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

Whom to ask, who did it?

 

Yes, my body, the Sun scorches
To mind too, the heat reaches
But who tore my body into two
And took away a half?
Certainly not the Sun
And whom to ask who did it?

Injuries inflicted, came without calling,
Some healed, some healing,
Some will never heal.
The Sun didn’t do it.
And whom to ask, who did it?

If you can carry on
With a half – sliced body,
Wounds healed and healing;
And pull your cart in heat or cold,
You will reap your crops
Despite your warps.

I want to leave behind
Not my cart empty
May be some toys, for the kids’ joy
May be some words to heal the wounds,
May be even my laugh and smiles,
Seen from far, far miles
But never a drop of tear
Or the old wounds’ smear

My losses are mine, gone in with my wine.
And in my children’s domain
Smell of sandal paste and jasmine
Alone should remain
The sandal from their father
And jasmine from their mother.

Save our families

 

Cracks do develop in some families
Though they are not made of bricks
Brick – cracks can be repaired by a mason
Wood -cracks by a carpenter.

But, when a family tears apart
Those who went out, have to come back
And rebuild.
And there comes the problem!

Wood, cement and mortar
Are free from ego
But men?
Women?

I know how in the West
People are eager
To build families
And save them too.

For us, the great concept
Is given in golden plate
Let us save it
For our own good
For our children’s good.

Children don’t fall
From the sky
Nor they rise up
From the ground

They are our flowers,
Our fruits
Our life,
Our hope.

And for them
Save our families!

 

Mamu’s prayer

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This Assam girl is close to my heart,
Very close.
She, in fact, is a part of my family
Indistinguishable part.

Lustrous was her life
Till a tornado in Chicago
Torn it to pieces.

With one stoke, a massive stroke,
The Fate destroyed her present and future
Leaving her a residue of a massive rupture.

Still fresh in my mind,
The roar of the whirlwind
Flashing like devil’s swords
To tell you, I’ve no words!

The Fate turned a brute?
To shake lives deep to its roots?
It danced like a drunkard
Or a destroyer’s vanguard .

Her picture was colorful
Never black and white
I know the colors wont return
But atleast the black should go
But will it?

I’m glad, after an Year
I can see, when I’m near
A white streak for which I waited
I’m excited!

Luminous is her character
The disaster couldn’t diminish
It’s luster
Bad luck met with bad time
When it troubled a good dame.

Time should show a gesture
And give her a future
The blood stain should go for ever
And she should suffer never.

The doves will be back

 

Went to Ayyappa temple
To pay my salutes humble.
God was inside, aloof
A pair of doves on the roof
Enjoying the sunlight,
Ready for a flight,
Chirping, playing
Moving together,

None dares to climb the roof
Of the home where god dwells
But did these little birds
A lovely pair
Stroll over God’s head!

Real fun there, behold!
What matters if I’m old?
Bracing is their moves
The happy pair doves
Together they walk, one halts
The other too halts,
One moves backward,
The other too.
What a symphony on the roof
Am I old, show the proof !

Flies up one, the other
doesn’t move a feather,
Waits, then goes up
And they come back together!

The temple bell rings
Devotees come running
I too, and shout
‘Swamy saranam
Ayyappa saranam’

Fly away the birds
Unable to stand my words?
It is bad,
I feel sad!

Why did I yell?
God can’t hear well?
Isn’t He so near?
Tip toe I retire.

Relax; God is there,
The roof is there
I will go, so what?
The doves will be back
The doves will be back!

Fruits should be in a/c rooms

Going crazy in the glowing heat,
Why hard for me to beat?
Five decades of stay went waste?
”Yes’, says the nicker from my waist.
Feel ashamed while I muse
Get me soon some cold juice.

Numberless the days I wandered
With no hat, no umbrella,
What happened all of a sudden
Why heat became a hefty burden?

‘The sun is the same, the land is the same,
But not you, dad’, tells my daughter.
‘No more you are a green mango
You, a ripe fruit now!”

‘But fruits are juicy, and am I thirsty!’
‘True, dad!, tells Megh.
‘We enjoy your juice,
Your poems, stories, songs and jokes
Your very presence is a passion
For us, beyond oceans’

My heat is gone, I’m reborn young
Ready to fly and eat the sun
Like the little VAyuputhar.
Vicha, where my tube of Athar?

What he knows about Athar, the scent?
The old city special, I’m out
Twenty miles who cares?
‘ll be back ere sun retires.

From my back, my brother coughs,
From the kitchen a kitten mews
For maid Yadamma, it is a news
My going out in this hot sun
But for me, it’s a fun.

No fun this, hot waves who pour,
The moment I open a half door?
Fruits should be in a/c room
Like my friend, a NRI bridegroom
Who came to marry an Indian honey,
And she went for night shopping with his money!