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The smell of the soil – chapter 09

” No doubt, one would like his parents to be with him, for ever,” Seshu said to Swamy ,” but your Appa lived long, lived like a yogi  and was it not time for him to call it a day, drop down his mundane frame and leave for paralokam, the other world, ?” he asked.
“You are right,” I agreed, but I didn’t want him to die at that time for the simple and shameful reason that I didn’t have a pie even for his cremation, leave away the thirteen days-long rituals, following that.  Gowder  would have given some advance, but how to ask when I hardly worked for him only for a few days . And it was also against the principle Appa had taught me .”
Evey one felt extremely sad.  Ramu and Ramya were shocked to hear that revelation. Ramu knew before, that his father was financially broke but had never realized the situation was so lamentable.
” What a pitiable condition, Appa!” Ramya mourned. ”hmm, then what else did patty say ?” She asked. Ramu and Cheenu looked at each other sharing their mental disturbance . Seshu lodged his right forefinger on his nose to share others concern.
Fear, fertilized by intuitions and imaginations, was growing like a huge palm tree in Amma’s  mind and she was so alarmed as if she was seeing the fast approaching death, like a monstrous predator, right before her.
” ‘Swamy, I am telling you honestly,” my  mother, with a heavy heart and swollen eyes, told me. ” something deep in my heart tells me, that Appa is going to leave us soon, to reach paramapadam (salvation) which he has been talking about,  more frequently these days. When I closed my eyes for a moment, sitting in a corner, a woman with disheveled hair and devoid of kumkum- dot on her forehead, appeared  at  the front gate and asked for alms. I went with a handful  of rice and a small coin, she didn’t accept them but pointed her finger at my mangalsutram and asked for that. I do not remember now whether it was a dream or my illusion but she was not there when I opened my eyes. Your Appa is an astrologer. Ask him the position of  planets in his horoscope” She thought for a moment and continued, ‘don’t do that. He may suspect that we doubt about his longevity.’
‘Amma, rub off all these apprehensions which are nothing but the product of your weak mind and superstitious beliefs”  I advised her but suddenly paused for a moment, as that ‘something deep in mind’ laughed at me and ridiculed,” Swaminatha, you are not speaking truth, again. Didn’t you shiver with fear, when your father told that he saw your grandfather standing at the entrance of the hospital ward ?’
Amma wanted to see father . When we went near his bed, his eyes were closed and lips were moving as he was silently doing some ‘japam’, Vishnusahasranamamam, perhaps .
“Appa, mother has come to see you’ I told him. He gave out a hand signal asking her to take a seat . His lips continued to move. After a while, his eyes opened up when he  whispered at her ears, ” I could not keep up the promise I gave to the Agnibagavan, the god of fire, at the time of our wedding  that I would treat you like a  queen in my house. You were no better than a maid servant . In the next birth if I get a chance, I will repay my debt. Help me by praying for that.’
“‘Amma couldn’t say a word in reply. She wiped off  his tears with her sari tip, took his right hand towards her head, gazed at him reverently, got up, sat on the floor near his feet, held them close to her chest , slowly placed her head at his feet and sat motionless, closing her eyes, like a statue.
” ‘Swaminatha, konjam elaneer konduva- get me some tender coconut water, I feel thirsty’ Appa muttered, lifting his right palm and directing his thumb towards his partially opened mouth.
I put my hand in my pocket, there was not a pie in it . Before coming to the hospital, whatever I had in the wallet was handed over to Pichandy, Gowder’s servant,  for buying the school uniform, books, bags etc for the children. I wanted to go to Gowder’s house on the way to hospital and ask for a loan but didn’t do so as Amma was with me. I blinked for a moment looked around and noticed that there was a tender coconut seed  near the adjacent bed . Amma was still at Appa’s feet placing her head on them. I did not waver for a minute. Picked up that coconut, cut it open, transferred the water into a glass and slowly poured into Appa’s mouth, drop by drop, to the last one. His face  glew with satisfaction.”Namma aathu thenkaiyodu neer ethra madurama irukku. Devamritham than !- the water of the coconut from our backyard tree is so sweet, like divine nectar’ ‘nee nannaa iru, Swaminatha. you will never suffer in life’- Appa blessed me.
Then, he explained in a low voice, supplemented by his hand movement, how his father brought the coconut seed from their own farm  and planted it at their back yard on an auspicious day, when a garuda bird flew over their head. “Look, look, there is garudan flying below the Pazhani hill, which I can see from here, ” he chased me, ” go and see outside, worship the divine bird .”
I went out  to satisfy him; there was no bird in the sky but came and told him a lie again, ‘ yes, appa. Garudan is flying across the Pazhani hills.’
Then I went out again, blew on my head with palms and wept, ‘Appa, lies after lies, appa lies after lies.’
The son of the old man adjacent to Appa’s bed called me, from inside and asked, “Sami, did you give the coconut water to my father ?”
‘Amam appa. yes, I did. He asked for that and I gave him”
‘Romba nantri, romba nantri” he expressed his gratitude folding his hands at his chest, with unexplainable satisfaction and reverence and said, ‘ my father has passed away just new. How lucky he was to drink water from the hands of a sacred brahmanan!’
I shrunk under the weight of unbearable shame. The son believed my lie. But the soul that just departed would never pardon me.
“Lie, after lie, Appa; lie after lie appa ” I wept inconsolably that night.

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