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

Ammalu is always right

Ammalu, only my hope not my hold on you, is getting loosened.
What say you?’

‘I never lose my hope on you, as you are still in the process of growing. My hold on you has yielded fruits. And now my hold is only to prevent you falling. You want me to say anything more?’


Basic courtesies!!!

Consequently for four days, our home helper Yadamma was absent.
‘Couldn’t you tell me a word in advance?’, I asked her this morning.
‘Marictchupoyaanu Sir- I forgot’ . Her casual reply.
I’m helpless. Forgetfulness is not my sole property!

The paper walah Ramu throws the news paper, on the wet varanda floor, though I stand like a statue at the front gate. Cant’t he hand it over to me?

‘You didn’t see me standing?’ I ask.
‘No, Sir!’
He has gone!

If he threw the paper despite seeing me standing, there is scope for complaining. If he didn’t see at all?

The neighbor who comes to read my newspaper enquires earnestly,
‘don’t you have the habit of drinking coffee in the morning?’
‘I’ll have it after sometime’
‘Why, is it RahukAlam now?’

 

Leave away outsiders. Ammalu? Starts scrapping coconut when I practice singing. ‘What a nuisance.? Can’t you do it without making that rattling noice?’, I ask her politely.

‘Do you need chutney for idli or not?’, she retorts angrily.

‘I need chutney, dear, but why this shrill now?’. I submit soberly.

‘Ok, you do it yourself without noise’. She leaves the little mount with a forked tongue and goes to watch TV.

‘How to mount this Meru mountain, Ammalu?’ Can you help me please?’. I request her.

‘Let this serial be over’.

‘It won’t be over, now’

‘What is the hurry? You have Idli with jaggery ‘

‘Are you joking, Ammalu? Idli with jaggery is like you and me! Where is the combination?’

‘Happy Independence Day!’. She leaves for her mother’s home, next street.

I have somehow managed to sit on the scrapper mount . How to get down?


‘Ammalu, don’t disturb me till lunch time, please. I’m trying to figure out your problem ‘

‘I have no problems’

‘Exactly. And that is my problem. I worked like a bull while in service and continue to work like a servant for you, even now.
I struggled then; I struggle now. And you enjoy!’

‘Lunch is ready’

‘Problem solved’

Ammalu is always right

‘I mistook you for a star in the sky when I met you , Ammalu. My eyesight failed me’

‘My eyesight didn’t. You still stay on the ground level, moving up, not an inch. But, thanks to my firm hold on you, you didn’t slip and nose dive’


‘Ammalu, the problem is not with your poor attention but with your proximity itself. When I call for any little help, say to get a tumbler of water, you don’t respond. You are always busy in the kitchen . To cook for two, do you need twenty four hours?’

‘SP, do one thing. Employ a cook. I will sit with you all the day’

‘Ok. Look for a good looking girl’

‘I want a cook, not a daughter in law. And don’t think I’m a fool to miss your mischievous plan’


‘Ammalu, life should be give and take. I give you everything you need . What do you give me?’

‘Soap and towel when you extend your hand through the bathroom door gap’


 

Ammalu is always right

‘Ammalu, you haven’t heard all my glories’

‘Say soon, before my hearing aid batteries go inert’

‘Ammalu, all said and done, I’m am a honest husband’

‘Sorry. Batteries out’


‘It is immaterial for me whether you sit in a cart or a chariot. You should sit in my heart always. That is my only interest’

‘How do I find a place in your heart, Ammalu?’

‘Simple. Sit in your easy chair in the study reading or writing or doing whatever you like and not enter the Kitchen and nag me.
Today is Varalakshmi vratham and I have plenty of jobs to do’

‘AmbAl wants thattai for PrasAdam’

‘Tell Her, she will get it’

‘She is in Ammini’s house now, Shall I go and tell her?!

‘Yes, please go to Ammini or Paru or Parukutty or any friend’s house and don’t disturb me till my pooja is over’

‘What about sitting in your heart?!

‘No, I will be more peaceful if I allow you to roam about, instead of keeping you within me. Anyway, you are harmless now’


‘Ammalu, are we alone now? If so, I want to tell you something in private’

‘I have no glasses now and can’t tell you clearly whether someone is hiding behind the doors. Anyway, you want only to
tell something. No harm, old man!’


 

Wah, , what a wedding!

 

‘The wedding was like a village festival. I didn’t attend such a glamorous wedding so far’

‘The couple left for USA?’

‘The boy left. The girl stayed back’

‘Why? Accommodation problem in USA?’

‘Accommodation problem, in the car, not in USA .

While driving to the airport, the boy’s mother wanted to sit near her son.

‘I don’t know when I will see my son again. Let me have the joy of sitting by his side for a short distance’, said the affectionate mother, wiping the tear drop waiting to fall, with her silk sari end. Natural!’

‘Short or long is not the question. Entitlement’, said the shy girl, looking partially at her husband and partially on the ground,
She wanted to sit by his side. Natural!
‘En daa, any objection?’, she enquired her hubby eagerly.

He nether said ‘yes’ nor ‘no’.

But the boy’s mom asked the bride, ‘you already started calling my son, ‘da?!

‘Let the baby call me whatever she likes’, consoled the caring son.

‘Baby, enkedaa, baby?’ , enquired the eager mother, looking around for the baby.

‘For 24 hours you’re going sit near him in the flight’, tried to interfere the girl’s dad, ‘why not his mother sit near him for twenty minutes?’

‘Dad, you know nothing’, argued the bride to her dad. ‘If I allow the old lady’s small wish now, she will sit on my head throughout my life’

The boy looked at his watch. His friends too did the same. Argument continued.

No settlement on seating yet.

The ladies, young and old argued, argued. No result.

‘Let Pappa sit near Chellappa. What do you lose?’ Asked the angry hubby senior to his wife.

‘What do I lose ? I am losing my Chellam’, retorted the angry lady.

The bride’s mom was a ‘no nonsense’ woman.

‘Let us go Kanmani’, said she to her pet daughter, called for a cab, as her driver was enjoying his feast.

And the boy drove to air port, along with others.

‘There would have been a big gathering to see him off?’

‘Oh! Half the airport was his people.

‘The boy didn’t say a word , to his sweet honey, while leaving?!

‘He did. When the girl waved, ‘ta,ta’, he said, ‘bye,bye!’