It may be unnecessary and even unethical to probe into another man’s ( more so into another woman’s) personal life, but there is a pleasure in doing that which I enjoy, as I enjoy all good things in life. It is therefore only natural that I became restless when my friend did say nothing about him, though we were meeting after decades. “ You are yet to tell me your story” I prompt him.
After collecting another one rupee per head as punishment dakshina, the guruswamy, sends his team again to the corridor near the flag post near the eastern gate to repeat the chant. Noticing that I was observing his counting the coins, he asks, “you know where this money goes to?”
‘Into your wife’s wallet if she is intelligent or into the Sabharimala hundi, if you are as innocent as you were as a college student” I do not want him to know that I doubt his integrity .
‘”No, to an orphanage” he clarifies.” Though my parents were outdated in their ideas and habits, they were kind enough to take care of my child. All the children discarded by their mother or father are not that lucky”.
‘Is this fellow divine or a fraud?” I ask myself again.
My curiosity to know about him increases and I ask him .”Your child was discarded by your wife?. Did you marry that black capsicum who used to spurt every time you go near her, like dry chilly pieces thrown into a pot of boiling oil? ”
“Unfortunately no” His eyes were moist . “It is OK, Venki, take it easy” I try to pacify him. “’If I shed tears for the girls who deserted me, there will be enough water here for Padmanabha and his entire celestial team to float”.
This is Venkittu’s life story as he told me, in brief:
Strangulated by the strictness of his ultra orthodox parents in observing customs and caste rules and crippled by the consequent isolation from the day to day world around, Venkittu , became an introvert and sadist to some extent. An above-average student in the class, he failed in the degree exam twice (I failed just once and had an excuse for that), refused to make another attempt and left for Madras and married a girl of different caste working in the film industry.
After helping him to earn a fortune, status, and a child, she left to help another man to provide similar support.
When he returned home with the kid, his father screamed as expected, mother pretended to protest but wanted to keep the child with her. “Tholanju po- do as you like and get lost”- the old man told his wife , revealing his weakness albeit authoritatively, as all the husbands used to do in those days. His love for the son and grand child has overtaken his orthodoxy
“No need Appa!” The son did not want to accept the obligation easily. “ You will spoil my child too with your over-dosage of Brahminical beverage .
The old man, unable to understand how he had poisoned his son’s thoughts, acts and future by adhering to certain values inherited from his ancestors and ordained by the scriptures, now his conviction overtaking his affection, suggested politely but firmly, “Sarida, (it is OK with me). Get remarried or admit your child in an orphanage”
But Venkittu, having tasted married life, was afraid of handing over the kid to another woman, nor wanted his son to be labeled as an orphan while he was alive. The little one was lucky to have the care and affection of his grand parents and Venkittu left for his place of working.
The ayyappas are back after completing the assignment given by the guruswamy and he did not bother to ask them whether they felt the presence of God in their company. Instead, He asks them a question which shocked me.
“Did any one notice the colourful, meaningful mural inscription on the walls of the sanctum, while mounting the steps for the Darshan ?’’’
“I didn’t, I didn’t” I volunteers to reply though I had seen the nude pictures and also knew that the question was not addressed to me.
My friend repeats the question, this time specifically facing his team and all of them, without a single exception, reply that propelled by the anxiety to see the God, they saw nothing around them , not even live men and women leave away the murals of the four women with no cloth on them .
“That is a lie” I yelled, though I have no business to interfere
“Yes, you are right” Venki said and turning to his followers, chided them, “ayyappas are expected to say nothing but truth”
“Another one rupee per head?” I was anxious to know.
“Not now” the guruswamy replies and takes his followers to the corridor on the north side, and pointing his finger at a pillar close to the entrance to the shrine asks,
“Are you able to see that figure carved on the first pillar, next to the pathway, to your right?”
No one can miss it .
It is an erotic image of a young woman, with no clothes on, squatting on the floor with her legs wide opened, her long hands firmly pressed on the floor!
‘Atrocious! Unpardonable” I yelled pretending to close my eyes with my palms but viewing the natural beauty through the finger gaps ,
‘You, a revered guruswamy direct the other ayyappas to look at the image of a disrobed devil?”
“Sivaswamy!” He looked at my eyes with a smile and wanted to say something but I stopped.
‘I am not a swamy”
‘You are.” He was calm and his reply had clarity.
‘All are swamis for an ayyappa, once he takes a vow and wear the sacred mala’
‘Me too?” I could hardly believe that I could be one.
‘’You,as well as that image which you are watching through the corner of your eyes”
Before leaving , turning towards me, with a sincere smile on his face, Venkittu makes a simple statement which makes me speechless: “Sex is divine, Sivaswamy!”
Between you and me
I can understand your worry. I wanted to share the murmurs of the mild cold Onam- breeze, beyond the Valyar forests, with you and retire to my cocoon after penning a chapter or at the most two, but things are going out of control . Pray along with me to Sri.Ananthpadmanabhan not to make this story ‘anantham’ (endless) but make it ‘aanantha pradham- a divine experience . After all He is the ‘Jagadhanandha karaka- the source of absolute peace and utter happiness to the entire world”