procedures . My back pain was still bothering me. If there was a delay in my getting up from the seat, he would shout, ‘eanthiru’  get up; if  I had not bend my body sufficiently while prostrating , he used to yell, ‘porathu’ not enough. When I found his dictation intolerable, I muttered,” if you trouble me like this again I will mount that elephant and return to Hyderabad “

Those  assembled in the pandal outside for the music program, came in along with the musicians for dinner.

An young  girl approached me from the crowd, pulled my hand and said, ” come for food, you trouble maker!” Though that not the first time I was called a trouble maker,  I was hardly prepared to be so  addressed in my in-law’s house on the wedding eve by an unknown girl of fifteen or sixteen.

” Oh, sweet little one ” I addressed her with all affection,” may I know who you devil are and why are you so jealous of my intelligence and charm ? And is there none in this house to invite the bridegroom for food other than a thumb-sucking imp ?”

” In a way you are right” she replied winking at me. ” I sucked not only my thumb but yours too; but that some fifteen years ago , in a place called Ambadi pisharam “

” You are my Ammu, right? ” Without waiting for her reply,I lifted her above my head and dropped on the floor as I used to do during her younger days. Holding her at her waist,

I entered the dining hall to the dismay of  Lalitha and others who were keenly observing us.

” Ammu, how tall you have grown, ente Vadkkunnatha! “

I expressed my gratitude to the Lord of Trichur for giving me an opportunity to meet a child from the sharam, which was my second home for six months.