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From Baltimore to Vancouver

    • The storms and stories keep a watch on me, as the American cops do on the terrorists. When Meghana drove me to the Baltimore air port the sky was smiling, then its face swelled and then a few drops of tears down through the cheek while we waited in the airport . The moment I boarded the flight,  came  the tornado threat, which delayed the take off. neither could the passengers  get down nor the bird was taking off and it was a virtual house arrest for  four hours,  6PM TO 10 PM.  Meghana’s upuma and a thick volume of Barnard Shaw’s complete works were the stimulants to retain the composure , but for which I would have gone crazy.
    Ashu was waiting at the other end, the  Seattle airport with snacks and Ramu, with his car at the entrance.  2+4 = 6hrs wait + 51/2 hrs fly= nearly 12 hrs, had bored me to the brim and exhausted my energy  and my body  was just waiting to be pushed into the back seat of the car which hugged me to its bosom  and put me to sleep. Two hours later, my tornado- threat – disfigured head and face had to be lifted up forcefully  to show through the window  to the immigration officer at the Canada entry point, who wanted to compare them with the charming photo on my green card..
    The handsome face of the officer resembled the Baltimore sky on our drive towards the airport.
    ” Bringing your uncle  from the hospital?  The benevolent young man enquired.
    “No officer”, explained Ramu, ” from the tornado-threaten flight”
    ” Can we move one now?”, the law-abiding citizen wanted to make sure, the answer for which was not obvious from the face  of the officer .
    ” Please carry on”, he mumbled in his anxiety to clear our file,, adding a casual note; please  make sure that you carry with you that head and face too, peering from the back seat of your car”
    ” I will”, confirmed  my nephew, a qualified medical expert , with the relief of clearing  a valuable commodity which was about to be confiscated. He had to answer two oldies waiting at home, without sleeping, to receive that commodity.”Bears, at times, peep through the woods,”  Ramu’s father  waiting to receive me at the gate of his house forgoing his sleep, mentioned after a warm hug, pointing  his fingers towards the woods opposite to the house..
    “The animals won’t be disappointed Ambi Anna”, I replied, the visible  doubt  on the face of the officer at the entry point, fresh in my eyes.
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The old ones have to go and that is the law of Nature

The old ones have to go and that is the law of Nature:
The prospect of another visit to Kerala with my siblings, this time mainly to participate in the ‘ther’ car festival at my ancestral village, Perinkulam, on 25/26 this month, excites me. Kindles my memory to the last trip some two years ago, when I cirumambulated the Divine chariot, following the idol of Lord Navaneetha Krishnaswamy majestically seated on a caparisoned jumbo, prior to His boarding the chariot for a procession to meet the villagers. I was holding a laminated board where the stothram ‘Namami nithyam Navaneetha Krishnam’ composed by me was written by hand. That board was later placed on the front wall of the temple and to my surprise and happiness it still hangs there and the temple priest during my recent visit told me, ‘Anna I never expected so many will read the stotram and recite reverently.The interest of the devotees prompted a good Samaritan to print a few copies”.  He handed over to me a few print outs. A few more popular stotrams were there along with mine and the name below was not mine but that of the good soul who took the trouble of making the prints. That is OK. What is important is people are interested.
Another memory that surfaces in the mind, is my having a shoulder-ride on my father, after a memorable participation in the Kalpathy car festival, when I was a child. He crosses the river, raising his veshty above his knees, holding a sugarcane stick in one hand and holding me firm by the other, to ensure that I don’t slip and fall. A packet of ‘muttapori’ and ‘perichampazm’ (dates) is  in my hand. There were several men and women returning from the village, enthralled by the festivities, crossing the river, whose water was muddy but the joy of me and hopefully of the other children too,  was unstained. There were, among them, many familiar faces and I smile at some .
Recently I went to Kalpathy Village where I was born, and to Olavakkode where I was raised. Except one person, Siddique, son of our neighbor Hamsakka, there was no known face. Siddique of course, hosted me in his dormitory and we spent over an hour discussing the past.
‘Appu anna, don’t you want to see the building that has come up in the land you sold?” He asked me. I nodded my head to say ‘no’. I spent the first twenty years of my life in a big house, in that land. That was only a tiled house, double storied, what you call ‘nalukettu’ with a more than two hundred feet long hall, adjacent to it, where my father had a hotel. Children having no interest and me, compelled to live mostly in USA, that ancestral house had to be sold. I didn’t go there to watch its demolishing. Siddique did that job. Now a muti- storied concrete structure has come up there, I was told. The old ones have to go and that is the law of the nature. I am aware of it, but still I am sad. That is not good I know, because the old ones have to go and that is the law of Nature!

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Another short trip to Kerala – part 3

Guruvayoor has a unique place in my mind, in the minds of millions of devotees, in Kerala. When you enter that sacred temple premises, you forget everything, except of course, your wife, if she is accompanying you.
There is a silent flow of sanctity all over and you feel that it flows from the sanctum and after sometime you realize that your own soul is the source of that flow..”Eee then aruvi ennum vattaruthae Krishna !-
make this melody perennial, my Lord” was my only wish when I stood before Him for a few seconds, enjoying His divine form, though later, I realized that it was the internal  divine flow, which mirrored the form of the Lord, as the time allotted to stand before the deity was too little to have a full few. The ambiance here awakens the dormant aspiration deep in our heart for being close to the divinity and we experience an unexplainable bliss and satisfaction of achieving a life-time longing. Our daily life, cramped in flesh, inextricably chained to earth, longs for fresh air, which the visits to holy places or dip in holy rivers provide, provided we are ready to absorb the flow from the Supreme Reality. For spiritual emancipation, knowledge in Vedasastras is not a must, though it might aid to some extend. But the knowledge that there is a Supreme Reality of which we are a part of, is required to prepare a fertile soil and that small land has to be maintained as clean as possible, to allow the Divine flow.
The devotees firmly believe that Unnikrishnan, the Lord Krishna, in the form of a child plays around the temple premises. Long ago, when I raised my head after a sashtangam, prostration in submission before the flag post, saw an elderly person standing beside me,who said, with eyes moist with devotion :” don’t knock your head so hard on this floor. Unnikrishnan is walking around here. You know the kid’ss feet are so tender that even Lakshmi, is careful, while pressing them with her soft, lotus-like hands”.
Sree Krishnan smiles, laughs, plays tricks, enjoys wearing good clothes and ornaments and behaves often like any of us. often cool, at times, emotional, angry, again like many of us. He never gives away boons, in a hurry, without thinking of the consequences like Brahma nor dances in the cremation ground, wearing an elephant skin, like Lord Shiva. He loves girls, all of them pretty, dances with them, plays tricks with them and carries one on his chariot and speeds up, when an arranged marriage was not possible. I think all these qualities, normal even for us, makes Him close to the heart of devotees.
Have you seen Brahma smiling or laughing despite having four faces? Or even Parameswara doing so ? How will Brahma smile or laugh when his position is shaky, on the petals of a tender lotus with a long tender stem emanating from the umbilicus of Vishnu on a serpent amidst the restless waves of an ocean? Wonder how he could involve in a whole- time job of creation, in a such a position. Do you need any other reason for the non -uniformity of his products? And how will Mahadeva smile, with one madam on his head and the other one occupying half his body. I stop laughing or smiling when my Ammalu comes 3-feet close to me and how will poor Sankara when both His wives, enslave him from the top and side, smile or laugh? And you know He is very old- mannered.
Instead of standing before  the girl, who undergoes a severe penance, with all his weapons, in full height and glamor, He goes before Uma, in the disguise of  a bramachary and waste time in doing kusalprasnam, formal talks.
” अपि क्रियार्थं सुलभं स्मिथकुशं जलानयापि स्नान विधिक्षमाणि ते
अपि स्वशाकत्या तपसि प्रवर्तसे शारीरमाद्यं  खलु धर्मसादनं ”
” Are the samith, darbha grass and other materials required for your homajapams, available without much efforts for you, here? Is the water required for your bath easily available for you? You are straining much for your tapas . Please take care of your health”
Is this the way, though in disguise, a lover should talk to his girl at the first sight?  And then He goes on speaking in self- degrading sentences :
“त्वमेव तावत् परिचिन्तय स्वयम् कदचिदेन यदि योगसंहित :
वधूदुकूलं कलहंसलक्षणं यचाजिनं शोनितबिन्दुवार्षि च ”
“Think for a while; will ever the blood-oozing elephant hide ( which is the drape of the one you seek ) be ever a match for your swan-designed, ornamental silk clothes ( you will be wearing for the wedding ?)
“वपुर विरूपाक्षमलक्षिता  जनि : दिगम्बरत्वेन निवेदितं वसु
वरेषु यद् बालमृगक्षि मृग्यते  तदस्ति  किं  व्यर्तमपि  त्रिलोचने ”
” His ( Parameswaran’s) body is  shapeless and He has an extra eye;  His lineage is unknown; He doesn’t have even a cloth to wear. Has he a single attraction expected of a bridegroom in Him, Parvati, you, with the attractive eyes of an young deer?
And so on.
And poor Uma, instead of  loudly saying,’no’ , or  enquring whether ‘Parameswaran knows cooking,  has he an MBA from A, B or C school or has he  a green card or American citizen ship’, foolishly, submits:
” विभूषणोदभासि  पिनद्रुभोगि वा गजजिनालंभि दुकूलधारी  वा ,
कप्पली वा स्यादभवेन्दुशेखारं  न विस्वमूर्थे रवधायथे वपु :”
The whole  universe is His body; beyond any one’s comprehension is His form; Ornaments or snakes may be his adornments ; may be elephant hide or white silk; may be even skull or moon. Who  can  comprehend  (the real nature of  the Viswamoorthy ?”)
(I will marry Him and Him alone) . What will you do if your sister or daughter is uncompromising in her decision !.
Kumarasambhavam is unique Kaavayam . How decently Parameswaran speaks and behaves before Uma!
I participated in an Akshrasloka competition, while studying in SSLC  and the prize awarded to me was that book, which showed me the way to the golden path of  Sanskrit literature, thereby bringing ‘nithya ‘vasantham, perennial spring into my life.
But while standing before the sanctum of Guruvayoor, neither the Kumarasambhavam nor the divine couple, surfaced in my mind.
.”Eee then aruvi ennum vattaruthae Krishna !-make this melody perennial, my Lord.” was my only wish .
Let that celestial melody from His flute fill the soul of every one .
Love and regards,
Feb 7, 2013

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Another short trip to Kerala – part 2

”You are free from your chief now but will never be free from your mischief “- That was how my respected director, wished me adieu, while I retired from service.
” experience speaks” You endorse the words of wisdom of my boss and demand, ‘explain’.The first lesson I learned from my recent trip is that in Kerala and Tamil Nadu temples, you can’t rent a room for stay, if you are a lonely male, irrespective of your age.
”No room for single” is the standard reply from the lodge-keepers.
”Why so, may I know?” I inquire really innocently.
The front page of a local daily is presented before me with a naughty smile. Reports of misusing the facility by males, highlighting the incidents where the naughties are oldies.
”You expect me to be mischievous at this age? ” I ask him unsure of the validity of my question but with an anxiety to have an accommodation at that late hour.
”As older as naughtier!”  He replies in the ‘as father, as son’ style, enjoying his own English and watching my face to asses whether I too enjoyed his wit. Wits are to be enjoyed especially the ones made at late hours when you are at the mercy of an inn keeper, to rest your exhausted head.
Now, two sample instances for your enjoyment:
At Guruvayoor. Time- late night.
”Thirumeni oru room venam- need a room”. I request the Namboodiri, at the counter of a lodge, with a liberal sandal paste on his forehead and equally lavish cool smile on his face.
”Swamy thaniyae aano? You are alone, I suppose “
“Alla, Easwaranum koodae undu- No, the God is with me “
” Athu pora,  Room illallo Swamy- That is not enough -sorry, no room.” Convincing was his reply that God was not  considered as a fit companion for allotment of the room.
” Jnan atra viddi alla thirumeni, oru roominnu vendi velikazikkan- I am not a blockhead to remarry just to get accommodated in your lodge for a night. “
”Oh, Rasikan, athi  rasikan, muri edutholu- You are wonderfully jovial; the room is yours”.
I knew that Namboodiries enjoy jokes but never expected they would enjoy even simple facts as jokes .
At Pazhani: Time – midnight.
”Single room onnum kaali illainka-No single room is available”. The counter clerk replies sternly.
“Onka mudhalali iruukkara? -Is your owner available?” I ask him.
The owner comes, an young man, forehead lavishly smeared with the popular ‘siddhar viboothi’, unusual for his age.
“Your face resembles your grand father’s- —–“. I  search for the name which the youngster volunteers to mention, ‘Parameswara Iyer””Right. My father’s elder brother and your grand father’s younger brother were class mates.” I try to bring us closer and continue, ” your grand mother’s younger sister and my mother’s elder sister also were–“”Playmates” The youngster completes the sentence.”You are right again. There is one more relationship-” I continue, but the smart guy, already convinced that we are related, turns to his assistant and orders, “Ayyarukku room kattunko- show him his room -“While I pick up my wallet to pay the advance, as I was prepared to sleep in any closed area, there comes an elderly person, with thickly tufted head and offers, ” I will take him to his room”.
I could have followed him silently, but as is my wont, enquire, “Anna, entha oor – you are from which village?”
”pallippuram. Nan than parameswara iyer, I am parameswara Iyer, grand father of the boy you met at the counter.”


‘Vay irunda pullai pozathcukkum”- an adage. Near meaning-‘you can survive by your tongue’
But  remember, tongue can, sometime be undoing too.
Feb 5,2013
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Another short trip to Kerala – part 1

A good start I thought, when I could hire an auto with meter, the moment I got down the Trichur Railway station, just paying a fee of Re. 1, in a counter across. I still consider the Vadkkunnathan, lord Shiva, the presiding deity of this town as my ‘annadaada’, feeder, as it was here that I started working, soon after my studies. The reminiscence of my starting earning and short stay in this lovely town, filled my heart with happiness when my vehicle circumambulated the temple garden with the shrine at its center. Paying a remote obeisance to Vadakkunathan ( as the temple was closed), I went to meet Chacku, my bachelor room mate and ex-colleague.
He was as excited as a child,meeting his classmates after the summer holidays, though I never miss meeting him, every time I go to Guruvayoor.
“Irikku- take your seat”, he said pointing out a chair next to him. I looked at him and wondered whether he was the same handsome six-footer, immaculately dressed, when he joined our team, fresh from the college, some three months after I entered the Trichur unit of the ‘Anaemia and Protein malnutrition’ project work, in 1959. When our Institute was shifted from Connor to Hyderabad in the end of that year, we too were transferred along with the local unit.On landing at the Secunderabad railway station, we took shelter in a lodge opposite and shared a room. For the bed bugs there, the young blood of ours, was a feast. Jacob temporarily shifted to YMCA . I was able to procure a good house, showing my sacred thread to the house owners to prove my Brahminhood, in a village close to our work place.  I named it as ‘Panchavady’, when another four of my colleagues including Jacob, joined me. For almost ten years we lived together there and it was one of the most enjoyable periods in the life of all of us. Chacku was a decent gentleman in every respect, though that doesn’t mean that the others were neither decent nor gentlemen. He was always well-dressed, scrupulous, strict in his work, soft spoken and a no nonsense bachelor. One by one, all the inmates, except him, got married when we left Panchavadi. He still remains as a bachelor and lives alone in an apartment which he bought after retirement. It is well furnished but he doesn’t even prepare coffee and one of the hotels feed him, against payment.
While in service, he hardly used to look at the face of a girl and talk, though girls were plenty as our colleges. ‘He could have,’ I felt seeing him, living alone in his old age.
As we were meeting  in the shadow of the passing away of our room mate, Nair, mostly we talked about him, when Chacku commented,” moonu vadi murinju- three stumps of panchavadi are down”, referring to the death of  Emmanual, artist Darmadathan and Nair, who lived along with us in the ‘Panchavadi’
”Thanikku vallathum vannal, sahayathinnarenkilum unto- you have any one in case of an emergency?” I asked him, sadness, worry and anxiety, chocking my throat, on the plight of one of my bachelor room mates and long time friend and colleagues.
”Don’t worry on that account; I have a few relatives around here”.  He consoled me.
I had a wash. He offered me cola which I didn’t want. Went for a short nap and when I got up, saw him meddling with my electric shaver.
”How useful is this?” H e enquired.
“Very useful,” I replied. No need of a brush or soap, just rotate the blades on your face and in a few seconds the job is over. Ideal for an idle person like me. Take it if you like. I will buy another one, when I go to USA shortly.”
”Get me one, when you come next time”.
I gave him a new wrist watch, which I had brought for him from America. He liked it, but liked the one which was around my waist better. I removed it and gave it him. He was as happy as a child receiving the gift of a toy . The one which I took back and wore on wrist was loose. He brought his tool box and spent half an hour to adjust the size of the chain to fit my wrist. Then he took me to an adjacent restaurant for food.
While leaving his apartment, he thrust a few small notes and coins into my shirt pocket. ” This will be helpful to you for your petty expenses”. He said.
I remembered my  brother, Vicha, at ‘Anantha Jyothi’, who feeds me. He too handed over  a few small notes and coins when I was leaving for my Kerala trip . ‘Anna, ithu vetchukko” He said the same words, as Chacku.'”This will be useful for your petty expenses”
The hearts of some are big. Pettiness is unknown to them. And that is how the world thrives.
Feb 3, 2013

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Pallavur and Kavaseri

Parakkattu Bagavathi of Kavassery
The bus travel in the  morning hours, through the peripheral villages of Palakkad, with cool breeze petting and patting from all sides, is alluring, especially when the paddy  fields on both sides are rich with crops ready for harvesting.  There is a rhythm in the movement of women walking with their head-loads, across the narrow borders of the fields, the silent grazing of cattle on the bank of  ponds or  the chirping and chattering of the school children in uniform.
People rush out of their house hearing the noise of the approaching bus or stand on the road side and command the bus to stop by hand motion. They do not wave the hand, as we do in the cities, while seeking a lift, but hold it in a particular angle or sometime simply nod to request for a halt.  The driver does not grumble even if he had to stop the vehicle every five or ten yards. The conductor does not blow the whistle or ring the bell soon after the passenger gets into the bus but gives a vocal clearance  ‘haa’ or bangs on the body of the bus with his wrist. The traveler- friendly attitude of the private buses is a boon to  those who commutes  in the early hours to attend to their work.
Malayalees, perhaps,  use the body language,  as a supplement and sometime even as a substitute, more than others.  While driving  through the outskirts of  the Hyderabad city,sometime ago, I  sought the help of a pedestrian, to reach a particular place. He stretched his right hand above the shoulder, closed his eyes, bent his head slightly to left and said,”straiiiiiight!”, giving an idea of the distance , the way he dragged the word ’straight’.
“‘Malayaliyanu alle? -you are from Kerala, I guess”, I remarked, to thank him.
‘Athey, athey, athey” Yes’ he confirmed nodding thrice.
Parakkatu Baghavaty temple at Kavassery, like many other small temples, including my ‘kuladevada (family deity)’s   at  Chittellenchery,  is prospering, thanks to the financial support mostly from  the non-Brahmin community. It is satisfying  to worship at those places, mostly silent and solitary ,with their own simplicity and sanctity.You feel at home. The surroundings are generally clean and tidy and the  gush of unwanted thoughts into the mind,  minimum . It provides an ideal ambiance for meditation.
From the Parakkattu temple, I walked down  the narrow lanes, to visit my mother’s  ‘tharavadu’ or ancestral house, perhaps the only Brahmin abode now,in the  Kongalakkodu village . I was visiting that  sleepy village dotted with a  silent  Srikrishna temple and a small pond, after several years.  My elder cousin, lives there. Neither the vicissitudes of life nor the waning health has tampered his  temerity or temperament and he continues to be proud and  boisterous as he was during his prime period. His ‘poda-po’- dare-devil attitude while facing insurmountable problems of life, is admirable. He is, in fact,the role model for my ‘Parasu’ character, in my “Oh, pramasukham” story .He needed my support to get up from his bed but once he was seated on the ‘thinnai’, an elevated extension in the frontage, he started commanding, ‘aarada avade-who there?”. I remembered my father: with not an anna – a small coin- in his pocket, he had the proud of a millionaire and capacity to tide over adverse conditions like an expert sailor.
I was  excited to imagine  that my mother as a child  would have played along with her sibling around the small tank  and my grand father, with his fore-head, chest and arms glistening with ‘vibhooti’ marks and silver edged ‘Rudrasham’, would have recited  ‘Vishnu sahsranamam’  inside the temple. Both of them have left this world but the house, temple and pond remains. Non-living things often outlive what we call ‘living’ ones.
A big pendulum clock acquired by my grand father or his father, still standing erect in a corner of my library , strikes in agreement, loudly and lavishly.
I met two more  persons close to our family  in Pallavur, another  small and sleepy village with a disproportionately big Siva temple, famous for  the ‘ Ezham vilakku’ festival  during the Navarathry days. One was my cousin sister, who has chosen to live alone in the village though her only daughter in the city and her children  would like her to be with them. She might be between eighty five and ninety, but prefer to   toddle  down the slippery steps leading to the pond almost every morning, for ablution, instead of having her bath inside a closed room. There is a pleasure in taking bath in a village pond,when the sun smiles from above and small fishes tickle your feet from below. And our elders, thoughtfully, dug out one or two ponds in every village. Kalpathy is an exception; it is on the bank of a river.
I sent word for Paru Amma, who served our family for nearly fifty years. As usual, clad in a snow white ‘mundu’ she came smiling from ear to ear, when I realised that there is no need for a set of sparkling teeth to flash a smile. For, like cry, smile emerges out of the heart of  villagers. Paru Amma,also in her late eighties,is  not our kin but lived as one for several years in our family.  She was picked up by my  father from the Valayar forests while collecting fire wood and employed in our house, initially to take care of the cattle. By unalloyed affection, admirable integrity and sustained hard work,  she became a de facto member of the family and served  three generations.
‘Appaachy’s atmasanthi’, was molded keeping her in my mind. This is how I introduced my leading character in the story.
“She was there, with us, in the family when I was born, when my siblings were born and also when our children were born; she was there with us through the vicissitudes of life for over 50 years, when our parents and a few others passed away, when we got married and when some of our children got married,and in almost all family functions, when we went on pilgrimage or almost wherever we went.She helped our parents to bring us up and helped us to bring up our children.. Her habits were clean, her hands cleaner with the result that the house always remained unlocked when she was at home and never had we to regret on that count. She quarreled some time with us, collected her cloth bundle and walked away, vowing that she would never step into our house again, only to return before the next meal time for the kids. Father used to shout at her and threaten to throw her out, but in the next five minutes he could be seen pleading for a tobacco bit from her. ”She behaves like a mother-in-law” the daughters -in-law of the house used to complain to their husbands but used to rush to her for her advice if their kids sneeze more than once or wet their garment more than twice. All the children in the family loved,respected and treated her as they would treat their mother or grand mother as they all were aware of the role played by her in nourishing and nursing them up with unalloyed affection and undiluted care.”
Under a cool sky, embraced by the benevolent breeze from the pond, three of us spent the whole night, recapitulating the past.

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I was fortunate this year too, to attend the car festival at Perinkulam, my native village.  Hei, wait a minute. How do I  say that Perinkulam is my native village?  I was not born there, I did not grow there nor did I live there for more than a few days. The village name which was hibernating inside the shell of a single letter initial, stood up proudly and prominently, in my passport and from then on, I am known as Perinkulam, in my mails and other correspondence.
” Can I have your passport, Perinkulam?’  asks the official in the  check -in counters of hotel and airports.
“My name is not that, it is my village ” I was about to tell him but instantly restrain my tongue.
” Meet senior Perinkulam”,  friends of my children introduce me to others. It takes a few seconds for me to realize that it is me, who is being introduced.
Óh, Perinkulama ? Nanum Perinkulam than- I  am also from Perinkulam” boasts a stranger in a cultural meet . I am amused at his camaraderie, as  I recall how men of  our two neighboring villages, total length not more than  a furlong or two, quarrel on  very petty issues.
“I am also from Perinkulam”  writes a reader, ” and I like your stories” I send a reply thanking him, murmuring,  “he likes my stories only because I am from his village! What a disgrace for my art!”
My children also are known as Perinkulams, though they hardly know that place.
“Look  at your own name” I exhort them when they blame me about my occasional wandering in the pavilions of past. ” Your past is so prominently, unalterably projected there.” After some time I add, ” your children may never visit that village or it might be known by some other name when your grand children are born but they still will be known as Ṕerinkulams, though they might settle in the Mars or the  Moon .¨.
Whatś in a name? ¨ asks Shakespeare, ẗhat which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” It will, no doubt. But, the moment I hear the word ŕose’  its fragrance and beauty spreads in my mind, which cannot happen with another name.
The procession of   chariots, one behind the other, beautifully decorated  with flowers, flags, sugarcane, coconuts and plantain bunches, ceremoniously drawn through the streets by hundreds  of devotees,  following the synchronized beat of the percussionists and pushed by the elephants,  become all the more attractive when they cross the bank of the the big pond, called  ‘Perinkulam’,  through a ‘z’ shaped small stretch of land.The natural bend of the road, the pond on the back ground, the setting sun and the Siva temple  in the center of the two villages make the procession glamorous.
“Ï am pulling the Godś vehicle!”  I think for a moment and feel proud of my physical strength. The realism overtakes the false proud instantly, when I see around, hundreds of other hands  too  pulling the vehicle along with mine and an elephant too at the back to push the chariot!  Several successes  in life have brought that false prestige in me and more I think over the matter, I realise that it was all a combined effort -with a huge figure pushing from the back.
After the show was over, I retire to a corner of the temple, with none there except the God inside, and muse over the past. I pick up a handful of earth from the premises and asks  myself, “how did I get emotionally attached to this soil, which did not give me birth, which did not feed me and which, in fact played no part in my development?.
My mind goes back to several years  and I recall the story as told to me about the migration of my grand parents to that village. Having lost everything in life, wealth, children, status, health and honour, they landed in this village, full of rocks , accepting the gracious offer of an uncle to shelter them in a small mud house with four walls and many fruit trees around. The mud house has disappeared but that vacant land, which I can see from the temple, is  still there, sheltering the Godś chariot, as a humble expression of gratitude to Navaneetha Krishanan, for the mercy showered on the progeny of the refugees who took shelter under His feet long ago..
That was practically the beginning of our known family history, as the earlier golden period of prosperity was forgotten for all practical purposes . I do not know when our ancestors migrated from Tamil Nadu but I am told that they were from a place called Vancheeyam because the first sons of all the branches of the clan, was named after that village deity, Vancheeswaran. My father did visit that place once in his life time and I am yet to do that.
Having lost his father when he was very young and no other means of  livelihood, my father,  migrated to Palakkad, to start a small business, with practically zero investment but with a monstrous mental acumen, courage and will power.  It was that journey by walk, along with my mother and me, a six months old baby, that paved the way later, for the jet flying of his children and grand children.
so was my migration to Hyderabad, twenty years later,  which led to the later relocation of my siblings which resulted subsequently, in  their progenyś  migration to west.Now most of the youngsters in the family are settled abroad.The forebears souls, I am sure,  will rest in peace because their earthy descendants are having a square meal, which they themselves did lack for sometime. And for parents, that is the best news they crave to have, not what the children don, pant of panchagatcham.
. Human migration has been taking place,  since long, due to various reasons, economic, socio- political, religious and many such ,  may be to the next village or city or to a far away country . Overcoming the obstructions of the oceans and mountains, they have been migrating and so are the birds, animals, seeds and thoughts.
My thoughts come back to the handful of soil and recall that my bare chested, bare footed ancestors wold have walked over this soil with almost a bare stomach, but always  reciting the Vedic verses which invokes universal love and affection, sympathy for the suffering and support for the falling. Their ashes would have mingled with this soil and  it still moist with their tears and sweat. The smell of sacred ash and saffron is still fresh in the handful of material I have.
“Forget the past; live in the present” I read every where  But how?
How do I forget my Hyderabad house, “Anantha Jyothy”, the cradle of our dreams and witness of our growth and disaster,  within the four walls of which my children learned to  crawl, struggled to get up and walk and stood proudly  on their tiny legs? How I am to forget that soil, which is the same as the one I have in my hand, which nourished our family and also absorbed the ashes of my dear and near?
How am I forget the soil of Baltimore or  Florida, which is the same as the one in my hand, which gave wings to my  artistic aspiration , dormant for fifty years and made me to write stories, one of which stirred a good soul so intensely  that he, poured his heart,in the following lines:
“At least in one of my future births I would like to be your student, your sibling, your whatever, in whatever manner I would like to be associated with you, may be a doormat in your house…
I salute you Sir, endaro mahanubavulu, andariki vandanamulu…
You have given me immense happiness today. Thank you from the pits of my heart”
It is worthwhile to spend a life time to give immense happiness to a soul, even for a moment.
The hands pulling the chariot here, are exclusively mine but a huge elephant, embodiment of wisdom and virtues, pushes from the back always and if my mind goes into hibernation and  hands become too weak, the great pachyderm  comes to the front, pulls the chariot and carry me on its head too.
Ebullient  by emotional  propelling, I stand before the sanctum and sing the first stanza from my own composition ¨ Namai nithyam Navaneetha Krishnam”.
Immersed in the enchanting beauty of the ”  ANANTHA,MAANANDA MAHAASAMUDRAM”,  I then, sing from the immortal ‘Mukunda mala” of Kulasekhra Perumal;
‘Naham vandhe thava charnayor, dwantha madwantha hetho,
Kumbheepakam gurumapihare,tharakam napanethum.
Ramya rama mriduthanulatha nanthane napirandhum
Bhave, bhave, hridaya bhavane, bhavayeyam bhavantham”
Bhave, bhave hridaya bhavane bhavayeyam Bhavantham¨
The Ánantha Jyothy always shines in my heart, then how does it matter whether I am in Perinkulam or Baltimore?
Slowly, my mind dissolves into a big pool of divine compassion and grace and in that ¨Perinkulam´, floats on a lotus leaf, a lovely baby, holding his lotus-like leg with his lotus-like hand towards his lotus-like mouth, while I continue with my thapas  for the birth of one more  lotus bud to be placed at  that Divine graciousness.
Can I have your passport, Perinkulam?’  asks the official in the  check -in counter.
I hand him over the document without any hesitation.
April, 18  2009

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From TVM to Kasi

Soon after returning from the America,  I proceeded to Thiruvanantthapuram for the Navarathry celebrations. I was excited to notice the remarkable progress of the Sri Durga temple close to the Sreekanteswaram Siva temple, as I happened to be a witness to its gloomy past. Kudos to the  Kerala Brahmana Sabha which took over the temple in 1973 and the leadership of the  neurosurgeon cum thanthri  Dr. Sambhasivan whose  pooja procedure  strictly according to the thanthric  style of Namboodiries,  provides an ideal ambiance for worshiping.
The temple now has  a two-level concrete structure,the lower one housing the bright yellow metal-wrapped  sanctum sanctorum and a small auditorium and the top one,  a dining hall, both adequately furnished.  I was present for the poojas and music programs during the last 3 days of the festival and it was a memorable experience.
The evening concerts were so absorbing that I abandoned my original plan to attend music at the Navarathry mandapam .
Enthralled by the enchanting melody provided by  Sangeetha kalanidhi sri.Sankaranarayan and his accompanists of admirable skill and admiring the benign smile of the aesthetically decorated idol of the Goddess from  her glittering abode, my mind slipped down some thirty forty years through the valley of memory, while sitting unrecognized and unnoticed by any one, in a corner of the  temple.
A slim, simple and humble  old man, securing his constant companion, an equally aged umbrella, under his arm-pit, walks into  a deserted and  dilapidated  house adjoining the pond behind  Sreekanteswaram temple,  holding a bottle of sesame oil for lighting lamps, a brass vessel with small quantities of rice and jaggery for preparing neivedyam( offering) for the small idol of  goddess Durga, situated in an ill- ventilated room in the center of the house, probably once an illam or a Namboodiri residence.
On Tuesdays, he  buys a few lemon fruits, bifurcate  them, extract  juice, add sugar and distribute to the couple of women devotees present there, after converting the left over lemon-shells into temporary lamps.The  number of women devotees swell in due course and he  purchases  sufficient stock of lemons and sugar  and I inquire how he manages to obtain funds to meet the expenditure, as I was aware of his dwindling financial status.
‘Than vishamikkanda- you don’t worry ” He assures me, pointing his  hand towards the Goddess. “SHE  takes care of it”
As desired by him, I recited  Lalithasahasranam there one  evening and apart from him there was  only one person to hear  my recitation, but I had somehow, the satisfaction that the one, who should hear, did hear my prayers. Since then I started liking that small temple and  used to help the old man, who happened to be my Amman or father-in-law sri.Krishan iyer, during my sojourns to my wife’s place. He is one of the characters in my story, “Oh, paramasukham” and the  Sreekanteswary  mentioned in my song, “Arasum moodu Ganapathy mama gathy” is the presiding deity of the temple mentioned above.
I was glad that Amman’s absolute optimism that ” She will take care” has come true and wish that the Kerala Brahmansabha  continues to extend its helping hand to similar other temples too, without jeopardizing its good work of helping the needy students and less fortunate men and women, as it is doing now. Aware of the unattractive strength and under-privileged status of our community the Sabha has wisely involved other communities too in the developmental activities.
Next, I went to Lucknow  to celebrate Deepavali or Divali as it is known there , with my daughter-in-law who has come to her parents along with my grand children from US . A new set of dolls of Ganesh and Lakshmi is bought and Lakshmi pooja performed accompanied by dancing and singing.The North Indian folks grab any small opportunity to dance and their enthusiasm even under  hostile circumstances, to sing and dance is contagious.
It is a disgrace to our spiritual awareness and aesthetic sense to keep Kasi, the Mecca of Hindus, in such a pathetic condition. No effort has been made to halt the merciless and unashamed pollution of the holy river or to improve the width of the  innumerable  narrow lanes, dirtied by cow dung, rice balls and waste materials dumped on the roads. The approach roads to all the temples are unclean and it is a nightmare to enter the main Baba Viswanath shrine through the crowded narrow lane, pushed by unsolicited guides,  where a large contingent of armed guards await who search you from top to tow, irrespective of your age, eight or eighty and the pandas extend their arm for charity leaving the holy idol unattended .There are many  foreigners, mostly interested in the Buddhist shrines around. While in US, I used to watch with awe and jealousy at the lavish bottoms of some  Americans but after riding the hand-pulled rickety rikshas and experiencing the discomforts of the sloppy and slender- cushioned seats, I raised my hands up in prayer to my creator for using limited quantity of clay for my molding .
With all these deficiencies, Varanasi still has an attraction of its own for the religious Hindus.  Sitting on the banks of the Ganges watching the glamorous ‘harati’   to Gangamayya performed by  colorfully dressed young, good looking pundits is a feast to the eyes and the accompanying hymns pouring from the sound system enthralls your soul. You forget for a moment the muddy waters of the river while witnessing the village women boating in group singing folk songs in praise of Baba Viswanath and the Gangamayya. You spare some time to think about your forgotten ancestors, who crisscrossed the country, bare-footed, mostly with empty stomach  facing inclement weather and other inimical conditions, just to have a dip in the holy waters or even to drop their mortal frame on its bank.  You will realize how thin is the dividing line between life and death while gazing at the dead bodies  burning above and the singing and bathing devotees below on the  ghats.
Later, while strolling on the banks of the rivers after bathing in the Sangamam and  Sarayu , the mind was scintillating with the brilliance of the ‘hartai’ performance by the glamorously dressed handsome pandas on the bank of the ‘dasaswametha ghat’ accompanied by the reverberating  bajans  and not  the cow dung stained narrow streets of Varanasi nor the big-bottomed  African American struggling to place his huge physical possession on the sloppy little seat of a hand- pulled riksha.
So, the trip was not bad, I presume.
Nov.4th, 2008