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The smell of the soil – chapter 10

“Appa, I fail to understand why you should be so remorseful,?” asked Ramya, unable to find better words to solace the wounded soul. “You had no other go than doing what you did. The circumstances were so tiring, inescapable.”‘”Your acts were least selfish, solely to satisfy the minimum needs of a dying father.”  Consoled Chami.”If I were in your situation, I too would have acted the same way,” reacted Seshu.The remaining two, Ramu and his mother, sat silently, unable to find a single word to console the deeply depressed man, they themselves struggling to come out of the weight of the load compressing their souls.Ramya prepared some hot coffee quickly which everyone enjoyed as a stress-reliever.Swamy continued:Next time, before coming to the hospital, I went to meet Gowder, having decided after a prolonged mental war, to seek a hand loan. I explained to him that father was in a bad state and an advance of fifty rupees would be extremely helpful. He handed over the amount and when I hurried to assure that it would be returned soon in installments, he was kind enough to respond, ‘Periaya samiyai nalla pathukkunko. panathai nan pathukkaraen- you take care of your father- I will take care of the monetary part.””Swamy vanthirukkan-Swamy has come.”  Mother, sitting near him, informed Appa.”Asthiyai odara vellathlaem podanam- my ashes should be immersed in flowing water too. ” His voice was low but not very incoherent.
The next  instruction was, “kaathilaenthu kadukkanai eduthu ennodu kaariyathukku eduthukkunkol- remove my kadukkans, ear tops and use the money for my last rites ”
We never wanted to do that. Gowder’s assurance was a ‘chumai thaanghi’ a weight supporter.
Two days continued liked that. I spent most of the time sitting with him reciting ‘Vishnusahsranamam’. His facial reaction, sometime, told me that he was hearing the mantras. I was not sure. But his lip movement had stopped. I realized that slowly that light was waning. Amma poured a few drops of Gangajalam to wet his tongue and also asked me to do the same. I did that and also whispered the panchakshara mantram into his right ear. I could virtually see that soul leaving the body, or I thought so, when his breathing slowed down and stopped.
‘Appa poyatchu, vizinthu namskaram pannu.”  Said  Amma, after she  prostrated at his feet. I did so and while getting up, touching  his feet, I remembered, how every time I prostrated before him, he used to bless me, lift me up, holding my shoulders and hug me close to his broad chest.
Krishnaswamy Gouder was waiting near Appa’s bed. He too prostrated and gave me some cash. ” Ayyarae, Pitchandi will be with you and send him to me whenever you want any help. ” He said pacifying me, ” I have to leave now for Coimbatore on some urgent work and shall see you on return.”
The total cash I had including Gouder’s latest contribution was seventy rupees which was just sufficient to meet that day’s expenses. I did not want to sell Appa’ s  kadukkans as I want to keep them as a parting gift for the family, from him.
“What about chithappas, your siblings?” enquired Ramyu, ” they didn’t come to see thatha”.
“They could not come. One was in the hospital with a broken rib and the other immobilized at home with some viral attack,” Sundram clarified, ” they had sent some money but it reached only after a week.”
Pitcahandi was the only one to accompany me to the cremation ground other than the vaadyar and his people who carried the dead body.
I recalled several instances when, hundreds of pandits used to follow Appa to the Yagasalas .The memory of several villagers crowding our house- frontage during the festival time to seek his suggestion and advice also filled my heart. Had his death occurred in our village, his last journey would never have been so lonely.
After paying vaadyar his dakshinai for that day, the balance amount I gave to Pitchandi for buying fuel for incinerating the pyre. While the tongues of the fire were growing
towards the sky, I imagined that Appa’s soul was transcending beyond the borders of this world. How often he used to grow the sacred fires for homams !The fire waves were slowly receding. Alas, there was no enough fuel ! And I didn’t have a pie with me !
While I was looking at the sky, not knowing what do to do, Pitchandi, pulled out a handful of varatties, cow dung cakes, from the heap piled before the caretaker’s hut, which was in the same premises but a few yards away.  When he, stealthily pulled the second lot, the caretaker came rushing, shouted, “thiruttu rascal_ you wretched thief,”  and was about to slap him. Instantly the caretaker’s wife came out of the hut, and yelled at her husband, ” eriyaratu pappanda, pavi. It is  a Brahmin’s body which is on the pyre.”  pushing her husband aside, she threw enough firewood to feed the fire to complete the job and turning towards him, said in a pathetic voice, ” En vayathilae oru pootchi, pottu valarallae, you could not give me an off-spring, who knows that this Brahmin’s blessing will not fulfill our desire ?”The next day when I went to collect the ashes, I gave Kuppamma, the caretaker’s wife some ten rupees, which I had borrowed from a friend but she refused to accept.
The Brahmin’s blessing did fulfill her desire. An year later, when we were sitting on the front veranda , after  completing the first anniversary rituals , Kakkamma came to our house, with a sweet, tiny baby in her arms.
‘Ithu Ayya kudutha arulinka- this is the blessings of your father and you should give him a good name.” Kumbhidaromungo” the baby’s father who appeared from a corner where he was standing as a mark of respect, came forward and  kept a bunch of tender coconut seeds, probably from the tree behind his hut, before us, and pulled back reverently.Without any hesitation, I called the baby,’Dharmaseelan’ and rewarded that happy couple with some cash, clothes and food.
” How did you manage funds for the remaining rites spreading over more than ten days ?” enquired, Ramu,” you asked for help from your boss?”
“No, I sold Amma’s mangalsootram,” Swamy replied with no regret in his voice, ” anyway, its purpose was over.”Little Swan rushed weeping, from his bed  towards his grand pa and demanded, ” thatha, tell me too, a nice story””Sure, my jewel.”  Swamy made him to lie on his lap and told a story of a happy family where there was plenty of food to eat, wardrobe full of clothes to wear and piles of firewood and cow dung cakes in the cowshed to feed the fire.
The heart feels heavy after reading this.
Great Story.
I can smell the soil.
Hi Shiva

As always every thing has to end !!!
we will miss your story till you pen another
But the ending of this one was was very emotional
Did these things happen to your near and dear ones or is it imaginary
take care
Ramani krishnan
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