My memorable Rameswaram trip

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We drove from Madurai to Rameswaram in the morning of March 23, 2017 and returned the same evening, through the Pampan bridge. That one day experience will ever remain with me, especially the pitrukarmas on the sea bed.

‘Iyer Mani onkalai gavanitchuparu- will take care of you,’ said the influential businessman at Rameswaram, introduced by my friend Taliparambha Ganesh.

Iyer Máni is Mani Vadhyar. When I met him and also when I left him, he appeared to be a confused man, but once on his job, he was the man for the job!

Soon after I reached his house, I explained what I would like to do and wanted to know his demand. He didn’t commit. When I insisted, he said, ‘onnum vendAm, enakku ellAm irukku- I need nothing, I have enough’ . He lifted and rotated his hand and showed the house, as a proof of his prosperity. Later I knew it was not his house, but his brother’s who is no more!

‘Not this man for my job,’ I thought but he won’t leave me as he had clear instructions from Taliparambha Ganesh’s friend ‘to take care of me- avar periyavaru. avarai gavanitchukkunko’

‘Follow me’. He asked us and declared, ‘Onkaluuku onnum theriyAthu- you know nothing ( about the proceeding and practices here)’

He kick -started his two wheeler and we drove behind him. No other way!

And it was a sight to watch, the Vadhyar, wearing a helmet, his uthareeyam flying in air, driving in top speed, with no other vehicle in sight in the long road to Dhanushkodi.

Dhanushkodi is 20. Km away from Rameswaram, devastated by the 1964 cyclone which decimated all structures and took away the life of nearly ten thousand people. With absolute impartiality, Nature had converted to debris a church, a temple, railway station , fishermen’s huts and every other standing structure on her path. It is difficult to believe, going by what you see now, that there existed once a small township with men, women and children, busily engaged in their activities, enjoying the sea breeze and viewing the amazing sunrise and sunset. In fact, there is nothing to see there now, but the very sight itself with scattered remains of structures and the mighty sea behind, is worth visiting.

Vadhyar stopped his vehicle at a point beyond which a new road has been recently constructed to reach the end point of the land, but that is yet to be officially inaugurated. A big bamboo barricade managed by a few police men stops the entry. One has to hire a jeep or a mini truck and drive through the beach, virtually through the sand, prepared to push the vehicle and even to get stranded if the vehicle doesn’t move through the watery, sandy path. That was how people interested in seeing the end of the land, were going earlier and are going even now, unless they are VIPs whom the police salute and allow entry!

We were watching, seated in our car, Mani Vadhyar arguing with the cops, calling someone and handing over the phone to the cops. Ten minutes waiting.

Alas, goes up the bamboo barricade, the cops didn’t salute us but allowed our vehicle to pass through. That was exactly what we wanted and not their salutes.

 

 

Chapter two.

Elaborate rituals to satisfy the souls of the dead are performed by many but my desire and capacity was to have a simple tilatharpanan , offering sesame water on the sacred sea bed. It is not possible for me now to go to Allahabad, Kashi, Gaya etc and come back to Rameswaram again for a second round of rituals after completing the prescribed rituals on the bank of the Ganges. I had earlier, under better health and circumstances, performed shradhams in the Ganges several times and once, along with my wife at Gaya, Brahmakapalam etc earlier and now my desire was Just to remember with respect the predecessors and pray for the reunion of their souls with the Ultimate. My father believed in that, though he had no opportunity to go to Rameswaram. I am not sure whether my children will be going.

Mani Vadhyar spread the materials he had brought with him, on the sand and asked me to take bath in the sea.
‘If you can’t do it, sprinkle water on your head and come’, he said. Even my sisters were hesitant about my fitness for a sea bath but once I was in the waters, I forgot my age and disability and dipped my head and body several times and returned completely fresh in body and mind and performed the rituals, seated under the scorching sun , with no head cover, unlike the Vadhyar of half my age. He had brought with him sufficient cooked rice for offering pindams and asked me again and again to recollect the names and gothrams of several relatives and I could therefore offer food with unalloyed sincerity to several souls, including my three brothers in law, my father in law and mother in law whom I wanted to visit during her last days but could not, my elder brother who died when he was just one year old, my beloved sister Raji who died young, her son Rajesh who died much younger and I performed his last rites at Chicago last year, my two siblings who died a few minutes or days after entering this world, my own uncle and aunt and many more. It was not an elaborate shradham but the mental Peace and satisfaction it gave me will last ever. Vadhyar again and again asked for the names of the second wives of elders and I said ‘no’ , as to my knowledge they were as honest as I’m , though Iyer Mani didn’t appear to believe me!
‘Aarukkavathu erukkaname- some would have certainly had a second wife’, he doubted . I’m not surprised. In my family, women used to outlive their husbands. The only exception was my wife.

We went inside the great temple without the help of Vadhyar but had no problem. My brother in law Patchu helped me to pass from one theertham to the next, treading through the wet floor, without slipping and falling. We had wonderful darsanam too.
In total, my Rameswaram trip was a ‘janmasAbhalyam’. I’m unlikely to make another trip, but no worries.

While coming out of the temple after worship, preceded by the rites on the sea bed and bath from the water poured on head from the 22 sacred wells, my sister’s remarked with absolute happiness and satisfaction : ‘Anna, you did it!’.

I pointed my hand to the sanctum and bowed and said, ‘He did it’

Yes, he did it. Last year, this time, when I was struggling with the side effects of radiation and harmon treatments, I never expected that I would be able to come back to India and undergo the strain of such a long pilgrimage, but He made it.

I’m remade now, yes, I’m

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Ammalu is always right

‘Ammalu, I will be confined to my library till your friends leave with the Golu Prasad. You are welcome to call me if any help is needed’

‘At least twenty times, you will be crisscrossing the hall when my friends are here. You can as well join us, provided you resist your temptation to feel their sari and praise its quality or pat them at their back and don’t remover your hand’

‘With so many conditions tagged to my presence here, better stay in my library and read DevibAgavatham’

‘That suits your age!’

‘It doesn’t suit my mind!’

‘To be frank SP, I like that mind, though I raise objections now and then, just for fun. Yes, I like you, SP’

Ammalu is always right

‘Ammalu, is the old lady in a fat body, still alive or has reached her abode above the clouds?’

‘Your friend Ammini?’

‘Your mom ?’

‘Why, Ammini is not old or fat or a lady?’

‘Don’t talk inauspicious things in an auspicious day’

‘Why, Ammini is an inauspicious woman?’

‘Ammalu, don’t talk about Ammini, I will go amok’

‘Why, Ammini is as fat as an elephant or an elephant itself?’

‘Ammalu, I touch your feet. Please leave me at peace’

‘Ok. Is my mom a fat lady?’

‘Who said so? She is a slim beauty . Ammini is fat’

‘Thank you. One more word against my mother, I will bring her here and make her stay permanently here’


 

‘Uncle, I’m sorry, I need holiday for two days. I won’t enter the kitchen’

‘Uncle?. I’m your uncle?’

‘You talk like a rusty old man, not like a husband’

‘You won’t enter the kitchen? Then who will do the cooking?’

‘You!’

‘Ammalu, you’re testing my patience. I will throw you out of the house’

‘Please do that. I will go to my mom and take rest’

‘It is ok, it is ok. You take rest here. Take leave or anything else you want. But, prepare some food, as I can’t starve’

‘So, SP Sir, leave is granted’

‘Yes, of course. You have forcefully claimed it from me’

‘Thank you Sir, happy Dassera!’


Ammalu, I don’t like any woman, including my woman, entering my bedroom, without my permission. Please get out’

‘I shall . Give back the cloth you’re wearing . That is my Onam special Kerala sari. I’m sure that by mistake you would have picked it up from my wardrobe and not intentionally’

‘Nonsense ! Why should I search your cupboard!’

‘Looking for sundal palaharam’

‘You don’t keep it in the kitchen?’

‘Fearing your wee hour invasion, I keep anywhere other than kitchen ‘


‘Ammalu, now I feel that I made a mistake by saying ‘yes’ immediately when your father asked me whether I liked you, during our very first meet’.

‘Immediately? You were awestruck by my beauty and sat for full five minutes, mouth wide-opened! Your father had to sprinkle a palmful of water to bring you back to normalcy. Without his asking whether you would like to marry me, you started nodding your head in agreement so forcefully that your mother had to apply balm for a week to remove the sprain’


‘I’m sorry, Ammalu. I’m not a dependent on you. I have my pension, I have my children, I have my house, I have my friends. I’am a fully independent man’

‘I never said that you’re my dependent. I’m your dependent . Don’t I wait at your bedroom door, turning my back, till you open the cupboard using a secret number key, pull up the check book and hand over to me to sign and sanction your monthly pocket money?’

Ammalu is always right

‘Ammalu, good bye! Leaving for a non-inhabitant land for meditation’

‘Give me two minutes please. I too will join you. If you go alone, you are capable of converting the land’s status’

————
‘Every time you enter my room, you bring along with you fragrance of mullapoo, jasmine. I rise my head but see no flowers on your head. Wonder, Ammalu, what the source of fragrance, could be’

‘My eyes. Every time I see you sitting idle, doing nothing useful to you or the family, sparks of anger appear on my eyes, but the moment you rise your head and look at me, my sympathy for you, turn the fire into flowers’

————–
‘Ammalu, two haves make one; two ones make two. Two wives make a man. Agree?’

‘Not in your case, as Ammalu is your wife and her teeth are cheetah’s’

‘One day or the other, you’ll realize my greatness, Ammalu’

‘Everyday I realize. Even now I realized ‘

‘Even now, how?’

‘You woke me up from deep sleep to tell me that you’re great!’

———

Ammalu is always right

‘SP, did you bargain for a cash discount when you went to buy stamps in the post office?!

‘Who told you?’

‘Ammini’

‘She came here?’

‘Yes, when you were taking a nap after food’

‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’

‘I never knew that she owes you money’

‘She doesn’t ‘

‘That was why, I didn’t wake you up ‘
—————-

‘Do you mind, if I sit here looking at your face to enjoy your beauty, Ammalu?’

‘Welcome. Wait a minute, please. I will move away from the window ‘

‘Why Ammalu?. You feel shy that others will watch my silent romancing ?’

‘No, I will be unnecessarily suspecting a honest husband that his eyes search outside through the window opening’

‘In the olden days, Ammalu, the world prospered because husbands kept wives under their toes’

‘Can you quote an authority, for this assessment?’

‘Product of my deep thinking’

‘Flaw in your product, SP. Keeping women under toes, how did procreation take place?’

—-