Many time it happens . Undergoing hundred problems, climbing the steep steps, waiting in the que for hours together, tolerating kicks, pushes and shouts you reach the sanctum of your favorite God and exactly at that time deeparadhanai takes place. When you can see the Lord in all His glory, though for half a minute, you close your eyes, and stand still like a lamp post. I go to Guruvayoor with a dozen complaints . I want to weep, scold and bombard the kid of Ambadi for His neglecting me. But when I reach him , eyes swells, throat chokes and I am unable even to say, ‘ente Krishna’, my God ! That was exactly what happened to Kuchel Sarmaji when he met his classmate, Dwarakadeesh..
When I opened my eyes, I saw shocked to see my father sitting near Sharada teacher. Contrary to my expectation, he didn’t raise his right hand towards the entrance of the house, and sound ’oom’, directing me to go inside. She was murmuring something to teacher probably to soothe her grief. She didn’t respond to him.
“Where are they going monae (my child ) in such a great hurry?” teacher enquired in a shy voice, partially opening her eyes, as if she was still under a trance, viewing the silvery clouds moving past the moon.
“perhaps, to meet their mother or lover” I replied.
There was complete silence for a long time and I could realise that teacher’s mind was turning more and more turbulent.
” Why don’t you sing an ashtapadi, ammey ( mom ) ?” I suggested, “there is no better medicine to relieve inner turbulence and rejuvenate your sagging spirit, than that lovely song”. Yes, that unknown woman had drawn me so close to her, that unknowingly I called her mom. “Ya Devi sarvabootheshu matru roopena samsthitha”—yes, that Devi had come in the form of the Sharada teacher, I guessed.
“I would love to sing” she replied, but there is no space in my heart now, even for that Perennial flow of Love. And I don’t want my Lord to wait outside. You sing “
I tried to sing, but words were getting blocked within.
“After some time” I said.
She understood. “Thank you for sharing my grief” she said. Without knowing what it was, I looked at her eyes and hestatingly asked, ” where is your husband, mom?“
”Very close to me, but very far.” Her eyes were turning moist.
My father, consoled her, and suggested, “Sharade! get inside and sleep like a child”
Like a little child, she obeyed him and went inside the house.
I too returned to room. The ocean inside me was roaring and in that turbulence, Chami pattar’s snoring was hardly audible. I didn’t dislike him now, after I heard from dad that he was carrying in his mind an Indian ocean and his bursts and blows seen outside are nothing but the overflow of the inner turbulence.. We often judge people from their external appearance, behavior and fail in our judgement.
”What is my dad’s relationship with Sharada teacher? What was the meaning of her words “very close and very far?” Why was my dad so concerned about her, as to come out and share her solitary sadness? Right from the moment I came to this place, she was showering unexplained affection on me. why?
The incidents of the evening invaded me again. I had asked my cousin, ” Parasu, who is that charismatic lady with aristocratic appearance, long eyes full of compassion, little make up and liberal hairs, who followed me like a faithful servant, watched my movements and cautioned me like an alert mother and gave me bath like a devoted wife ? She can’t be our relative as she is not a brahmin. If she is a only a friend of this family why should she shower so much affection on me ? What is her relationship with me? “
Parasu, just smiled, pushed a handful of betel leaves into his mouth and moved away. My anxiety increased.
Krishnaiyer was sitting alone in a corner of the hall , his mouth also bloated with betel leaf mix. Unable to open it, he signaled to take a seat near him. The moment I sat down, he got up as if in protest and moved towards the gate. The purpose, I realized later, was to spit the paste out his mouth. Had he said, ‘excuse me’ I wouldn’t have misunderstood him. But such formalities were unknown to the elders those days.
” Amman, can I ask you something ” I muttered moving closer to him. He moved his hand to tell that I could go ahead. You must watch the hand movement of the elders of yesterday. Move the right palm up twice, as a child plays with a small ball,means ‘go ahead’ or ‘he has left’. If that action is followed by raising eyes towards the roof, ‘ he passed away’ . If that palm moves sideways twice, it means ‘no way’ . If it stands straight combined with a slight movement of eye lids, the meaning is ‘wait for a moment ‘ and if the palm pushes air down, the meaning is, sit down.
The hand signals would have been the origin of our dance forms.
” For the heaven’s sake my dear Amman, tell me who is that Malayalee woman ?” I pleaded, ” now that your moth is free, I am sure that you will answer my query”
” Ask Ramswamy, your uncle ” he replied and as to avoid further prodding, he got up, pushed his umbrella under his arm and moved away. The seed of doubt was growing in my mind like a poisons tree. I rushed into the kitchen, dragged my uncle to a corner and thundered,” who is that Malayalee woman to you ?”
” You didn’t have your coffee ?” He laughed away my anger and replied in a cool voice, “She lives close to this house”
” I know where she lives ” I continued in the same pitch. What I wanted to know is, is she related to us and if so how. I want an answer and not your coffee.”
“She is close to all of us and closer to one among us.”
” Who is that one among us ?”
Uncle lost his cool. Collecting his upper cloth and forcefully striking it in the air, he shouted, ” Have you come here for doing CID job or to marry ?”
Lalitha appeared from no where .’‘ What is happening here Mama ?”
“Nothing much my child ” Uncle pacified, “this nephew of mine is pitying the boy who will land here one day to marry you ” Some people suddenly regain their normalcy, even without the hissing sound a hot iron pan makes while dipped in a cold water tub.
” Athimbar ! ” Lalitha screamed and held uncle’s shoulders and shook them in anger.
” Why are you angry with me, my dear ? ” Uncle admonished her, ” he said something to irritate you but you attack me allowing him to enjoy the fun ?”
Lalitha turned towards me. “This is very unfair Athimbar, moving around in a suspicious manner at wee hours in your guest’s house and do some silly investigation “
“Your unwanted strong reaction is weakening you and brightening the image of your sister, Lalitha ” I admonished her and added, ” for your information, I am not a guest here. You will be one when I become the owner of this house in a few hours.”
” Sorry for that, Athimbar”, she tried to pacify me but suddenly raised her hood, “but please remember, my sister is not a planet to shine on borrowed light. She is a star”