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.