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Sunday, April 25, 2010

We live not only our lives... but the life of our times

pretayutham abhyangam sat”

pretayutham jhihwa shodhanam sat”

pretayutham danta shodhanam sat”

The word ‘sat’ is used in the sense of reality and goodness; and so also, Partha, the word ‘sat’ is used for praiseworthy (auspicious) action .Steadfastness in sacrifice, penance, gift is also called ‘sat’ and so also action for such purpose Gita XVII-26, 27.

Her soul brought back from the world of ‘manes’ by the combined entreaties of her children lay defenceless on the sparse bed of a few reeds of ‘khusa’ grass. After the ritual washing and cleaning, she is clothed symbolically in a garment and shawl made out of a couple of strands from the loin cloth worn by her children performing the ‘bali

Thirunavaya has changed a lot On both the sides of the Gandhi statue, on the narrow road leading to the temple, concrete monstrosities have sprung up. Name boards with the token numbers of the ‘ilayaths’ who will assist you in transporting the soul of the dead from the ‘preta loka’ to the feet of Vishnu, line both sides of the path. Modern houses stand behind these boards in mute testimony that death too can be lucrative. C.P.Unnikrishnan Ilayath, Token no 8 is expected to guide us in our effort to transport the soul of amma’ to the feet of Vishnu.

pretayutham thilodakm sat”

pretayutham gandhodakam sat”

pretayutham pushpam sat”

The Devaswom board has succeeded in defiling what Tippu and his hordes spared during their triumphant march through the length of Malabar. The ancient wall built of sun burnt laterite stones surrounding the temple has been pulled down and in its place stand a cement wall painted in garish colours. A gopuram built more in tamil architectural pattern hides from view the ‘sreekovil’. In front of the gopuram stands a shed constructed (in what the devasom guys think is the kerala temple architectural style) for women to change their wet clothes. The small cottage of the Raja from the Zamorin lineage, who was a class mate of father in Zamorins college, is still safe behind the fencing of bamboo thorns. His direct entrance to the temple has however been barred by the devaswom rulers. The last time I met him was in 89 when we came for the ‘bali’ of father. I think he was then third or fourth in line to become Samoothiri. I don’t think he quite made it before death caught up

“And with the utterance of the word ‘tat’ the acts of sacrifice and penance and various acts of giving are performed by the seekers of salvation, without aiming at the reward” Gita XVII-25

Remembering the ancestors on the father’s lineage to the preceding three generation, invoke them to be present to receive the bali tharpan. Invoke the ancestors on the mothers lineage to the third generation and seek their presence

Chettur Krishnan kutty, pet student of Boyd, Cherangottil Krishnan who read Law on a scholarship and an unknown Keshavan from Cherplacherry... Chettur Lakshmi who died young, Meenakshi of the many chins who was always searching for gold nuggets , Ammu alias Lakshmi whose mother was Sir C’s sister…Kozhipurath Parvathi, who died young of larynx cancer, Unniparu who saw a thousand full moons, Cherukad Chelanat Kunju amma’s daughter Ammalu ammas daughter Parvathi amma’s son Chelanat Govindan and who else… oh yes, Krishnakumar, Rammohan…and those unknown and un remembered.

An Ayyappa temple has been constructed by the Zamorins family. Another concrete monstrosity ,the Satram buildings, has also come up for the visitors and to house the present patron of the temple, the Executive Officer, and his durbar officials. The income of the temple is increasing and so too the number of devaswom officials. “Something always dies when the lion feeds, yet there is always meat for those that follow him”. And people are dying and more and more of their children are reaching the temple to ensure that the souls of the dead gets a smooth passage from the preta loka to the pitr loka. The navayogis installed eight idols all of which sank to the earth without a trace. The ninth (nava) mukundan also sank upto its knees. No such ill luck for the Devaswom or its officials. All monstrosities stand intact.

..prathama pindodakam tat sat

dwithyathritya

pardon us for not doing the dina bali

pardon the kartru dosham, improper karma and insufficient karmas

pardon us for not doing the nakshatra bali, masa bali, samvatsara bali

pardon us for not doing the Gaya shrarddham

pardon us for….

Excuses for every act of omission, commission. Packaged solutions for everything. Anticipatory bail for everything. Convenience of outsourcing. I am sure some surrogate son will perform Gaya shraddham too for a fee. I become painfully conscious that I have not done bali, tharpan, for my ancestors with shraddha. If their souls have been able to migrate to the pitru loka and Vishnu loka it must have been due to the goodness of their deeds.

Tall elephant grass has started growing in the riverbed. Most of the sand has been mined away by the sand mafia. Bags of sand seized by the local authorities in one of their sporadic raids lay on the dry river bed. The last time I was here the ‘bali’ was performed in the middle of the river on the sand bed. Now from the concrete steps you can get into deep water. The sand mafia has mined the sand so deeply. They have very considerately left a few sand bags for the people to step on to the water for taking a dip. I have a dim recollection of coming here with father for a cultural ‘mamankam’. You had to cross the river to reach the venue. It was summer and but for a small strip of water the river was dry and the sand burning hot.. The organisers had dug a deep trench in the river bed for people to cross to the other side. The banks of the trench were almost four feet high of sand. In a few decades the sand cover has all but disappeared.

“Look at the temples of Shiva and Brahma on the other bank of the river and fix your mind on them.Look towards the Navamukunda temple and pray with all your heart that the soul of the departed may be transported from the preta loka to the pitru loka and the lotus feet of Vishnu. May she join the assembly of ancestors”

And so the journey which began on 22ndApril 1925 came to an end on 7th April and after a brief soujourn on the world of Manes ,exactly after 85 years, claimed her rightful place in the Pitru loka. The Navamukundan in person came out of the "sreekovil" ostentiably for the ‘aarattu’ but waited patiently outside to receive her. The Chamravattom Ayyappan, not to inconvenience her, had already taken an abode in the temple complex. The caparisoned elephant stood at the door. A ‘chakiar’ performed the ‘krishnarjuna vijayamthullal, a favorite of her husband who joined Krishna on a Guruvayur Ekadasi day, twenty-one years ago.

Krishna’s eyes rolled again and his body trembled , this time in anticipation

thiru mizhionnu kalangi marinju

thiru udalonnu virachhu chirichu..

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grace under pressure

“With black wings spread wide, when my soul wanders as a crow released from the pits of the hell called ‘puth’, who is there to offer me gingelly seeds, tulsi stalks and drops of water “

“ the cancer cells clinging to and growing in my uterus like some fungus..an amorphous mass, like the milky way, spreadeagled across my stomach”

‘my children..my tenthousand and one children.. my tiny, tiny dear darlings…they will offer me gingelly seeds, tulsi stalks and water..sure.

(Mathrubhumi Vishu Pathippu Vol XLVIII-No-4-April-12-1970. Page 11 “Shishu” N.S.Madhavan, University Department, Trivandrum.)

Yes. We will offer you water….and gingelly oil…. and tulsi stalks…and sandal paste.. yes we will offer you all these to wash your face, to clean your teeth, to cleanse your body..to adorn it. For we are your children…. the once amorphous masses which lay spreadeagled across your stomach…. like the cancer cells now. Yes we will try to release you from the hell called ‘puth’ much like the cancer cells are trying to do…

Synchronicity always had a very dominant influence in my life. The magazine containing this story which I first read when it was published in 1970, came to me again in September 2009. My mother in law in one of her cleaning sprees had shifted this from her collection to Krishna. I read the story again and a few days later mother called from Ottapalam to complain about her itching!

The black crow which banged against the glass pane of the bed room in the Guest House at Arakkonam where I was dozing off one afternoon last week….the crow which dived towards me with a raucous cry the next day morning… Oh, it was just some mother crow trying to defend her nest although I could not see any nest in the nearby trees. Possible… but I like to believe that it was some soul who lost his partner some twentyone years ago trying to persuade me to let go of her.

And the silent message conveyed through the tips of my finger resting on her left hand.. left shoulder.. Raju let me go… let me sleep..let me rest.

Yes mother…we will not detain you here any longer. Time for us to answer for our deeds without your protecting arms, time to account for everything, time to atone….Well, you have been a great help. And hark! Isn’t that the Indian tree pie calling again ‘saudaaamaniiii..

“Indestructible” that is how I always thought of you. Like some solid rock against which the waves spend their energy futilely. A survivor. Scarlett Ohara is the nearest character I can think of.

Death priced out the larynx of your first born and crushed the larynx of the last born son. He took away your companion. But it did not succeed in breaking your spirit. Because you decided your remaining children needed you for some more time. Until an unseen enemy started gnawing on your entrails. Much like Arjuna hidden behind Shikhandi.

Nobody can conquer Death. But you had subdued him and made him wait. He came with his buffalo and rope in December. You said, “Wait, I don’t want to spoil my granddaughter’s wedding. Moreover the brave, like Bhisma, dies only during the Northern equinox” He tried to take her forcibly a month later. She said ‘ you are not man enough. I am the daughter of the Sun and will consider going when he is only at his zenith’. Although severely wounded, she won again. She said, " Iwant to wait for my son to come home from Abu Dhabi"

Then the bird came again and started chirping. “ saudaamaniii….saudamaniiii..” Unniettan was calling again." Maani, twentyone years is a long time. Some more of our children will join us in half that time. Besides, if you wait for Medam, you risk leaving the world on “Pancham” bringing the possibility of another death in your family in short time. Better you come. Maani.

Yes, I think I will. Children, those of you who can hear me , do hear. I am leaving

“ Earth, my mother, Air my father, Light my companion

Water my kinsman, Sky my brother, my final salutations

Attaining pure knowledge and enlightenment thru’ contact with you

I relinquish all material desires and merge with the Absolute


She did one final thing She commanded the fierce Meenam Sun to hide under a canopy of nimbus clouds so that her sons may not have to suffer, even while flames licked at her battle scarred, emaciated body.

Goodbye Amma, see you soon.