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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 09

‘There is apparently a force in the Universe working towards order than disorder’Seshumama’s speech became confused, his face, left arm and leg got twisted.I knew that he had a paralytic stroke and in such cases, timely intervention and medical treatment are absolutely essential.
When I started the vehicle, to take him to the hospital, one “Ottappattar” (single brahmin) came from the opposite direction and though I do not believe generally in ‘sakunam’, I waited for a few minutes, went inside the house, drank a cup of water and then only started my car. I sincerely prayed that the guy who came from the opposite direction was not a brahmin but a chettiar or of any other poonal wearing caste !” stroke is a ‘brain attack’ that happens in the brain rather than in the heart”, explained,Dr.Rao.”Every minute lost, from the onset of symptoms to the emergency contact, cuts into the limited window opportunity for intervention. Longer the delay in getting the medical treatment, the more damage a stroke can do and the chances of recovery are less.”Dr.Rao admitted Seshumama in his own ward and said,” You did a good job in bringing him here in time. He will be under my direct supervision, though another expert will treat him.You all can go home and relax. The hospital will take care of his food and medicine requirement”None of us went back and in fact everyone came from home and also some friends, hearing the news.
I know that Dr Rao doesn’t like a crowd in wards. So, we all came out and after sending others home, I stayed back, seeing Vishnu Namboodiri, clad, as usual, in his ‘kasavu double’ and ‘melmundu’ and sitting under the tree, chewing pan, completely relaxed and smiling. Well built, fair skinned, pleasant mannered and jovial, Namboodiripad is, in looks and character, opposite to the dark and dry like a stick, ill mannered and irritating, Chamianna. Namboodiri has nothing to claim as his own, no house, no source of regular income, no family, except music and melody and love and goodness flowering in his heart; He spends every moment of his life, singing Sanskrit slokas and Malayalam poetry and katahkali songs, when he doesn’t chew betel leaves, which of course, he does every alternate hour.
“Periase, varu, onnu murukkam” (come, let us have chew of betel leaves). Vishnu invited me . I am not a regular pan chewer, but to do that along with my friends is a pleasure, inherited from my father. For my father, it was a celebration as well as a tonic to remove the stress and strain and also a constant companion. It was a pleasure to watch him slowly opening his silver casket, removing the top and bottom parts of the leaves, cleaning them by a gentle rub on hands and applying the calcium paste, slowly and leisurely as if the very purpose of taking birth in this world was to enjoy eating betel leaves.
Whenever there was a kathakali program around Palakkad, Krishnavadyar used to come all the way from Perinkulam, and as a child, I remember accompanying them to watch the shows.  Both of them used to sit in the front row with their ‘chellappetty’ and enjoy the dance and songs as well as eating betel leaves, through out the night. How content and happy they were, with these small pleasures, I used to think often, when, at later days,  I used to spent sleepless nights , due to some worry or other, real or imaginary, even after obtaining, fortunately, almost everything I asked for, from life.

‎”Look at that coconut tree’, Namboodiri said,”every part of it, the stem, the leaves, the seeds, even the outer shell of the seed are useful to us. When they die, apart from their flesh, the animals leave, their horns, claws,and skin, for our use and birds, their feathers. Only man, leaves nothing useful, when he quits the world”
“Be thankful to the Creator for that, Vishnu”, I said, ” Otherwise, we would not be talking like this, enjoying betel leaves; Someone would have killed us and taken away our skin or bones or nails or teeth.”
” Who was that madama, foreign girl, I saw, along with Seshumama’s family? Vishnu inquired about Liz .When I explained to him her background and that she was to marry mama’s son, Vishnu said,”Earth is but a small pebble on the beach when compared to the size of the known universe; the known universe again,a small grain of sand, when compared to the unknown one. We go on making compartments and compartments, within that small place, close all the windows and doors and struggle for pure air.””Are you looking for your antharjanam ( his deceased wife), among the stars,Vishnu ?”‘”Why should I look up, when she is within me and not a single moment passes without her touch,without her smile,without her laugh, within me.Death is not the end of life; but a part of it.If you still wants to believe that she has left me”, he continued with a smile,
“yes, she got down at Coimbatore and I will be getting down at Erode or Salem. Ithoru theevandi yathrayado,Periyase !”(life is nothing but a train journey)
He got up, put his melmundu on his shoulders and closing eyes enjoyed the Viswaroopam of the Lord,”Anekabahoodara vakthra nethram—” kings and slaves, humans,animals and birds, sun , moon stars and sky, everything living and non living,seen and unseen, heard and unheard, rushing towards that huge mouth,in terrible speed.
“What a magnificent woman  Leelavathi was?”, I thought while walking towards the car along with Vishnu, “And she was his only asset, and when she was taken away, Vishnu became not living, though alive, a walking corpse . He could, however, manage to hide agony by wrapping it with with his loud laughter and infectious smile.
Seshumama was brought home after a week and Liz wanted me and Meera to join Seshu family for dinner that night. Dr.Rao with family also was invited.
” I have made all arrangements for the wedding of Ravi with Lakshmi. Give me the matter for printing the invitation card and arrange for your purohit”, Dr.Rao said. “The wedding will be performed strictly according to your customs and there will be no interference from our side”
‘Won’t it be better to perform Pitchumani’s wedding also on the same muhoortham?”,I asked, “because there are hardly ten days left for their return to U.S.A”
“Ya, Pitch’s wedding also can be performed the same day,” said Liz,” but not with me. My short stay in this house changed my thinking, my vision and attitude towards family life. I have decided that I will not stand in between Pitchu and his parents as, all said and done, there is bound to be a vaccuum between me and the elderly couple who speak different language and are used to a different type of living. I will not be able to cook what they like when they come to US and I will not even be able to share their feelings. Pitchu was not born in wilderness as a cactus in a desert; he was raised in a garden. I never realised before coming here that the family bondage could have such an influence on an individual. l love Pitchu now, more than any time before.  We had discussed this issue in detail and Pitch agreed to accept my decision reluctantly.
I have found a girl for Pitch in Meera, whom I feel will be an ideal partner for him. Dr.Rao has already spoken to Meera’s parents and they are willing for this alliance provided Meera agrees for this proposal.. I think Ravi already had a talk with Meera yesterday and her response is positive. Athai is happy about this alliance and she has agreed to obtain the permission from Pitch’s parents.  I am sure that Perias  too will have no objection.
“I have now a second home in Hyderabad and have found my parents in mama and mami. I will come here every year, for Mother’s Day”
”Mera thamaak karabh kardiya, thum” I told Meera and hugged her.
While going to bed, I remembered what novelist R.K. Lashmanan, said while concluding his short story ‘ My old home’.
” Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said to not exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually, the earth had no roads to begin with, but when men pass one way, a road is made”
Weather we walk through the roads already made or make new roads, let us not claim them as our own.
‘There is apparently a force in the Universe working towards order than disorder”, my father used to say, “call it by any name you like’
 Bon voyage Liz and happy wedding to the other youngsters !
(Concluded )
Hi Siva,
It is very sad that the saga of Pitchumani has to come to an end

really enjoyed this
I am in a vacation in London with my wife to be with my son and DIL
It kept me going
Thank you
ramani krishnan

Thanks for being with me to hear this story patiently.
Love and regards,
from Vaancouver

Respected Sivasubramanian ji,
I used to read your mails and this Pitchumani story is very nice.  I appreciate your way of writting.  May God bless you as well as the couples you
have mentioned i.e. Ravi & Lakshmi and Pitchu & Meera.
With kind regards,
M.N. Mani Iyer


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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 08

“Padha, Perias. Airport podham” he hurried me to accompany him to the airport,” Ravi is coming for a short vacation.I have selected a couple of girls for him and I want to perform his wedding if he chooses one of them”.
Dr.Rao is a leading cardiologist and his son is a software boy working in U.S.
“Fine, but on the way, I would like to call on a friend at Tarnaka”
”Okey, you don’t mind my coming to your friend’s house?”
“Not at all”
”Seshadri Nilayam’ looked refreshed and rejuvenated.  The bamboo chairs bought by Mama, at Rs. 10.00 each , soon after his wedding, have been replaced with leather sofas, and with matching window curtains and wall hangings,the reception hall looked grand. Within a short period of 3 days, Liz has earned the love and affection of the family, especially that of Alamumami and I realized that language is not indispensable, when the hearts develop a silent communication skill of their own,when there is a flow of love in between. Seshumama and athai also told me that they too liked Liz.
Pitchu, while talking to Dr.Rao realized and revealed that his son was well known to him and they were classmates. Pitchu’s sister,
Lakshmi served us ‘chai’ and some snacks
”Ee pappa chala anthanga unthikatha, Perias” ( is she not really good looking?), Rao commented and then in his typical simple and straight forward style, asked Lakshmi “Yeamma, na Ravine pellicheskkundava?”( will you marry my son?)
Except one person, we all thought that it was an innocent joke made in good spirit and just smiled.The person who took it seriously was Chamianna, who, while entering the house along with his wife, overheard Dr.Rao’s remarks and asked Seshumama,” Ee kazuveridaman aaruda? Nammudey veettil kkeri pennu chothikkan?”(who is this scoundrel to come to our house and ask for the hands of our daughter?)
Dr.Rao,  fortunately could not follow the question and before further damage could be done, Pitchu cleverly took the visitor to the side room and on the way, seeing Liz, asked Pitchu,” Ethukattil ninnu kittee, ee vella korangu?'(from where did you catch this albino ape?) . Again, he turned back and asked Seshumama, “Oii, Lakshmikkippo thalkarakkamonnum illayea?. Avalodu apasmaram poora poyi kozanthai sowkkiyama irukkala?”.
(hope Lakshmi is free now from the epilepsy problem, she had earlier?)
When she was a kid, Lakhmi experienced seizures once, due to high fever and the wicked pattar remembered that ‘divyastahram’ now, to shoot at the innocent girl’s future.
His arrows, however, failed to hit the targets.
Chamianna, a distant relative of Seshumama, is basically from Vaikkom and like some pattars of south kerala of olden days, talks mostly in Malayalam and uses the words such as ‘kazhuveridamon’ frequently,without worrying the bad meaning they carry. He doesn’t have good opinion about anyone in the world, and enjoys interfering in others’ matters. He never shares the happiness of others; so he is always unhappy. He is jealous of others prospering; so he never prospers. He has worked as a cook,school teacher,vadyar, bus driver,watch repairer and a transport company owner but was a failure in everything he did because of his bad manners,ego and crooked way of dealing. The God, however, in His unique way, provided a remedy for all his badness by
selecting, Meenamami, as his life partner. She is a wonderful woman, full of grace,kindness and affection and whenever I see that charming woman, I used to wonder, how she could be so smiling and look peaceful in spite of having such an unworthy husband.
As he couldn’t throw out Chamianna from his house, Pitchu wanted us to move out and asked Elizabeth,
“Liz, shall we also go to airport to receive Ravi?’
Meenamami said that she would be leaving that evening to her village and asked Pitchu whether she could also join us to the airport to spend some time with Elizabeth.
I realised later that actually the purpose of her accompanying us was to talk to Dr.Rao about the good qualities of Lakshmi.
“I am not related to Seshumama”, She told Dr.Rao, in Telugu, ‘but I know that family for the past several years. They live a simple and decent life and there is harmony and understanding , love and affection among the members. Lakshmi is a girl of exemplary character and intelligence. She will be an asset to any respectable family. Being a man of conventional thinking, Seshu may have some reservation, because, though your socioeconomic status is much higher than his, you are a Vashnavite and speak a different language. But these problems are not insurmountable and I can talk to Sehu and convince him . But before that, if you did make the proposal seriously, let your son meet Sehu’s people and if they also agree with you, talk to Lakshmi and let you know whether he wants you to go ahead”
” I am serious about this alliance ” Dr.Rao said,” Perias has mentioned earlier about Seshumama and now I have heard from you too. I want Ravi to see the girl today itself on our way back and give his opinion”
I was surprised at the turn of events. I went to Seshumama’s house to enquire about Pitch’s wedding arrangements, could not speak a single word about it but now we are discussing about his sister’s wedding, the proposal for which came from a friend who appeared unexpectedly. I wished Meera were with me.
Meena mami wanted to talk to Seshumama before Ravi goes to see the girl and moreover she wanted to remove her husband from the scene. So, she told Dr. Rao that it would be inhuman to trouble the boy who would be tired after a long journey and Dr. Rao should talk to his son about this matter after a day or two allowing him time to take rest and relax.
On our way back from the airport, Meenamami told Pitchu,”Let us go to ‘Ananth jyothi’, first. I will prepare food for you all there . You eat and relax.I will pack off my husband. I don’t want him to see Elizabeth again ”
That was a great relief for all of us.
After returning home, while Meenamami was busy in the kitchen, I called Meera and briefed her about the developments. She was extremely happy about the proposal and suggested that in case we were not able to get rid of Chamianna, the meeting can be arranged in Anantha Jyothy .
But Meenamami did manage to pack of her husband and therefore we all went to ‘seshadri Nilayam’and contrary to our expectation, Seshumama did not reject the proposal outright, though he would have preferred to have an Iyer boy with Vibhuthi, instead of an Iyengar boy with Namam and speaking a language other than his mother tongue.
“Seshu, remember,” meenamami said,” You are aging and have two daughters to be married; your two children are studying and you cannot burden to Pitchu any more, beyond a limit. Dr.Rao, is much above you in economical and social status and Pitchu knows Ravi well. Except for some variations in customs and social activities, Vaishnavites also follow the same scriptures as we do. Lakshmi speaks Telugu well and therefore language difference is not at all a problem. Anyway, mostly they will be talking only English”
Elizabeth also encouraged mama to take a positive decision, though she couldn’t differentiate between, Iyer-Iyengar or Tamil-Telugu or understand how a marriage could be fixed just in one meeting between an unknown boy and girl..
“Anyway, let Ravi and Laksmi see each other and then we will decide” Seshumama said.
Athai verified from Pitchu about the credentials  of Ravi and  Pitch confirmed that to his best knowledge, Ravi was not involved in any love affairs.
Next morning, after ascertaining from Pitchu about Laksmi’s educational qualification and some other details, Dr. Rao suggested that we meet informally in a hotel, so that in case, for some reason, the alliance didn’t materialize Lakshmi wouldn’t  feel bad. He invited all of us for a dinner.
It was a very friendly, casual meet and Ravi and Lakshmi were given enough opportunities to discuss and decide. Ravi wanted to have one or two meetings with her one to one, for which none from Seshumama’s side had any objection. Athai diplomatically asked a few questions to Ravi to know about his habits and way of living and Meera asked about his job, hobbies etc and also provided some information about Lakshmi on topics the youth are interested .
After a couple of days, I went to Seshumama’s house with some fruits and sweets and declared,
” Though I am against dropping costly kanchi pattu sarees in the homakundam, I believe that the benevolent sky, have  accept a few drops of ghee poured in the sacrificial fire and rewards the earth in the form of rains. Similarly, Alamumai’s Chatahppuram pulliar,has showered his blessings on us, accepting the extra one coconut on our credit; Yes, Dr. Rao and his family would like you to find an auspicious day and perform the wedding in two weeks”.
‘It is purely due to Lakshmi’s good heart and kindness to others” Alamumami said,
” Don’t pluck all the flours from the plant; leave a few for the bees and butter flies”, she used to warn me when I go to the garden to pluck flowers for Puja” ‘
We had a long discussion about the arrangements to be made. Meera, who was sitting by my side, pinched me to find out about Pitchu’s wedding so that both the marriages could be conducted the same day in the same hall. But, I was helpless as none of them in Mama’s family discussed that topic and I didn’t want to raise it on my own.
At that time something, really bad happened.

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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 07

Meera prepared food, mostly north Indian dishes and served. She, then helped Liz to dress up in Indian style, with sari, pottu and bangles and when we were about to start, Meera asked us to relax for some more time, picked up the car key and went out with athai. I could guess that they have made a pilot trip to give their impression about Elizabeth and also inform Seshus that Pitchu was yet to marry and the children were not theirs. This was to create a conducive climate  before Elizabeth reaches there. Amazing girl !
Meera returned after an hour when I was about to start with my guests, Alamumami’s called Meera.
” Perias, I am going to drop Pitch and Liz in mama’s house.”
“Not without me”
“Yes, without you.”
“Okey, then do one thing. Leave the car with Pitchu and you take an auto to return.”I said, “pitchu, you can keep the car till you return to U.S. Hope you have not forgotten the road rules here and your Indian license is  still valid ”
I miss many things on the U.S.A roads though they are wide, even and decently demarcated :
Buffaloes, traffic constables, beggars and above all human beings. Except in cities like New York or Washington DC, no people are found on the roads,leave away the highways, even on the suburban roads.
Though you are not sure of returning home safely in Indian roads, there is a thrill in driving, expecting someone to jump before your vehicle, from any direction other than above. Here, I long to see, a marriage procession, with the bride groom on a horse, men, women and children in colourful dresses dancing on the roads accompanied by the band musicians, least worried about the traffic jams caused by the procession; I long to hear the sound of horn at least from one vehicle when thousands of them are plying in lines, one after the other, in high speed; I long to see a temple procession with women, clad in their best, carrying decorated mud pots filled with water and topped with a bunch of neem leaves followed by a Potharaju, whipping his back with a big coir rope and making noises; I long to see  bullocks dragging the carts behind, moving absolutely unconcerned about other vehicles, but in straight line and to the correct destination, though the driver will enjoy a good sleep till the destination is reached.
Not even a street dog, cow or even a crow !
When Meera took them to Seshumama’s house, I felt that my importance was snatched by her. Let her come back.
Even after half an hour of her return, Meera didn’t tell me the reason for her neglecting me and therefore, I casually remarked,
” Meera, it is good that you spared me the trouble of dropping my guests to their house.I could clear my table” I remarked concealing my anger with an untimely smile.
Chiding me for getting annoyed, she explained the reason:
In Seshumama’s house, womenfolk keep away from the pooja room, kitchen and main hall during their monthly periods and Alamumami wanted Meera to verify from Elizabeth that she was not presently under such restriction !!
” Could you have ascertained it from Liz or could I in your presence ? ” She asked, showing a V sign.
I couldn’t visit ‘Seshadri Nilayam’ for the next couple of days. However, I learned from Meera, that Pitch and Elizabeth received a very cordial welcome.
Mami and her elder daughter Lakshmi, received them with ‘harath’y and Seshumama, collected the two dollar coins dropped in the arathi vessel by his son and instead, handed over two, one rupee coins to his wife and daughter. Coins are coins .
Mama , who seldom wears shirt while at home, was seen with a colour T- shirt, gifted by his son sometime ago and mami, wore one of her best Kanchi sarees, bought for her wedding. Athai was in her usual starched and pressed bright white dress and children all were also in their bests. Mama and mami became very emotional and with moist eyes, went inside, in two different directions. When they returned, Athai had already served coffee and some snacks. Elizabeth was, contrary to expectation, quite comfortable, whereas, Pitchu was a bit uneasy with the dust here and there.
” Three days are over since Pitchu and Liz arrived, but you have not even started making arrangements for their wedding”, Meera reminded me, when I was enjoying my morning coffee, on the terrace of my house.
“Bhagyavantham prasooyeda”, Kunthi blessed Draupathy, when she came to take her blessings; nothing unusual about it. But the next few words are unforgettable. ” Ma sooram, ma cha panditham”.
“May you be blessed with a lucky son, but not a brave or scholarly one”. The agony of a mother blessed with children of extreme valour and wisdom, but living in misfortune and misery cannot be said in a better way”
I continued with my high voltage assault on the unprepared Meera .
“I have often heard mothers saying that their children should become Einstein or Bill Gate. I tell them to pray for a normal healthy child without any mental or physical disorders, with a strong but kind heart and plenty of luck.
“I used to preside over the meetings of the parents of the mentally disabled children and some of them used to express their fear that, after their passing away, there were none to look after their unfortunate son or daughter and therefore they wished that those children per-decease them “. I continued .
“I am sure that my grand mother would have blessed her daughter in law, as Kunthi did, and that is why I am born as a lucky guy to have a friend like you, Meera’
” Mera thamak karaabh kardiya, aap. subhe, subhe- you have spoiled my moods in the morning” Meera chided and exhorted, “why don’t you go and see what is happening in SN, instead of torturing me with your monotonous monologue ?”
I was about to take my vehicle when my friend Dr. Chalpathy Rao came in parking his vehicle on the front.
Some are serious as if the burden of governing the entire universe is on their shoulders and some, despite heavy responsibilities behave  as if they have come to this world for a holiday and every day is a holiday for them. Dr. Rao belongs to the latter category. He is a respected cardiac surgeon in the city. His patients’ hearts are as dear to him as his own and he dwells in their heart almost as an integral part.
” There is a nest hanging from the ‘nimbu chettu’, near the well,” he remarked, tasting the red wine handed over by Meera, ” ask the kids who play around not to destroy it ”
I had never noticed that nest hanging from a lemon plant in a corner.
We don’t often observe the changes taking place in our garden or even in our own body or in our behavior, unless others point out.

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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 06

Every rock has a sculpture within, if you know to carve it out ”
Meera offered some fruits and Arathi to God accompanied by ‘ Jaya Jagadees Hare!’ song.
Athai hugged Pitchu and Liz, in the typical Hyderabadi style. ” Welcome my children” she said when Pitchu fell at her feet and blessed, ” be happy always and make your parents too happy as far as you can ”
” I have loved you as a baby and I continue to love you ” She said wiping his tears.
” Athai, I am sorry to give you the trouble of coming over here ” Meera pressed athai’s legs and added,” but being the senior most in the family, your guidance is a must for us, before we take Liz to mama ”
” Nice of you Meera ” Athai encouraged her, ” though much younger to Perias, you are much wiser than him ”
After flashing a mischievous smile at me, he asked Pitchu, ” when did you meet Elizabeth ?”
” They did their PG together and are colleagues now” It was Meera who replied to athai. ” They live together for the past few months but are NOT married ”
Meera paused and looked at Athai face. It became cloudy for a moment but soon regained its clarity.
“So, Perias, as usual, your information was half-cooked ? ‘kudukkalae potta karappu’- one who is always in a hurry for nothing ” Athai looked at me and continued, ” how is that even your son was in the dark ?”
” Athai, we didn’t inform him too” Said Pitchu.
Meera further explained that boy and girl living together, before wedding is common in western countries, the idea being that it would help them to come to know each other better.
Then, she quoted from the starting scene of ‘ King Lear’ to explain how it was common, even in Shakespeare’s time, for the women to have children before a formal marriage. In fact, in her own family there were some couple, who had lived together, before marriage and they were leading a happy life now.
“Whereupon she grew round- wombed, and had indeed, Sir,
A son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed.”
Athai did not utter a word. She opened the fridge and enjoyed some coke and asked, “Shall we go for a walk?”
We all walked down to the garden in front of our house and sat on the lawn.
Athai is an old matriculate who did proud to her teacher Sri. C.S.Sesha Iyer of Motilal High School,Palakkad, when she conveyed to Liz, what she wanted to say, in a clear language, though at times, she had problem in following Liz’s accent. In a few words, she made Liz to understand that though her people were orthodox and traditional, they were pure in thoughts, adaptable, tolerant and forgiving and would be happy to welcome Liz as their daughter-in-law. Pitchu is an intelligent boy who loves his family and therefore he would not take any decision which would go against the interests of the family, because of the unceasing flow of love between them.
As expected by them, she finds Liz friendly, charming and intelligent. Being from a different country and of a different culture, differences are bound to be there and she is sure that Liz, with her intelligence and academic background, would be able to adjust and accommodate the wishes of the family members.
That was a wonderful presentation and only athai could do it so well. Seshumama would have come no where near his sister and Alamu mami’s ability, less said, the better.  If Elizabeth were introduced to the Seshu couple first, they would have, because of their attachment to traditional values and affection to Pitchu, discolored the reception and disfigured the matter. Pitchu and Liz would have found it very embarrassing. Therefore, I appreciated Meera’s foresight in requesting athai to come to ‘Anantha Jyothi’ and arrange this meeting,.
Pitchu and Liz were very much impressed by the initial treatment they had from the senior most member of the family and Pitchu knows that athai has the final say in the family.
” Look, Meera, you and Elizebeth are of the same age and she will follow your language better” athai told Meera.”as a third person but well wisher of our family, your suggestions will be most unbiased and acceptable to all of us; I hope Elizabeth also will welcome my suggestion.”
“Well done Athai ! You should have been in our External Affairs Ministry” I thought.
“Elizabeth, don’t come to any hasty decisions”, Meera said without beating around the bush.
” Pitch’s dad and mom are very conservative, orthodox and traditional minded and more over, they are very proud of their culture and beliefs. Pitch loves his parents and any acts which hurts them will be unacceptable to him. You may wonder why parents should have a say at all in the weddings of their children. That is our tradition. Marriage is sacrament for a Hindu.The wife is his partner in life and no religious rituals are performed without her. She is his counselor in counsel, servant in action, mother in affection and companion in play, according to our holy epic, Ramayan. it is in the heart of every Hindu boy that he should live with his wife till the end of his  life; and for the wife, husband is her world. When they are preparing for such an important event in their life, the parents, who have nothing but the well being and happiness of their children in their mind and  who have undergone the experience of living together as man and woman and therefor are expected to know the current of married life better, take the lead in finalizing the match. In many cases their decision works well and helps the new pairs. Please remember, that in the arranged marriages, the parents’ roll ends with proposing and suggesting. The final decision is always with the boy and the girl.
Apart from this, Pitchu is the eldest son of the family and according to our custom, he is next to his father in carrying the family tradition and burden. He has two sisters to be married and two brothers who are yet to complete their studies and has therefore to support his family, not only morally but financially too.
Under these circumstances, it is for you to take a decision whether you would like to go ahead with the proposal which Pitch has made. No doubt, for Pitchu’s family also it is a hard decision to take and the society will not approve of this alliance; but that is secondary.
So, take as much time as you want, if necessary go back to US and discuss with your people, weigh the pro and cone and come to a conclusion .
If I have talked more than necessary, I seek the Pardon of athai”
Athai and Liz smiled; Pitchu simply nodded his head.
This sleepy , care-free girl, who takes life very casually, who spends her leisure hours reading novels, singing and dancing, has overtaken the 80 year old lady in putting things in the proper perspective, very diplomatically and most unambiguously.
It was Judge V.R.Krishna Iyer who said, “Every rock has a sculpture within, if you know to carve it out.”

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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 05

A madhu chazhakam or a bowl of nectar
“Perias, you pick them up from the air port”, mama instructed,”Enakkennavo bhayama irukku” I am scared.
“‘ You are scared before your daughter-in-law steps in ?” I joked. Meera , my tenant, stared at me to show her anger in my insipid, untimely joke.
“I am coming with you to the airport, Perias,” Meera remarked and picked up the car key ” I cannot trust you.You will blabber and  spoil that girl’s mood before she lands here”
Oh, I didn’t introduce Meera to you. She occupies a portion of my house. Though she is my tenant, with her unstained character and unalloyed affection, she is like a member of my family. She takes care of my house in my absence and takes care of me when I stay here. she is teaching French in a school for foreign languages. ” Eat whatever I feed and obey whatever I say ” is her order to me, “otherwise I will report to your daughter” . Such an affectionate one she is that to a great extend she has filled the vacuum in my life.
” Welcome back home, Pitch; welcome Liz ” Hugging them affectionately, I asked, ” Where are the kids?”
” With their dad ” was their cool reply. I was shocked.
” Aren’t they your children ? ” I was about to ask but Meera, pulled my hand to signal not to ask anything.
The forced restriction was short lived.While boarding the vehicle, I asked Pitchu, ” you never said that the children were not yours ?”
” I never said that they are mine ” He retorted.
“You did not reveal the truth even to your dad when he specifically inquired about the kids ”
” Had I told him then do you think he would have believed me ?”
” Perias, why are you worried ?” Meera intervened, ” he wants to tell his dad when he meets him. I think it is proper ”
Before I could say something Meera requested them to board the car, pushed me too inside and drove off . She didn’t take us to Seshumama’s house, but to mine.
” Why here? ” I asked her.
“They will have a shower, dress-change, break fast and then I will decide ” She replied.
” You will decide ? ” My anger was unhidden in my query, ” are you their host in this house or me ?”
“Me, obviously ” was her cool reply, “as  I am serving them breakfast”
” It is OK. Oatmeal, cornflakes, bread and jam are available in the kitchen cupboard ‘
Meera wanted to entertain the guests with typical Indian breakfast. So, she made ravadosa and chatney, sambar. The couple enjoyed  the stuff and pitchu remembered his mom and explained to Liz how his mother used to make coffee after powdering the seeds afresh every time.
“How do you like my wearing  saree?” asked Liz, seeing the sarees in my daughter’s wardrobe.
‘Well, give a shot, if you have the courage” said Pitch
I asked Meera to pickup whatever clothes she wants and dress up Liz. All the clothes bought for her wedding have been left by my daughter in the cupboard before going to US and therefore Liz could choose whatever she likes..
The sight of their foreign daughter-in-law in this dress will definitely be a good start, I thought.
My children’s wedding albums attracted Liz and she asked,
“Pitch, won’t it be fun to get married in this style ?” without waiting for his reaction, she told me, ” Peri, please arrange for our wedding in typical Indian style.
With wide opened mouth I gazed at him.
” Yes, Peri. we are just living together; are yet to marry,” Pitchu said,” We will talk to dad.
My head started whirling.  “How casually he mentions about such a serious matter ?” I wondered.
” How to present this subject to them?” was my next worry.
Meera is a wonderful girl. She knew what I was worrying about .
She called athai and asked her to come to A.J. “Athai, Pitchumani and Elizabeth are here; they had their wash and break fast and are relaxing. Could you come here for ten minutes?”
Athai replied, she would.
Meera took Liz to the terrace, from where you get a nice view of our society’s central park. “Perias, I experience a divine aura around your pooja room”  Pitchu said, “start vishnusahasranam”
Forgetting everything, Liz, Meera, Seshu mama, athai and all our problems, we sang the sahasranamam together and I was surprised to note that Pitchu did not miss a single line. When we were about to finish, Athai entered and joined us in our chorus.
Whenever I think of Vishnusahasranamam, I see in my mind’s eye initially, not Lord Vishnu but that grand-sire,the great Bhishmapitamaha, that great archer and warrior of peerless courage and valour, lying in the battle field, among the dead bodies of thousands of men and animals, on a bed of arrows which pierce every inch of his body, unattended and um-wept. He was not only the tallest among the kurus, witness of Mahabharatha from Santhanu’s time, king maker, promoter and controller of the destiny of the royal family till the blind king became a puppet in the hands of his wicked sons
Unable to control the sorrow at the way things have taken shape in his family, which he nourished sacrificing his every thing, when Bhishma cries for the Lord starting with the words,” Jagadprabhum, Devadevam, Anatham, Purushothamam—, we join him in singing the God’s glory and the unfamiliar form of the God in the Dyanaslokam starting with ” Ksheeroadanvad pradeshe–” develops through ” Meghasyamam — and flows through the thousand names each with a divine flavour and colour, and at the end all the flowers are joined together and a marvelous garland made,and I see my Guruvayoorappan, as
“Vanamaali,Gadhi, Sarnghi,Sankhee,Chakree cha Nandaki”.
Every name of the Lord, if you know the meaning, is enjoyable for hours together.
I forget my surroundings, my Puja room, people sitting around, my credit and debit balances, everything connected with me which I have been falsely claiming as mine and along with Thunjathacharyan, I enjoy the beauty of the Lord which is
“Vachasam vizhayamallathoranandamallow”-bliss, which can’t be explained in words.
The majesty of the Lord cannot be explained in words. But our great ancestors managed to do it and did it admirably.We can fully enjoy it if we know the meaning of each name.
Each word in that great works, is a madhu chazhakam, a honey-bowl.

Dear Sir,
My daughter and I were reading your Chs. 4 & 5 of Pitch’s problems (or are they not  your problems ?) and got hooked. Now being a non-Vadama husband to a Vadama wife I am curious. And we can’t proceed further without knowing the antecedents of this Sreemaan P. and how you managed to get yourself entangled into the whole rigmarole.And who these misc. characters like Mama, Athai etc are.  (Incidentally we as a family are devotees of a god who goes by the initials PGW and that is how this curiosity.) Why don’t you just forward part 1,2 and 3 as well  to us so that we can sleep a bit more peacefully. :-S worried
Best regards and Jingle-Bells, Jingle-Bells.
AVK Murthy
New Delhi
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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 04

Next morning, I sat before my laptop to cancel my train ticket as suggested by athai, but my’ chapalabudhi’ (weakness for good food) for Noorani sadyai, asked me to wait.
“Contact Pitchu first”, it said. O.K;  that is a point , but should I talk to Pitchu or Liz?
Since I met her in Virginia, I have spoken to Elizabeth on a few occasions and found her an affectionate girl and therefore decided to talk to her direct.
” Relax, Peri! Pitch has told me every thing “, she said the moment I started to mention about Pitchu’s family background.
That was a great relief. I called Seshumama and told him about my talk with Elizebeth .
” Now nothing to worry, mama! Relax, as Liz says. Do a few things : fix a European commode in one of your bath rooms and buy a few tissue paper rolls.; If there are no mosquito mesh for the windows and doors, get them fixed. And one more thing mama, Please tell athai that I am leaving now for Palakkad and will be back before Pitchu’s arrival ”
“Wait a minute”, Mama said,” I will call athai”
No, Please;tell her after I keep the phone down “.
I lifted my small travel- suitcase and rushed to the railway station, giving no chance to athai to ask me to cancel my trip.
I had spent several hours, as an young boy, watching at the beauty of the western ghats, as seen from our open bath room near the well at our back yard, at our Olavakkode house.The first thing I used to do as soon as I get up in the morning was to go near the well and watch the mesmerizing mountains and the water falls, with white clouds moving close to them, some above and some below, in different forms.
Even while standing at Jungfraujoch, the heighest platfrom of Europe and enjoying the marvelous mountain range at Sphnix Terrace in Switzerland, I thought about the vision of the western ghats from the backyard of my Olavakkode house. In the inimitable style of Chinmayanda, “The flavour of the jungles, the fragrance of the forests and the hymns of mountains”  have always attracted me. As a college student, I used to follow my English professor, K.K. Neelakantan, into deep forests, for watching birds. Some of you might recall that Prof.K.K.N was an ornothologist and he used to write articles in the ‘Mathrubhumi’ weekly, under the pen name ‘ Induchoodan’ On some days, when it suddenly rains, no birds could be seen and on those days, taking shelter under some trees, KKN used to talk about Shakespeare, Shelly or Tolstoy. I remembered him gratefully when I visited the birthplace of some English poets in U.K.during my visit.
While pouring cold water over my head in the open bath room of my house, facing the western ghats, a pious idea came to mind; Why not break a coconut before the Chathappuram pulliar and proceed to Noorani?.  Let Him remove the hurdles in the way and make Pitchumani’s visit a smooth affair.
Not a bad idea at all.
When I went to pick up a coconut from our cowshed, where once upon a time, a number of cows were housed and now only coconuts and some unwanted furniture are dumped, Pulliar said,
” Perias, you are picking up just one coconut to buy my blessings for such a big task: remember what you told Alamu mami, a few years ago, at the Eamcet center?”
Yes, how can I forget that scene, mami pacing at the entrance of the Eamcet center and asking me to break a coconut for Chathapputam Pulliar,” Just one coconut for such a big task, mami? Increase the number at least to three, please”
This is what I told her then. Now the task, C.P. has to intervene is much more difficult than getting EC in the Eamcet interview; so I should break three  coconuts.
But, should I? After all it is not for my purpose but my friend’s. 3×8= Rs. 24.00 should I spend that much money ?
My tenant’s child was playing nearby and I went to him with my five fingers opened
” Appu, onno, moono, thodu monea”( touch one or three out of these fingers)
C.P. has defenitely influenced the kid. He not only touched all the five fingers of my right hand but pulled my left hand also, brought all the ten fingers together and continued with his play !! Now no more dillydallying.” C.P”s orders are clear. But ten is not an auspicious number ; so I picked up 11 coconuts in a bag and went to Chathappurma temple. But before breaking the coconuts, I prayed that since the number is much more than what I had in mind initially, C.P. should remove the hurdles of not only Seshumama’s family but mine too and keep the extra one coconut in my credit balance!
While returning from Chathappuram kovil, I saw an old mama sitting in the ‘thinnai’ of his house, bare-chested. I went to him and asked,” Ongulukku Juddu Krishnamuti yai theriumo, mama?” (you know Jaddu Krishnamurti?)
There was absolutely no need for me to go to him or ask that question and I could have gone to the bus stop straight and catch a bus to Noorani. But as athai used to say, my budhi is a kurukshethram where there are 101 Kauruvas against 5 pandavas.
“Appidi inge arum illaye”( there is no one here with that name), mama replied. Then I explained to him what all I know about the philosopher and also quoted from one of his lectures:
” The moment you stop asking questions you are already dead–which is generally what has happened to older people. They have ceased to enquire because their mind is burdened with information, with what others have said; they have accepted and are fixed in tradition. As long as you are asking questions you are breathing through, but the moment you begin to accept, you are psychologically dead. So right through life don’t accept, but inquire, investigate. Then you will find that your mind is really extra ordinary, it has no end, and to such a mind there is no death”
Assuming that mama knew no English, I translated the quotation in Palakkad Tamil and asked him,”Ippo theringitho?”(understood?)
Mama glancing me from head to toe, asked
‘”Intha thengai enthukku odachai?” ( why did you break coconuts?)
I explained to him that it was for removing the hurdles and I did because every one was doing it.
‘” So, you neither enquired nor investigated as wanted by your philosopher whom you are quoting, right? You did not even bother to question the statement of J.K and find out the truth yourself, right? So,You are psychologically dead, right ?”
I started sweating and said,”konjam vellam kidaikkuma?”( water,please)
“Ullae mamikittae poyi vankikko”(get inside and take from my wife)
I went inside and mami offered me a seat, gave me not only water but some payasaprasadam too. She was tall, fair and her serene look and the big kumkuma pottu on her forehead were enough to bow my head before her. I did not learn any lesson from the rebuff I received from mama just a few minutes ago and therefore, instead of coming out thanking her for her courtesy, I asked a foolish question,
Onga athilai,ANAI IRUKKA,mami?”(is there an elephant in your house?)
” Irukke, rendennam, pinnale poyi paru”( yes, two are there , look at the backyard)
Lo and behold ! there were two elephants at their backyard.
When I got up to escape from there, I noticed a photo hanging on the wall on my right side. It was a farewell photo in a University campus as could be guessed by the dress of the people .
“That is mama’s farewell photo at Cambridge. He taught philosophy there for ten years; next month, he is going to USA, for participating in an international conference”.
Even without bothering to pick up the bag in which I had brought my coconuts and which I had left on a bench in mami’s ‘koodam’ I ran like a deer followed by a hunter, unable to face the staggering burden of my self-created miseries and halted only at the bus- stop.
I acquired the habit of poking my nose into the affairs of other people, perhaps from Venku athai, a distant relative of mine, who comes often to Hyderabad,after quarreling with her son and daughter in law, a nice couple. The problem with Venku athai is that she is too inquisitive and she doesn’t like to be kept in dark about any matters in any of the families known to her. I used to receive a number of phone calls and immediately after I keep down the phone, she would ask ‘arathu ? ( who called?), If I tell her the name of the person who called, then she will ask,” Enna sonnan ? ( what did he say?)’ It is neither possible for me to tell her nor necessary for her to know the details of the calls I receive. If I go to office late on a particular day, she would ask,” enna lata porai?”
why going late?) If my P.S. calls more than once a day, Venku athai would ask “Intha ponnenna summa phone panra . Avulukku kalyanam acho?”( this girl is calling often; is she married?). Like this…. Another ‘auspicious’ habit of this lady is to find fault with any good thing that comes to her notice. If you show her an expensive Kanchi pattu, she will say ‘ Ippo nanna irukku; ana oru nanaile chayam pokum.” ( it is o.k now, but will loose it’s shade once you wash it) The pity is once she has said ‘ chayam pokum’ certainly it would so happen and neither I , who is not superstitious nor the chettiar who sold the expensive sari know how only that particular sari, lost the original colour and charisma, as predicted by Venku athai. She is now 90 and going strong and the joke in our circle is that even Yama, the god of death is avoiding her. His worry is if she curses him to death, who will kill him? How to find a killer for the killer? Anyway that is Venku athai and don’t ask me why I follow her steps sometimes.
It is better to forget that episode till I poke my nose into another affair and get it crushed !!
As Athai predicted, I did attend a few more sasthapreedis, other than Norani, but reached back home in time, to receive Pitchu family.

Comments :
This is a hilarious take, plz.  I see a  buddha baba, a certain nalayak samy, is already dipping his dart into poison to fire it…
cris iyer
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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 03

”Does Fate always has the last laugh ? I doubt, I doubt” I murmured.

Athai, dispersed the auto driver, entered the house, opened the fridge and sipping coke, said “Sorry, to disturb you. Usually you go to sleep very late and that is why I ventured to come at this hour.” She called ‘S.N’ and informed that she was with me and would return on her own.
We are now sitting face to face in the main hall and athai started the conversation with a question:
” Apadi kim karaneeyam, Perias ?” What needs to be done, when faced with danger?
” Smaraneeyam charanaugalamambayam, Athai.” What else,think of the lotus feet of Ambal–Mother Goddess”
With that single line question, she has conveyed the message that she came to discuss an issue of importance.
“The wisest of the wise and the dullest of the dulls, never change.” said, she.
” Thank u for the complement, athai, at least now you have realized that I belong to the former category.”
“No way. you belong to the second category and I have realized that, the day we met first ”  We laughed heartily.
This tall, slim, fair woman of eighty is a symbol of grace, intelligence, wit and wisdom, humble and humane , kind and compassion. There is an aroma or greatness around her. She talks  only when she should and you can hardly find any weed in her speech.  Full of energy and enthusiasm, decency and dignity, she is  Seshumama’s elder sister and all our friends call her ‘athai’, though in no way she is related to them. “Has athai been informed?” would be the first question anyone asks in our group, when any function, good or bad is to take place in the house, You can see her in wedding halls, hospitals, maternity clinics, airports or railway stations, extending a helping hand to the needy. She never goes to any house on her own but she is the most wanted person among our group of friends and relatives.
“What is the source of her energy ?” I asked mama once, “won’t she get tired ?”
”Her mind” he replied, “Life’s frictions have created a huge energy source, a soorya mandalam, within her ”
Athai opened the fridge, and with another sip of coke, continued:
“Let us come to the point, Perias. I heard you telling Seshu, while eating last night, that you were planning to go to Palakkad tomorrow. I don’t know by which train you are going perhaps by the morning one to Vijayawada. That is why I came now.
I want u to cancel your Palakkad trip, if there is no urgent purpose. In fact I want u to be with us till Pitchu and family return to USA.”
“The trip is of urgent nature because Noorani sasthapreedi is just two days ahead and I don’t wish to miss the sadyai( Noorani ayyappa festival is well known and everyone enjoys the pooja and especially the feast. I shall return by the next train, if you permit”
” Our house is on fire here and you want to leave us for eating in the sasthapreedhi. Shame on you, Perias! Remember, it was you who lighted the fire and but for your communication, we would have continued to live in peace. And if I allow you to go to Palakkad, after Noorani, you will attend the sasthapreedi in all the 108 villages and then proceed to Trichur and Trivandram also. Sorry, you can’t go. I have no time to prepare chukkuppodi and omakkashayam ( two homemade medicines for stomach upsets)for you when you come back with a blotted belly.
“ Now, Perias, be serious, please.” Athai continued. “During the pooja last night, did you observe the high pitch in which Seshu sang along with you ? That was a deep cry from the bottom of his heart. As you know, he is a very soft spoken man and the suppressed feelings in him erupted last night when we all joined the children in the chorus. It was the helpless cry of a child fallen into a well, seeking help from his mother.
In one way, I am happy that the volcano erupted. In fact,I was praying that he should lie on my lap and cry like a child. If I were his mother, he would have done it . Anyway, Seshu is undergoing a very stressful period in his life. We all should help him to come out of it.” Athai continued,
“You may not perhaps be aware that our father was a Khanapadigal ( a learned scholar in scriptures and follower), who strictly observed the Niyamas and Anushtanas and did not tolerate even a minute deviation from the Vedic path. He was highly respected for his knowledge and the way he conducted the rites and rituals .He had performed Nithyasraddam for his pitrus for one year-”
” Wait, what nonsense are you talking athai? He performed sradhams everyday, for one year! He was a cruel man, I would say. Even to perform sradham once a year is a task especially for the lady of the house, preparing several food items , without sipping even a cup of coffee and starving till the end of the ritual.This pattar made his wife to struggle in the kitchen continuously for one year and you feel proud of him?” I could not contain my anger.
” Cool. when I look back, I too feel that perhaps, it was not necessary to perform shradham, everyday. I really do not know. Perhaps he would have thought that was one way to feed the needy brahmins and pay them some dakshinai(remuneration) every day but he could have done it in a less strainous  way. And with regard to your point on mother’s sufferings, women simply followed their husband’s directions and took all such activities as part of their duty.”
” You remember, athai, Jaddu Krishnamurti’s words:
‘The older the culture, greater is the weight of tradition which disciplines you, tells you what you must and must not do; and so you are weighed down, psychologically flattened as if a stream- roller had gone over you. That is what has happened in India. The weight of tradition is so enormous that all initiative has been destroyed. and you have ceased to be an individual; you are merely part of a social machine”
” I agree with him. Seshu blindly followed his father and expected his children also to do so and when that did not happen,he became heart-broken.
Though Pitchumani did sandyavandanam and pooja during his school days, when he started going to college he left those practices”
“He did them just to please his father and not out of love or respect for the scriptures. If he were explained the greatness of our culture, the pleasure you derive in performing the rituals, the meaning of manthras, the music in chanting them, the positive energy created by their vibrations etc., he would have continued them throughout his life. Athai, everyone wants to enjoy and loves to perform only such acts which gives him joy. Our Rishies, looking at the snow covered mountains, crystal clear lakes, clouds and waterfalls, recited the manthras enjoying every word. In north India, every one dances, irrespective of age even at a small family function. Why was bhajans, kavidiyattmas, music, dance, nadaswarams etc included in our temple functions ?
Our Rishis, knew the meanings of what they were reciting. so, excited by the divine experience , they climbed over the mountains and sang aloud,
” Madhuvadaridayathe, madhukshranthy sindhavaha ——-”
The earth, the sky, the oceans, the sun, the cows, the plants everything in the world was pouring out madhu, madhu, madhu. For them,every object was a source of the nectar of happiness and bliss. When their heart was overflowing with the Divine force, they found everything sweet all around.
How many of us are excited , while reciting Adithya hridayam , when the Rishi uses the appellations such as ‘padmaprabodaha, vindyaveedee plavangama etc ?
However smart and efficient you are,you cannot sit near a bud and ‘open’ it .The whole night the bud, standing on it’s marshy birthplace and closing the eyes, pray for the Lord and the moment the suns rays appear on the horizon,it opens up, automatically, effortlessly,spreading its fragrance all around. Only the Divine energy is capable of doing it. Distance, adverse origin or surrounding , nothing matters.
Recall, padmapriye,padmini,padmahasthe,padmalaye,padmadalayadakshi—– The Rishi sees only padmam everywhere when he looks at the Divine Mother,in her name, seat, eyes, hands everywhere.; nothing but the fragrance and divinity of the lotus fills his heart; then he mentions about her closeness with Supreme and seeks her lotus feet.’Thwal pada padmam mayi sannidaswa.”
similarly, the great Bhishma pitamaha, starts Vishnu sahsranamam with ‘Viswam-‘. He has said everything in that one word and when he completes the line with ‘Bhootha,bhavya,bhavat prabhu, his job is over but still he continues only because he wanted to sing God’s 1000 names. His heart overflows with compassion, with the progress of the namas, and in the end, with ashrupoorna-kulekshanam,tears overflowing, he addresses the God as ‘Radangapani! You, whom I addressed as ‘ sathyam, sathyavan, sathyadharma parakrama etc’, lifted the chariot wheel and rushed towards the enemy, when your friend’s life was in danger, forgetting that you had taken a vow not to use weapons in the war. If we had explained our vedas and puranas and manthras and japas in this way, why should our children forsake our culture and be after girls of another custom or country? ”
” Look, Perias, you are boring me too much. I hope that there is no vodka or margarita behind this long lecture. It is nearing eleven; I have to go home and sleep. I came here to make you understand that your message about Pitchu’s wedding with a foreign girl has shaken Seshu. Alamu also is equally shaken, but the mother’s blind affection overlooked all the undesirable acts of her son and more over, she knew that if she expressed her displeasure it would only add to her husband’s woes. Seshu cannot withstand the sight of a drop of tears in the eyes of his wife, so he too pretends as if he is not unhappy about his son’s action.
Under these circumstances, you, as a close family friend should stand by us during these difficult days.
“Seshu’s first worry is what to do if Pitchu’s wife cooks non-veg in our kitchen. Prasadams for Sivapoojai, Bhagavthi sevai and several other poojas and homams are prepared in that kitchen for several years and hopefully, that should continue at least, till Seshu is alive.We cannot allow the sanctity of the house to be destroyed in front of our eyes. you should therefore, do these things, tomorrow morning :
1. Cancel your ticket to Palakkad.
2. Tell Seshu that you would ensure that under no circumstance, you will allow Pitchu’s wife to enter the  kitchen and how you are going to do is your headache,and three,
3. This is perhaps more difficult. Pitchu’s wife should be clearly told about our family’s traditional background so that she comes prepared to behave in such a way that there will be no unpleasant feeling for both the groups.”
Athai got up, having accomplished her task.
“Now drop me in our house ”
‘Amazing! What a clarity in thoughts and expressions and what a grace !’ I thought and walked along with her to the car.
” Don’t you think that we would not have landed where we are, if mama had not insisted on jathakapporutham, vadamal and other trivial things,athai ?” I asked while sitting on the driver’s seat..
You call them trivial, but for Seshu, his son’s happiness after marriage depended entirely on those. Nowadays, boys and girls, before consenting for marriage, meet each other, go out together, discuss their likes and dislikes and in foreign countries, I am told, also live together. When we are given the responsibility of selecting a life partner, we go by the time-tested methods, like jathakapporutham, marrying from the same sub group etc so that maximum compatibility is achieved .. I know that these are outdated now; but these are the time-tested methods. Pitchu could have boldly told his father that he was not bothered about jathakam, sub-sect etc and his priority was only the girl’s looks and academics. My brother, no doubt, would have been unhappy but would have finally agreed. Whatever Seshu did was only keeping in mind the best interest of his son but unfortunately that did not work.”
“That did not work because he was very rigid in his approach. He should not have insisted on the sub-sect vadamal and such trash–You know,once you leave the shore of this country, you are known only by your passport.There is no indication of your cast or sub-caste there. Moreover, being brought up under strict discipline, and released to full freedom, Pitchu wanted to enjoy the new life, in full.
There are several other factors such as loneliness, work pressure and consequent stress, opportunity to freely mingle with the opposite sex, severe cold climate and availability of funds–all these would have contributed for his action”
” Perias, there is no meaning in discussing about the past; How to move from here ? Talk about that.  You know, I became a widow at the age of 16 after living in my husband’s house hardly for 3 months.” She diverted the topic casually.
” What?”
“yes. And do you think I would have lived up to 80, if I had not bundled and thrown my past in the kalpathy river,long ago? Memories of past do cloud my heart occasionally and at that time I take refuge in the lotus feet of my ‘Bootha,Bhavya, Bavatprabhu. the Lord of past, present and future.”
” Sorry, athai! I am not aware of this. Really shocking ! God’s ways–”
“God has no roll in this and therefore don’t blame Him.” Athai was categorical in her statement “Stupidity and ignorance killed my husband and several others in our group and is continuing to do so even now, though in lesser numbers.
There was an epidemic in Palakkad and the health authorities stopped every vehicle on the streets and entered every house and gave vaccination. When the health inspector entered our house, my husband escaped through the back-door as someone had told him that the substance injected was a serum from cow’s blood! He died after a month, because of the same epidemic; the maruthani stains on my palm and feet, applied for the wedding, had not fully vanished, when I touched darbhai( a holy grass used for the rituals) for my husband’s final rites.. Unable to bear the shock, his parents died after a month. So, my dear child! your athai has passed through worst periods in life.
“You know how my mother died ? After returning from the school, we children were to remove the school dress and keep in a corner of the front room and then only enter the house. Ankichi, who was 5 year old then, without removing the dress went inside and embraced mother, excited in seeing her after a gap of 4-5 hours. Shocked by this act, mother rushed to the temple tank and dipped herself in the ice-cold water to remove the sin of un-touchability. She was already suffering from sever cold and fever .Her body temperature shot up and she died of pneumonia within a week, leaving behind six of us, the smallest was Kalyani, 2 years old. I brought up all the five children including Seshu.
Superstition killed my mother”. Athai’s eyes were moist.
“All these experiences made me tough and fit to face any calamity. Calamities come in waves, in my life. When it became a routine affair, I started waiting for them and like a wild animal waiting for it’s prey, pounce on them and tear them into pieces, when they appear. I fight to the last and If they overtake me after all my efforts fail and the situation goes completely out of my control, I simply leave the war field and leave everything to Gopal.
‘Sakala karmarppanam Bhavatu Karomi jnan-” I am dedicating all my actions to You. Athai sang.
I completed the second line,
“Samsthamaparadam kshamaswa Jagalpathe!’ Oh, Lord, pardon me for all my faults.
We laughed together and athai continued ” So, I will handle Seshu but I need your help because I don’t know much about the western way of living.”
“Athai, I am now convinced that you can handle any difficult situation; but, if you don’t mind, let me ask you one personal question. Why didn’t you think of remarrying?”
” Widow marriages were not common those days. Moreover, My husband had 3 brothers all younger to him. Having lost the parents and the eldest brother, these kids would have become orphans, had I left them to their fate. So, I took the responsibility of bringing them up as well as my brothers and sisters and subsequently their off springs too. 17 children, in all, have been brought up by me.
Tell me now, Perias, did I make a mistake in not marrying?”
I was spellbound by this lady’s personality, courage and kindness. Unable to speak a word, I stopped the car in front of her house and opened the door for her.
” Sufficient for the day. Go and sleep”. She majestically walked towards her house.
” Hats off to you athai.” I whispered and turned the vehicle.
Before going to bed I have a habit of drinking a cup of hot coffee and hear music.
”Does Fate always has the last laugh ? I doubt, I doubt” I murmured while switching of the coffee machine and music system.
While slowly,inch by inch when getting immersed in the bliss of sleep, I could hear from the distance, like the winter breeze over the Sabhari hills, “Entharo Mahnubhavulu ‘
Let us call it a day, Bhagavan! Good night!

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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 02

”Nothing goes wrong, as long as we don’t go wrong ”
Appearance may be deceptive sometimes.  In Seshu couples’ case it was certainly so. Though they appeared to be as cool as cucumber on hearing from me about their son’s wedding with a foreign girl, it was obvious that they had not slept that night. Otherwise mama would not  have come early next morning, to my house ‘Anantha Jyothi ‘”Perias, send a mail to Pitchumani immediately”, he screamed, “I don’t want him to touch my body, when I am gone.”
“First be seated, mama” I requested, went to the kitchen and gave him a cup of hot coffee. When it cooled his temper a bit, I continued, “You are elder to me and our convention is that I am not supposed to give any advice to you. But I can’t change my nature to suit the tradition. Mama! look, I have no control over my body, once I quit. In your case , if you have claim over it, the best thing is to take it with you while going. who prevents ? Otherwise, let anyone who is there in the scene do as he likes; either burn or bury or throw it into sea or if that person is so much attached to you, he may even embalm and preserve it in his library. Sorry, I can’t send the mail to your son, as you wanted”
“ Adighaprasangam paserai”(you are talking nonsense), mama cursed me “You might be a world trotter , but your Vakrabudhi, perverted mind  will never leave you. How arrogant you are to talk me the way you did, that too early morning ?”
”You started that” I was equally adamant, “If not your son, who else has the right to touch your body ? How do you expect me to send such a senseless message to him?”
He stared at me and was about to exit  when an auto riksha stopped in front of my house and his wife got down and came in, shouting at mama,” Ongalukku ellathukkum avasarmthan(you are in a hurry always). You came early morning here to complain about my parents to Perias, right ?  You could have waited for a day or two, till he comes home”
” You think I have no other matter to discuss with him other than your pet parents? ” Mama yelled at her, ” it is a sin to remember them early morning. They are yet to give me that five hundred rupees which they promised for my dress for the thalai deepavali ”
“What is five hundred rupees before the dollars my son sends you” Mami didn’t spare him,” I carried him in my bosom for ten months  and delivered him in your hands. You thought that you plucked him from the tree in the court yard, Ya `
They were  about to return home, when my telephone bell rang.
That call was from Virginia, yes, from Pitchumani.
He also was, probably, spending sleepless nights over his misguiding his parents. He tried to contact his parents this morning and as there was no response, called me to inform that Elizabeth wanted to visit his parents and they were therefore planning a trip to India shortly.
” I don’t want to talk to him”: Seshumama said when I conveyed the message. “Give the phone to her,” he said pointing to his wife.
Mami, as usual was thrilled to receive her son’s call.”Pitchuu!, Nannarikkeloda”(hope you are fine. She asked him 100 questions about what he eats in the morning, after noon, evening; does he take oil bath once a week at least etc. and when she was about to close, mama grabbed the receiver and repeated almost what mami had said and closed the dialog with,“take care, while traveling;remember, you are coming with your wife and two small children.  Onkku vivaram poradhu –you are not smart enough to handle things properly”
“Mama, you refused to talk to him to start with, but kept the receiver only after talking for half an hour” I joked. He did not take my teasing seriously but said hesitatingly while leaving, “Perias ! can I borrow a few items from you , such as your carpet, microwave etc, for a few days? I would like to make Pitchu and his family, as comfortable as I can, during their short stay here”
“With pleasure; take away whatever you want and keep them with you as long as required”, I reminded, “don’t forget to collect some forks, knives, porcelain dishes and plates also”
The mention of knives and forks, did not please the old couple and they exchanged glances which brought out the fear within.
Mama called that evening,’Perias,Join us for dinner,if you have no other engagements”. It was obvious that he wanted to discuss with me about his son’s visit. I was fed up with self cooking and eating though I am hear just for a couple of days, and mami’s food was always an attraction for me. I readily agreed.
When I visited ‘Seshadri Nilayam’ that evening, children were reciting Lalitha sahasranamam. My memory went back to my childhood days when my father used to teach us those slokas in a melodious tone, sitting in front of the big ‘nilavilakku'( an ornamental brass lamp used for poojas). While reciting, Sahasradala padmastha sarvavarno-pasobhitha”, he used to pause for a few minutes, stand still, enjoying the beauty of the Divine mother, sitting on a multipetal lotus flower, in full glory, glittering with multicolour clothes and jewels. Now,when I approach mama’s pooja room, the children were reciting that stanza,an,’ukkekha kallolini’ waves of ullekha alankaram, starting with,’Bhavadavasudha vrishti, paparanya davanala—- and hearing that, my heart opened up, voice became rhythmic  and sweeter and legs failed to move further. Standing still, on the hall itself, I joined the chorus with the children. Mama from the bedroom, mami from the kitchen, ‘athai’ from the backyard and everyone in the house from wherever they were,also joined the chorus, as if we had come from different places to sing the glory of the Divine Mother. It was a unique experience. The ‘Seshadri Nilayam’ changed to Dakshineswar where the great Parmahamsa was dancing , to the melodious sound of the temple drums and bells, unaware of the surroundings and followed by the Divine Mother, holding his Uttareeyam, the cloth falling from his shoulder, like a small kid.
The Ganges were flowing slowly below the steps, the devotees were pouring the holy water on the twelve lingams on either side, the cool breeze mixed with the flavour of marigold, tulasi and Bilwa leaves was embracing the trees and plants around, the idol of Kalima, with all her glory was standing before me and the charismatic Supreme Sovereignty of the universe was following a skinny Brahmin, holding his cloth hanging from his shoulder !
Filled with that divine experience, none of us were in a position to talk, when we sat for food, leave away the question of any discussion.
Even after returning home, my mind was still in that elevated state and I therefore went to bed, closed my eyes when I could hear distinctly,’ Om Guru, Sri Guru,Satchidanantha Guru, Satchidanandha Guru Satchidanandha–” I am sitting in front of the Pathinettampadi, the eighteen holy steps of the Shabari temple, which are tastefully decorated with multi colour flowers, Padipuja was going on, the whole forest wass echoing with the bhajans of the thanthries, the temple priests..
I was slowly loosing my awareness and sleep, like an affectionate mother embracing her baby, was covering my whole body and soul and  I was slipping down and down into a blissful state. I am neither This nor That, ‘Chithanantharoopa Sivoham, Sivoham”:
“Lift me UP, Baghavan, to your lotus feet,the time has come, don’t delay ” I prayed silently, “Please do this favour before my mind reverts to its routine mischievous state.”
I pleaded sincerely to Guruvayoorappan to just pluck this flower and put it at his ‘Brahamma kadukina padam’,the lotus feet, washed reverently, by the creator of universe
Suddenly, I could hear the barking of my dog’ naughty’, followed by a three Wheeler’s sound .
Oh, He has arrived, the  Dharmaraja, the god of death to ‘pick me up’ I realized and it is no more a dream. But why did he choose a three wheeler ?  Didn’t he get a better vehicle, at least a decorated cart pulled by a buffalo if not a horse?
Anyway, I woke up from the bed.  I had none to take leave off before leaving the house nor anything to carry with me to the other world and therefore opened the door and found Athai getting out of the vehicle.
“Athai ! You, at this hour ? Anything wrong at S.N ?” I asked her anxiously.
”Nothing goes wrong, as long as we don’t go wrong ” was her cool answer.
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Pitchumani and his non vadama wife – Chapter 01

=========================================================================How thoughtful , intelligent and compassionate were our semi literate mothers and grand mothers!

Seshu Mama was sitting behind me, writing “sreeramajayam” and his wife, after reciting all the slokas she had learned from her childhood, was pacing before the waiting room, while our children had gone into the Eamcet counsel hall, at Hyderabad. “Eamcet” is a competitive exam held annually, for selecting candidates for professional courses, in Andra Pradesh and “EC or Electronics and communication” is a Major, much sought after by students in the engineering stream, in view of its job potential.As I could not bear the restlessness of mami, I approached  her and inquired, ”mami, Enthukku kuttipotta poonai mathiri ippidi appidi odarel? (why are you pacing like a just- delivered female cat?)”Pitchumanikki EC kidaikkanume!” she raised her hands in prayers, “oru thengai odaikkiren, Chthappuram pullayarappa!,”  She vowed to crack one coconut before the presiding deity of her native village, to help her son, getting selected for the major, he sought for.  Pulliar or God Ganapathi, combats obstacles and the belief is that the impediments and hindrance meet with the same fate as that of the coconuts thrown and broken to pieces, before the God.“You are offering just one coconut,” I pleaded on behalf of the God.”Increase it to three at least, please”I have seen people waiting before the surgical theaters and maternity wards in hospitals, youngsters before the interview boards and husbands before their employed wives seeking their monthly cash allowance. I too, have had some such experiences, especially, the one mentioned last. None of these had the intensity of Alamu mami’s  anguish and anxiety and my prayer was that she should not collapse, in the event of Pitchu not getting selected, for the major he wanted.
Thanks to Chappuram Pulliar’s prompt acceptance of the offer and Pitchumani’s good rank in the competitive exam, he was selected for the major of his choice and when he came out of the counsel  hall, prostrated on the ground before his parents, unmindful of the people around. That shows the manner in which he was brought up.
In course of time, he went to US, did his masters and secured a job with decent salary..
This is by way of introduction; the actual story starts now :
After a couple of years, the parents started looking for a suitable match for Pitchumani and Seshu mama was particular of only two things: one, there should be at least 6-7 poruthams (matching points) in the horoscopes and two, the girl should be from a vadama (a sub sect of Tamil brahamins) family only. Everyday he used to get by post, a bunch of horoscopes and he straight away discarded, those which did not satisfy the sub-sect criterion, despite several other plus points. Out of the remaining 10 or 15 horoscopes, the astrologer would clear only one or two. Those chosen few would not satisfy the requirement of Pitchumani such as that the girl should be fair, tall, slim, possessing a professional qualification, good in cooking, ability to stand on her own legs, communication skills, good in music, good in kolam drawing etc. She should be modern in looks but traditional in outlook. She should dress up fashionably for office and shopping but while at home she should wear only sari and not even chudidhar .
Several months and years passed by.  Seshumama did not succeed in finding a suitable match for his son but continued his efforts, untiring. A few days before I left Hyderabad for my continental tour, he reminded me to look for a suitable match “but remember,only vadama , please”.
While returning from Virginia, after visiting the Luray caverns and other tourist spots, my son asked, “Won’t you like to meet my friend Pitch, dad ?
“Enakku pitchem parukkanda, peyem parukkanda” ( I am not interested in seeing Pitch or witch), I replied,”let us go home and relax. My legs are aching”  But he insisted that I should visit his friend’s house, which was, en route and more over,”you should taste Elizabeth’s margarita”  After the Italian red wine, I had a weakness for that Mexican liquor and therefore I happily accepted his suggestion.
I almost yelled ” Ente Guruvayurappa”, when I entered Pitch’s house. Pitch was none other than our Pitchumani, son of my good friend Seshumama and he was happily married to a Mexican beauty and was a proud father of two lovely kids!!
I have learned from reliable sources that even when a vadama boy marries a girl of different sub-caste, his eligibility to become a father, remains intact. I was not therefore surprised but I was terribly sad,that his father was not aware of that truth and would collapse the moment he comes to know about it.
Pitchumani, was known to me from his childhood, much before he became “pitch”. He grew in a very conservative family under the discipline of strict parents. It would, therefore be impossible for the old couple, to accept a foreign girl in the family and that too with two kids. “Pitchumani, you could have, at least had the courtesy to inform your parents about your marriage” I murmured at his years while leaving, “where is time, Perias?” he asked, ” don’t You know how difficult life is here ?”
” I don’t think that you are so busy or your life is so difficult not to find a few minutes to talk to your parents about your mischief here. That old man, keeping a dozen horoscopes in his shoulder bag walks down to the astrologer’s house, almost every other day ”  I told  at his face,” and turning to  his wife,” Elizabeth, thanks for your hospitality; I loved your food and wine but not your honey calling me Perry ”
” You are welcome, Perias. It is my pleasure ” She replied and wanted to know, ”what is that horrorscope which Pitch’s dad carries in his shoulder bag   ?”
When I returned to India, the first thing I did, was to go to Seshumama’s house and give the news about Pitchumani. I was worried that the old couple would collapse hearing the news and silently prayed that they should not suffer a heart attack. I would have suffered a stroke, had I concealed that important news from the old couple. I prepared them for an hour narrating how America has changed the life style of our children and why we should accept them as they are and not mourn for their not living as we want them to be.
‘Eatho, Kozanthai kalyanam pannikkindu sugamairukkane illayo,athu poruam’ ( anyway, my son is married and lives happily, that is all I want). That was all mami said. Her response surprised me.” Kozanthagal ivaraimathiri illathakki chevappa irukkala?”(hope that his kids are fair and not dark in complexion, like my husband), she enquired with a mischievous  smile and looking at her partner with whom she had a wonderful life for the past four decades.”Nan karuppunnu therinjittuthane, ennai nee kalyanam pennikintai?”
-(you married me only after knowing that I am dark-skinned?), mama retorted and that was the beginning of a heated discussion.
I quietly withdrew from the scene when Seshumama, whispered,”he could have at least informed me that he was already married. How much money did I waste on Postage and astrologer?”
How do you explain this response ?
Parental love? Capability of human mind to accept the inevitable and absorb shocks ? Geethacharya’s ‘karmaneyavathikarasthea…? or the superficial mask of a burning Volcano?
I had no answer. But I realized while walking home that mami’s joke was planned to reduce the intensity of the lightning strike on her husband’s mind.
How thoughtful , intelligent and compassionate were our semi literate mothers and grand mothers! Often my father used to enter the house like a thunderstorm and mother used to hand over his vethilaipetty, pan-box or a tumbler of sambaram and quietly move towards the kitchen without a word !
(to be continued )


“Sa ya eshonthar hrudaya aakasa: Thasminnayam Purusho manomaya : Amritho hiranmaya:

In the stillness and silence of my inner space, shines a dazzling brilliance, to describe I have no words “