“A cool breeze is coming, creeping near,
I’ve realized it’s that time of year.
The trees turn a beautiful red, yellow, orange, and brown,
As little leaves fall to the ground.
I stare at the orange sky,
Watching the pinkish clouds float by.
I feel the ever-changing fall breeze,
And the pumpkin pies that bring me to my knees.
But, I gaze out my window before I go to bed,
Watching the majestic, fall sunset”
( Author unknown)
Like the poet, I too have enjoyed the ‘majestic, fall sunset’, watching through the window in my son’s house at Baltimore.
The season of autumn, known as ‘fall’ in North America, marks the transition from summer into winter, when deciduous trees shed their leaves. The green leaves of the maple, pine and other trees, slowly turn to yellow,red, purple and similar other colours and it is a pleasure to watch them in rows, on both sides of the roads as well as in gardens, forests, lakes and other places. The roads, wide, clean and bordered with lush green lawns, as such, are majestic and magnetizing . Added to that, when, during the fall, the trees bearing baskets- full of different colour leaves, parade with angelical glamour on both sides when you drive through- it is a unique experience. It looks, as if the Nature is honoring the trees with garlands of different colours, for the joy and happiness they spread all around and as a departing gesture from the bees, birds and butter flies for the shelter, feeds and solace provided. Then, one after the other, the leaves, slowly and steadily fall under the tree when the mother earth embraces them; they again become a part of her.
The tree, having lost all its children, stands barren and bereaved, with no birds chirping around or bees humming ; the benevolent sky hugs and embraces it with snow and sprinkles chilled water into each and every cell of it, making it fit to receive the life-promoting rays of the sun from a far,far heaven. The tree wakes up from the meditation, with a new life, developed in the form of leaves all over it’s body. Then it is celebration again, of a new life of vibration, growth and vitality, the wind and birds and insects sharing the joy.
Visualizing the above seen in my mind’s eye, sitting on the step of my house at Hyderabad, I was fully absorbed of the thought that why we, the human beings are deprived of such a painless casting away of bodies, as the leaves do and why should we die being brutally killed by a bus or a bomb or tortured in the hospital. If one goes by ‘ vasamsi geernani—- –‘, death should be as painless as removing a soiled shirt . But, often it is not so.
Seeing me seated motinless like a statue, my friend, Vishnu Namboodiri, who had just entered the house, with a prasadam packet in his hand, remarked, ‘darubhootho Murari,’ went inside and kept the packet in my pooja room. For me, there is no fixed time for bathing or eating or sleeping and Vishnu knows that. So, as a matter of routine, while returning from the temple, he brings prasadam everyday and leaves the packet in my pooja room.He knows that I enjoy applying a thin layer of sandal paste, anytime during day or night, after my bath .
Vishnu went inside the kitchen, prepared two cups of hot tea and placing one cup before me, said,
“Seeing you cocooned in deep thoughts, I recall a story about Murari Kavi”
“The predecessor of Kalidasa who composed ‘Sreekrishna karnamritham?’ I asked ,” which is said to excel Kalidasa’s works in sheer poetic beauty?”
“Yes. As a boy he always used to get lost in thoughts and when he failed to answer a question in the class, his teacher made a sarcastic remark, “dharubhoodho Murari” meaning Murari has become (as immobile as) as a trunk.
The boy immediately, got up from his seat and recited the following sloka, which he had instantaneously composed.:
(Murari is one of the several names of Lord Mahavishnu, the God who is poetically described as relaxing on a serpent bed in the ocean)
‘Aeka bharya prakrithi- rachala, chanchala cha dwideeya,
Puthro- ananga, thribhuvna jayee, chandrasooryowcha nethran,
Bhoghee sayya, bhavanmudahi, vahanam pannagari,
Smaram,smaram swajnakalham, darubhootho Murari”
” His one wife (Bhoomi), doesn’t move at all, whereas, the other( Lakshmi), is always on the move.;; His son Kama (despite having lost his physical body), conquers the three worlds; sun and moon (with exactly opposite characters ) form His eyes ;Vahanam is Garuda, the celestial bird and his opponent (Serpent) is the bed; house is (the noisy and turbulent) sea. Brooding over his family skirmish, Murari became a trunk.”
Concluding his story, Vishnu asked me “what made you a ‘daru’, when you don’t have any of the problems the Supreme God has ?’
“True. I have none of His problems, fortunately” I replied” but I have seen or heard about several men and women who had become “darus” or even stones, due to various problems. The foremost, among them are Ahalya and Appukuttan, the former, wife of Gowthamamaharshi and the second person my neighbor, who got married recently.
“You equate Ahalya of the epic Ramayana with your neighbour!” Vishnu exclaimed.
”Ahalya is always in my mind as other unfortunate epic women- Sita, Kunthi, Gandhari and Droupathy are” I clarified and continued.
” Ahalya would have become a ‘daru’ much before her husband cursed her and converted her lovely body into a hard stone. She simply could not believe that the mighty king of devas could stoop to such a low level and steal the honor of a Rishi’s wife ;It was nothing but ‘chappatharam’ in Pattar’s language.
“Indra could have ordered the lord of fire to burn her or the wind lord to lift her up physically or
the lord of death,”katham karo’ , convert her into another Ramba or Urvashi and enjoyed her dancing,instead of stealing her honour” said Nambudiri. ” I am also surprised that he was given a predominant place above Maha Vishnu, and worshiped.”
‘”There is some gulumal there , Namboori,” I said,” after all, these stories were not written by a single person; there were several authors spread over several centuries. We don’t know which are the original and which the interpolation”
“Yes, like Balivadam.I cannot believe Rama prompted the two monkey brothers to fight each other and killed one of them, hiding behind a tree. He would have said, ‘Seetha or no Seetha but I will never do such a crime’. My belief is confirmed by his subsequent action, when he permitted the disarmed enemy Ravan to go back home and come better prepared to the battle field next day, instead of killing him on the spot .
“You justify the action of Ahalya’s husband?”
‘These Rishies, who were not in a position to control their ego and anger, even after performing thapas for several years, are not worth to be called Rishies.. You and I are much better than them . But, if the story of Indra’s committal of the crime is true, then Ahalya would have, on her own, undertaken the penance in the from of a stone, for self purification. Hundred gowthama’s wouldn’t be capable of cursing such a virtuous woman. After all, she tops the list of panchakanyas” I was silent for sometime brooding over Ahalya’s plight and then added, “If I get an opportunity, I myself would like to become a stone, facing the tortures of the wind and sun and rains, pray for ages and ages and wait for the day when the lotus feet of my Lord will touch my head. What a waiting it was, Vishnu ? Don’t you worship Indra just for giving Ahalya that opportunity? otherwise, she would have just passed away, into the cavern of past, like any other sannyasini”
“Mathi, mathi-enough! Don’t get emotional. Tell me about your neighbor, Appukuttan?” asked Vishnu.
‘That is a more interesting story”, I said. ” Though he was after a pig tailed, brown eyed beauty, bowing to the wishes of his parents, Appu married Alamu, selected by his parents, at the age of 35. I accompanied him to see the girl along with his parents and two unmarried sisters. Appu’ s mother Pattumami, praised the beauty of Alamu, mentioned that she was distantly related to her and as a kid, had played with her son, who was 12 years elder. She would not, therefore, take a pie as dowry, though would not reject if her father gives a house or a car or whatever he wants to, for her daughter’s comforts and happiness. Alamu was no doubt a beautiful girl, but, she would look more beautiful “if the line separating her dark hairs was shifted slightly towards left from it’s present middle position”, suggested Appu’s mother.
Appukuttan and Alamu got married and her father gave much more than what Appu’s mother expected as dowry. As suggested by Pattumami, Alamu changed her hair style, from ‘nermakidu’ to konamakidu’, shifting the hair separating border to one side, before entering the wedding stage. She hated her own face with the changed hair -style, when she peered at the mirror, but overtly applauded her mother-in-law’s suggestion and endured her new look.
For the first few weeks, Pattumami treated her newly arrived daughter-in- law kindly but when she found that her son was leaning more towards his wife, she was afraid that she might lose him permanently in which case,she feared unnecessarily, that her two daughters would remain unmarried. Under no circumstances, would she allow him to go out of her control, mami decided and started finding fault with Alamu for all her actions. All her complaints were of minor nature such as coffee was not tasty, the sugar dabba was displaced to the second shelf of the cupboard from the first, the vegetables were not cut evenly etc. The compassion and concern for each other gave way to conflict and confrontation .
Despite the fact that Alamu was a working girl and returned from the office late sometime, neither mami nor her daughters extended a helping hand to her in house keeping. .On the other hand, she evolved so many methods to impress on her son that his wife was good- for- nothing and the entire household activities were carried out by mami and her daughters. Following the behavior of animals in herd- attacking their prey, they moved cautiously and communicating through eye signals, surrounded Alamu and pounced on her at every opportunity.
Alamu tolerated all the humiliation and ill treatment with the proverbial patience of mother earth but the hell broke out when one day, the Pattumami, despite her best attempts didn’t find any cause to spit venom on her daughter-in-law and therefore commented on her hair style:
“This house became a hell the moment you entered with this hair stylel-‘ Kona makudu vandhu kudumbham kuttichorachu.” She cursed and abused her.
Amala, with her priestly discipline had so far, worn all insults with dignity and rejected the natural intent to lash out. “‘I have swallowed enough insults and has no space to receive any more” she thought and told the old woman. in a low, measured firm voice:” Look, Amma! I changed my hair style only on your suggestion and I am not going to change it again to satisfy you. I have however, one solution for this.”
And without waiting for the response, she walked into the beauty parlor next door, got her hair trimmed and shortened in such a way that there was no more scope to turn the hairs one way or the other.
Hearing the shouts and counter shouts from his house, consequent to the above action,
Appu became a ‘daru”
‘ I looked at Namboodiri, who was delighted to hear my story and slowly opened his betel box. nodding his head in applauding Amala’s action.
I am sure that you would have come across several such instances and in future, if you happen to see such ‘darus’ or you, yourself become a daru, remember what Murari, the child poet did. Immediately after ‘daru bhutho murari”, he sang ‘Santhakaram, bhujagasayanam- –“, that famous dyanslokam of Bhishmapitamaha, praising the sleeping posture of the Lord, in peace and tranquility.
Inspite of all his family problems, If the Lord Vishnu could maintain his “santhakaram” and continue to sleep on the serpent bed, in absolute peace, why not we ?
.” I am definitely, not capable of doing it ,” said Vishnu,” of course, that is why He is Mahavishnu and I am just, Vishnu”
Namboodiri picked up his silver betal-leaf box, moved his head up and down once as if to say that he was happy to be ‘just Vishnu and not Mahavishnu’, put on his upper garment and walked towards the exit.
I could hear his ‘ Balea,Balea’ sound in appreciation of my story, when he started pedaling his bicycle. Or was it in appreciation of the tranquility and smile-‘santhakaram’- of my neighbour Appukuttan, who was then approaching from the opposite direction?