“Appa, I fail to understand why you should be so remorseful,?” asked Ramya, unable to find better words to solace the wounded soul. “You had no other go than doing what you did. The circumstances were so tiring, inescapable.”‘”Your acts were least selfish, solely to satisfy the minimum needs of a dying father.” Consoled Chami.”If I were in your situation, I too would have acted the same way,” reacted Seshu.The remaining two, Ramu and his mother, sat silently, unable to find a single word to console the deeply depressed man, they themselves struggling to come out of the weight of the load compressing their souls.Ramya prepared some hot coffee quickly which everyone enjoyed as a stress-reliever.Swamy continued:Next time, before coming to the hospital, I went to meet Gowder, having decided after a prolonged mental war, to seek a hand loan. I explained to him that father was in a bad state and an advance of fifty rupees would be extremely helpful. He handed over the amount and when I hurried to assure that it would be returned soon in installments, he was kind enough to respond, ‘Periaya samiyai nalla pathukkunko. panathai nan pathukkaraen- you take care of your father- I will take care of the monetary part.””Swamy vanthirukkan-Swamy has come.” Mother, sitting near him, informed Appa.”Asthiyai odara vellathlaem podanam- my ashes should be immersed in flowing water too. ” His voice was low but not very incoherent.
The next instruction was, “kaathilaenthu kadukkanai eduthu ennodu kaariyathukku eduthukkunkol- remove my kadukkans, ear tops and use the money for my last rites ”
We never wanted to do that. Gowder’s assurance was a ‘chumai thaanghi’ a weight supporter.
Two days continued liked that. I spent most of the time sitting with him reciting ‘Vishnusahsranamam’. His facial reaction, sometime, told me that he was hearing the mantras. I was not sure. But his lip movement had stopped. I realized that slowly that light was waning. Amma poured a few drops of Gangajalam to wet his tongue and also asked me to do the same. I did that and also whispered the panchakshara mantram into his right ear. I could virtually see that soul leaving the body, or I thought so, when his breathing slowed down and stopped.
‘Appa poyatchu, vizinthu namskaram pannu.” Said Amma, after she prostrated at his feet. I did so and while getting up, touching his feet, I remembered, how every time I prostrated before him, he used to bless me, lift me up, holding my shoulders and hug me close to his broad chest.
Krishnaswamy Gouder was waiting near Appa’s bed. He too prostrated and gave me some cash. ” Ayyarae, Pitchandi will be with you and send him to me whenever you want any help. ” He said pacifying me, ” I have to leave now for Coimbatore on some urgent work and shall see you on return.”
The total cash I had including Gouder’s latest contribution was seventy rupees which was just sufficient to meet that day’s expenses. I did not want to sell Appa’ s kadukkans as I want to keep them as a parting gift for the family, from him.
“What about chithappas, your siblings?” enquired Ramyu, ” they didn’t come to see thatha”.
“They could not come. One was in the hospital with a broken rib and the other immobilized at home with some viral attack,” Sundram clarified, ” they had sent some money but it reached only after a week.”
Pitcahandi was the only one to accompany me to the cremation ground other than the vaadyar and his people who carried the dead body.
towards the sky, I imagined that Appa’s soul was transcending beyond the borders of this world. How often he used to grow the sacred fires for homams !The fire waves were slowly receding. Alas, there was no enough fuel ! And I didn’t have a pie with me !
I can smell the soil.