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The smell of the soil – chapter 08

Soon after the boys returned from their work, Chami asked his father to get ready to return home, after food.
“Let Seshu stay for two more days,” Swamy requested.
” Yes, Charm, “Ramu seconded his dad and told his friend, ” You proceed now. I will drop your dad this week end “
“No problem,”  Chami consented, “bring your parents too .”
At the dinner table, Chami raised the issue of the hospitalization of Ramu’s grand pa. “Mama, tell us what happened, before
I leave”   He requested Swami.
” Why are you anxious to know about the horror, I went through.” Swamy said, nodding his head  to say, ‘no’ .”Let it die with me. “
“Appa, how long are you going to carry that albatross on your neck” Ramu asked and pleaded, “share with  us. you will have some relief.”
“And Appa,  we should know our family history.” Ramya too requested.
After food, Swamy continued the story of his plight soon after coming to Pollachi.
” ‘Speak, truth; speak always truth; speak truth under any circumstances.’  This was Appa’s first dictum to his children, much before teaching us the alphabets. The second one was, ‘ never accept anything from an outsider, given free;  and never aspire for others property, under any circumstances.  And the third was, ‘ walk holding your head high and straight and bend it only before your elders, gurus or any respectable living being  and God. “
Appa, had followed his own rules, till his end, but I deceived him. “
He paused for a moment and clearing the sweat on his forehead with his upper cloth, continued.
“On the day he was admitted in the hospital, the first question my father asked me was, ‘paisa irukkoda ?’ -Have you enough money for the treatment ? “
“Yes, Appa” I replied without blinking. That was my first lie to him, as the amount I had, was meager.. Probably that noble soul knew my financial condition and that was why he didn’t last even a week. That night, we hardly slept as he was continuously talked despite  his irregular breathing and irritating body pain.  ‘ I was no doubt a pauper, often afflicted by the biting poverty but my unflinching faith in God and repeated recitation of hymns , was a great rejuvenatory aid. It was like wearing a spotless veshti, after bath and applying viboothi on the body and remaining serene throughout the day…”I am clean, physically and mentally- I always use to feel and that feeling stood like an indomitable watchman at the the main gate of my mind.
‘It was not easy to lead the life, I lead. There were several  diversions ready to overtake my principles and several attractions to subjugate my determination to follow the virtuous path. My unscrupulous adherence to religious and spiritual principles  harmed unpardonably and irrevocably the interests of my wife and children. Had I chosen to work even as a gumastha, as you are forced to,  now, your mother would have had more than a couple of saris, which were her only assets apart from her mangalsoothram and metties. She would have perhaps hoped for the  minimum comforts a wife, mother and housewife was entitled for but I failed to provide even that. She would have perhaps, cursed me. Who knows the mind of women ? What is the purpose of being a wife when her husband could not provide a square meal a day and a new cloth once a year?
‘You and your brothers did well in studies and you would have received merit scholarships too, had I sent you to college. Had there been an institution for higher studies close to our village, I would have certainly allowed you to go, but to send you to Palakkad was an impossible task then, as I had no means of meeting your hostel expenses.
‘Come close to me,’ he directed and continued,’ Rasu vaadyar told that our land has gone and that was the main reason for you to leave the village and come here to work. I have no complaints. While leaving our ancestral house I knew that I would never be able to go back and live there. That was why I collected a handful of mud from there, placed on my head reverently and another handful I have brought with me which is placed in our pooja room in a small earthen pot. Throw that mud on my body, before you light it up, so that it will carry the smell to my next birth.’
‘Appa,asambandham pesathunkol- don’t talk non sense; you are hail and hearty and I will take you home in a couple of days’  I protested, but he continued.
” Your wish will not be fulfilled . Death is awaiting at the threshold of this building to carry me away from you. Appa came in my dream two nights before and asked, ‘Konthai Vishnusahasranamami japitchukko-you can start reciting Vishnu sahasranaamam. His tall frame, thick tuft, forehead, broad chest and hands with white horizontal triple straight and bright lines, is still visible to me now.
“Appa turned to the front door of his ward as if he was looking at some one standing there and continued, ‘ thank god, he is still there; he will not go without me. Swamy you go and fall at the feet of your grand father. He is a great soul’
‘And do not forget to spread my ashes on the cremation ground near our village pond  where  the leftover of  our ancestors are mingled, irrecoverably,after dropping a spoonful in our pond.You need not go to Kashi or Triveni.  Go, say abhivadhayae to thataha” .
I placed my hands on his forehead and called the nurse to check the body temperature . It had suddenly shot up.
The nurse called the duty doctor and an injection was given.” Let him sleep. If you wish, you can go home , refresh and come back.” the doctor advised.
While walking towards home, I remembered that I too had a dream a couple of nights before. A brahmanan of Appa’s description stood before me and instructed,’ Swamy poonal edam pottukko’  -change your sacred thread to the other shoulder”.
For the first time since Appa was admitted in the hospital the fear that we might lose him gripped my soul . Added to that was Amma’s fearsome words that there were bad omen when father was taken to the hospital. ” One of the pictures from the wall of the pooja room slipped from the nail and fell on the floor. Its glass frame shattered .Moreover, my left eye has been fluttering for no reason. Ennodu thali balam poyatchuda Swamy-I am going to lose my mangalsootram'”
The  cyclonic storm  has started.
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