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Going back home, sweethome

The flight from Vancouver to Chicago was memorable; the Sun brightening the entire sky, the clouds glistening as if they are all made of pure silver, crimson  beams passing through in between, layers and layers of snow covered mountains and then barren hills exposing the silent brooks,water falls  and weak dents, then green or dark  squares and rectangle, clearly earmarked by straight lines, mostly, occasionally circular, which turned out to be motor roads leading from different house colonies, the houses revealed in between them only when the aircraft slows down. The weather was exceptionally friendly and otherwise such a breath-taking view from the sky was impossible. Our life journey too, even by road, depends on favorable climates, both internal and external!.
To look down from the sky has always been man’s  ambition, envying the birds, who effortlessly  soar high, flutter, shoot up , dive or settle on a tree. ‘Even a small animal like squirrel climbs up the trees with such an ease, why can’t I?”, he asked, tried to climb trees, succeeded and  then tried to trek the hills, mountains and his joy of viewing the earth below from the high pedestal was unique, as I had while bird’s- eye-viewing the City of New York, the rivers, the crowded streets, woods, from the tops of skyscrapers, including the 102-story, Empire State Building, located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City,
From bikes to balloons, then to aircraft and from there to spacecraft, we have pushed ourselves higher and higher and yet to many, who have participated in those thrilling voyages, the best part of it was looking back towards home, the sweet home!
Every one has to go back to, from where he started. For some,  the return journey turns difficult. Much depends upon how we prepare ourselves for that. Preparation doesn’t mean keeping our things well packed and pushing the baggage below the pillow . Keeping the mind clean and prepared to start the engine the moment the bell rings, helps. Another way is to ignore the fact that the journey is new but only a continuation of the present one.
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Vancouver diary page 6

I have been here for five weeks now and could see a few places depending on the limited time  my nephew Ramu and his wife Ashu, busy medical practitioners could spare. The Nature has showered Her bounty unreservedly on this land and first taste  of it, I had when I stood awe-struck before the Niagara falls several years before. I raised my head and hands towards the sky to thank the Supreme Power for giving me eyes and an opportunity to view the wonder of His creation:
” Shanthaya, roudraya, sowmyaya, goraya, kanthimatham kanthi roopaya thae namha:”
Whatever little I saw here during the present sojourn too is mind blogging . The zeal of the authorities as well as the  people in preserving the God’s gift,  is amazing. The skill in money-making out of the natural resources is worth studying.
Vancouver is the largest city in Western Canada, one of the most beautiful cities, ranked as ‘ the world’s most desirable place to live’ in a survey of 140 cities by the Economist magazine’s intelligence unit. Located at the South western corner of the province of British Columbia, it is situated between the North Shore and coastal mountains and the edge of the pacific ocean.
Wherever you turn, the mountain ranges, some snow-capped ,  greet you. Drive a few miles, you will land at the shore of a lake or at the foot of a water fall. There are 1 million lakes in Canada, claims a plaque on the long corridor of the  ‘Canada Place’, the main cruise ship terminal for the region, from where most of Vancouver’s famous cruises to Alaska originate. From here, You get a mesmerizing view of the city nestled between mountain ranges, while you can watch the Pacific ocean right under your eyes. The sea-jets fly and land on water, the jet boats speed up while raising its head high proudly, the city watches from behind. ‘Are they, husband and wife or father and daughter?’, I wondered looking at the mountain standing like a sentinel to take care of the Pacific Ocean flowing below .
The  450 feet long Capilano suspension bridge, hangs between two hills. A Plaque displayed on one of the tree-top platforms explains that the canyon flowing 230 feet below was shaped by the sheer force of water ,which manged to erode the solid granite wall creating such a big gap, due to the long term process for  the past 100 million years, consequent to the avalanche of natural forces such as  volcanoes, waterfalls, air, thunder, lightning  etc.Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into.This forms a canyon. There is a demonstration piece of rocks eroded by water- dripping, for the 15,25 and 50 years . A small canal has  formed on the 50 year-block. No wonder that the assault by massive water force for millions of years, could break the solid granite mountain, create a wide crevice of about 500 feet wide and shape a canyon several hundred feet below!
Apart from the hanging bridge there are several smaller and narrower bridges for cliff walk and treetops adventures. It was exciting to cross the rocking, hanging bridge and tread the tree-to-tree narrow passages enjoying the nature’s abundance all around. I was excited to know that squirrels leap branch to branch, in the sky-high tress and land safely on the land!
Here is a video show of the Capilano air-walks.
Had been to ‘Hell’s Gate’-yesterday . ‘Not surprised’, this is what you say. But I tell you, it was an awesome sight!
 ‘ Hell’s Gate’ is the mountain range where the mighty  Fraser River, is forced to restrict  her free flow by sheer physical strength of the mountains – 200 million gallons of water (double the volume of Niagara) per minute has to pass  through the narrowest point of the river just 110 feet or 33 metre wide passage. So, the river thunders!
 “We had to travel where no human being should venture for surely we have encountered the gates of hell”. – said Simon Fraser, 1808, after whom the river is named. We could  witness firsthand what these words really meant to that early explorer.
Driving  the Scenic Fraser Canyon with its 7 mountain tunnels into the historic heart of British Columbia,  we visited the scene of biggest ‘rush’ on the Gold Rush Trail, where white men who entered in search of gold were beheaded by the natives. The aerial trams gave a birds’ eye view of this historic landmark and the fury of the river in restricting her freedom.
The Fraser River too in a few million years, might be able to erode the rocks, break her shackles and flow free.
The video will tells you my ‘hell experience’!‎
From the deck, I watch the thick forest, across the road, with a narrow path which I tread in the evening hours.. It is the abode of a bear, I am told. That could be the reason why the small little birds have built their nests on the top branches of the towering trees and not on the small bushes which are in plenty around.
In which form am I to worship the Nature? In her most fearsome form with thousand faces and thousand limbs, ‘aneka baahoodara vaktranetram’, creating ferocious volcanoes, furious lightning and thunder, vulnerable  wind and rain, which work for millions of years and smash great mountain walls to carve a timid stream or in her admirably lovely form of an amazing angel , who play with toy-like  squirrels that leap from branches of sky-high trees and land safely on the ground and nil-weight birds  who build safe homes for their little ones on  the terrace of such huge trees?
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Vancouver diary page 5

The unusually bright sun, alluring early morning rituals combined with music and poetry, attendance of all the invitees and  appealing food, all made the formal  grihapravesaham to Ramu’s new house in Vancouver, a colorful event.  Sreeram Shakti  Bhattar from the  nearby Surrey Yoga Hanuman temple, originally form Sriperumpathur, inaugurated the event with  auspicious,  pre-recorded nadaswaram music, followed by his Vedanthadesiaka stuthy in Samskritham and then in Tamiz and Vigneswara stuthy. There were three sets of thamboolam with dakshinai  placed next to the manjal pilliar, the turmeric idol of Ganesh, for Mahavishnu , Guru and Brahmanals, learned brahmins and the learned priest made me Brihaspathy, guru for Ramu, for which I hesitated  initially as I thought that position should go to Ramu’s father, ignorant of the fact that the thamboolam  included a new 10 Canadian $ note and coin!  Bhattar’s pooja, with liberal quoting from Tirupavai and other Tamil devotional literature, without leaving the Samskrita mantras behind, would have pleased the gods, as our gods love music . Undoubtedly, it was pleasing for the family.  A few years ago, I participated  in Ramu’s another grihapravesham at Newcastle upon Tyne, near England and the pooja conducted by a panditji  from Allahabad  had no music content though he too followed  the scriptural guidance scrupulously and satisfied  us.
From place to place, the sampradayam, method of  performing  religious rituals  differ though  all priests basically follow the  Vedic scriptures. In some parts of the country, pradakshinam, circumambulation to the deities are done anticlockwise, an unacceptable method in the southern part.’ Why not, that is how our Earth orbits  the Sun”, I told a friend who raised objection.  In our own part of the country, there is marked difference in Vedam recitation  and worshiping methods between Namboodiries and Tamil Brahmins.
 It is not the procedure but the intend, interest  and dedication that counts .
Comes to my memory, many marriage celebrations,  I had attended.
Many Telugus marry after sunset, as they follow the moon’s path . in a marriage I attended during the wee hours, the bridegroom,  who had spent two sleepless nights on his hospital duty, was inattentive with his head sagging , while the priest was dictating the mantrams.
” Levura moddu-wake up, you idiot” I alerted him.
”Sivudu, I’ am dreaming my girl friends” replied the jovial guy in Telugu, forgetting for a moment that his girl was sitting close by. The bride  was not Telugu-literate but the words, ‘girl friends’ rung the caution bell and she looked at her mother, anxiety darkening  her look.  Her wise mother, all mothers become wise when their daughters are about to be married, heard and understood my friends’ comment well, consoled her daughter,” child , you don’t worry. All his dreams will be over when you enter his life”
” Athagaru, eamantunaru- what did you say?” enquired the sleepy guy to the elderly lady.
 The Panthalugaru,  the priest came to her rescue:
”Madam says that with love and care, her daughter will never allow you to sleep and therefore you can’t expect any dreams” . The priest laughed loudly and the bridegroom repeated that faithfully. At least that he did correctly.!
The pandits are always down to earth though their job is to bring down the celestial to the earth below.
They know how to make  others happy, as the Bhattar did, by elevating me to Brihaspathy for a moment.
A nephew of mine married a Telugu Brahmin girl and the Iyengar  priest lacing his mantrams with lively jokes and lovely lyrics, made the event memorable. This wedding took place in in the morning hours and though he too is a physician, had no night duty and therefore was not sleepy. More over, he  had to be disturbed from his seat, as an aged guest needed immediate medical attention. He had, therefore no scope  to dream and more over the alert mother in law was keeping a watch on his whispers into my ear.
Prior to her procession to the  dais, ceremoniously carried by her four uncles in a bamboo basket, the bride had to perform an hour long worship, which included  recitation of Lalitha Sahsranamam  and Gouri pooja, a unique practice.
In another wedding, also of my another nephew that took place in Gowhati, the mother in law was not to see the bride groom, when his procession entered the wedding hall. His wedding with an Assam Kshatriya girl was memorable, as I  had to act as the priest in the absence of the designed priests’ missing the flight from Kolkatta. I managed somehow, filling up the blanks by devotional verses known to me but when the time for ‘asheervadam’, blessing by the elders came, I became helpless. The ‘akshadai’ the tamarind powder-mixed rice, I handed over to the assembled elders, for placing on the heads of the couple,as a token of their blessings, when the pair prostrated before them, they put on their own heads!  let them too live long and bring out 16 children, though for some of the couple it was too late for the noble act.
Our scriptures , fortunately  are not water-tight compartments. There is ample room for moving hands and legs .They are only guides for enjoying a happy, healthy, useful life in this  world ; they are not prison manuals or passports  for the life-after.
Let us tie threads only around the kalasams, sanctified  water pots for worship, and not around us.
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Vancouver diary page 4

June 22, 2013
Ashu and Ramu took us,  for a ballet show, last night, staged by their daughter’s dance school. It was awesome, not because my grand niece participated but the  girls gave a memorable performance. ‘Girls’ here, means not only over one hundred kids in the age group of  5 to 10,  about 20 -30 teens and hold your breath, over a  dozen,  probably between 50 to 60 and hold your breath tighter, two or three above 70 too!. ‘probably’ because no one can guess the age of women beyond a certain age and our aging engine will speed up , if we start a research project on that topic. At times, I say truth and nothing but truth, and it is  one of those rare moments,  when I say that the elderly women’s  performance was breath -taking, though the youngster’s performance was fantastic. The ease and charm with which their contracted  frame turned and twisted , their limbs moved in rhythm, maintaining a genuine smile on their wrinkled face though deprived of a tooth or two, showed their dedication and will power . Yes, they danced without make up or donning any designed attire and hence my observation. I’m sure that they would have been masters in the art with long years of practical training. As you know, it takes several years to get expertise in Ballet, as in our art forms, as every muscle in the body has to be skillfully exploited and even a minute mistake or mis-timing will spoil the grace.
Born in Italy, this dance form spread to France and Russia and then to the other parts of the world. Aerobatics like looping, spinning and flying down, performed in groups with absolute synchronization of speed and rhythm are the basic character of Ballet dance.
In Indian art forms like Barathanayam, Kathakali etc, there is a message to be conveyed to the audience and for that purpose facial expressions are the prime tool. Eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, cheeks, forehead, in fact, complete face talk . And hands, fingers, legs,  hip , the entire body, aids the face in its task. If necessary the artist may even opt for some faster body movements such as jumping or hopping only to achieve the main objective and not to exhibit their acrobatic skill.
‘Rasapradanam’, transmission of feelings, is the main aim our dance forms.
Anika did a good job, considering her age ( 5 ) and limited training she had undergone. If  she was more interested in watching the steps of the co-dancers than her own steps, she is not to be blamed !  If she was excited in seeing us seated in the front row and was bold enough to convey her happiness through signs and not the sings she  was expected to deliver, it was again natural.
She behaved in the stage like an actor unlike her grand uncle, who ran away in exasperation.
 Oh, I didn’t tell you that story. That happened during the annual day celebration in my early school days.
I was good looking then. I was good looking only then!. I was chosen to play the role of
Sri krishna. I had to enter the stage, singing, singing aloud as there was no mike.
 I walked majestically, wearing a crown, projecting a peacock feather . The glistening paper headgear didn’t slip, nor the gorgeous golden silk cloth from my hip, when I paced before the closed door, for a minute or two. Then, I knocked at the wooden plank with the design of an ornamental door and  sang:
” Kaamee sathyabhamaa, kathavai thirvaai;
Kathavai thiravaai viravaai, varuvaai”
That was an appeal to the angry  sathyabhama, to open the door of her house and come out.
After a few repeated knocks, which had to be done carefully lest the door would have fallen, appeared unwillingly , my heroin, Sathyabhama, with a swollen face but adorably dressed and jeweled sufficiently to cover the lapses made by her creator. She was not to open her mouth, as she was angry. The director of the play, our head master Pankunni Menon, purposely asked her to be silent as she was notorious for ceaseless chatting . Holding her hand,  I lead her to the chair, kept in a corner of the stage. Good progress.
My next job was to sing another song and comb her hair and continue combing till the song was over.
” Marakathamada mayilae,
  Unakku nan manakkurai enna seithaen?” 
My green peacock of great charm
What have I done for your mental harm? 
That was a favorite drama dialogue bit  of the veteran singer Kittappa of yore, but the problem was an over enthusiastic teacher added more lines of her own and insisted on my singing the whole lot.  Even a genuine lover in his best spirits, will run away, come what may, if he had to keep on combing the hair of his beloved till the song ends. It was therefore natural for me to go crazy.  The idiotic girl, my heroin, was sitting enjoying my discomforts if not my song and even started smiling which she was not supposed to do. I gave her a knock on her head with my closed fist and she screamed, complaining ,’chekka nee ente thalyil kotti’  you knocked on my head, you silly boy’
 I didn’t like her calling me ‘chekka’,  as I was Sree Krishanan, the divine king of Dwaraka.
 I gave her back,’ Podi, vatta bharani- get lost you, big mouthed jar’,  and ran away from the stage. The  applause I received for that performance was never repeated later for any of my subsequent stage plays during the high school or college days, though I never did once ran away from my assigned job.
My another grand niece’s performance was much better. Her skit was unwisely listed at the fag end of her school drama.  The four year old, when pushed by someone from behind the curtain to play her role, held the mike and in chaste Gujarati said addressing the audience, ” it is too late and I am sleepy. I’m going ” . She walked out, with partially closed eyes and drooping head. The audience raised from their seats and applauded.  No other walk-outs would have received such a tremendous applause.
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Vancouver diary page 3

June 21, 2013
I have been dropping Ramu’s kids and collecting them from their school which is close by.
Am surprised to see the Principal waiting  at the gate, every morning to  receive the kids , smiling and showing his closed fist  to receive a hit from the little fists of the kids or give them mild hit.  Today being the last working day of the current academic year, he saw off each kid at the gate with individual farewell message.
This is something new for me. I have not seen the principals receiving the kids at the gate, in the Elementary schools in USA.  Is it because that the school I know there, are public schools?
Anyway, my memory goes several milestones down below and I see the stiff and serious looking C.S.Sesha Iyer standing at the entrance of the PMM high school, donning a snow white, starched pantchagatcham, a light golden colour coat and a bright angavastram hanging around his neck and dropping up to his knees awaiting to punish the late comers like me, with a harsh look and a warning and even with a thrash with a long bamboo stick, kept ready in his hand.
I had to walk over a mile and cross a river in between to reach the school but that was not an excuse. He was teaching English for us in the tenth standard and it was my love for Shakespeare and Shelly that created a warmth in his heart for me and I was allowed to enter the class with a clearance signal of  ‘hmm’ sound from his mouth turned to an angle and a  stern look.
When he called me to his room to say, ‘good bye’ after the last examination, tapped on the shoulder and advised, ‘Shakespeare and Shelly may not fetch you a living. Physics and Chemistry might. Read a lot during your leisure hours”. He, then,  handed over a sleek book. That parting gift  wrapped with his blessing was neither the work of Shakespeare nor of Shelly-
That was Vishnusahasranaamam in Samskritam
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Vancouver diary page 2

july 19, 2013
”Nama poorvaya girayae, patchimayaadraye namah—-”. Agasthya Maharishi in Aaditya hridyam, asking Srirama to salute the East and West mountains too, which have an important role to play in the the Sun god’s traverse across the sky.
 The Himalayan ranges was not a great stone mass, covered by ice, but  a living entity, like me and you, with a family and children, for Kalidasa.  A well-knit  family, throbbing with love and compassion to each other, father looking for a suitable match for his dear daughter, daughter doing penance aspiring the life- partnership of Mahadev, the mother unable to stand the stringency of the daughter’s penance asking her to return home and so many other sensitive issues of family life are dealt by the poet in his inimitable style.
”Mena, muneenamabhi maananeeyam- Himavan’s wife Mena was respected even by saints”
”Umethi matra thapasa nishiddo
Patchat umaakhyam sumukhee dadaama”
U= penance, ma- enough- Her mother asked Parvathy to come out of the austerities; so parvathy was known as Uma, later.
The rivers too were not mere  waterbodies flowing from hill to sea, but devatatmas, in human forms, treating us like our own mothers.
”Devi Sureswari Bagavathy Gange, thribhuvanatharini tharalatharange!
Samkaramouliviharini vimalae, mama mathirastam thava padakamalae!
Sings melodiously Samkaracharyaswamy.
All  rivers, all trees and plants were devatathmas for our forebears.
‘Moolatho Brahmaroopaya,
Madhyatho Visnuroopinae,
Agrathah Shivaroopaya,
Vrikishrajayathat namah;”
If the huge Bilwa tree represents the Moorthys of srishti, sthithy and layam, the humble Tulasi plant is none other than the divine mother, as sacred as the mighty Ganges.
That brings to mind the roar of the mighty Ganges surging ahead swallowing everything on her way and the dancing of Shiva in rage in the Uttarakhand, recently. Man’s utter ignorance of the Nature’s arrangement  and arrogant intrusion and intervention in the ecological balance has fueled the fury of the Ganges in the Uttarakhand  region. In Canada, where I am sojourning, no tree is allowed to be destroyed and so is in America. A relative of mine there, owns an acre area of forest as part of his house, for which he has paid, but he has no authority to bring down a tree.
 We have a culture  of which we can be proud of.  we have been taught not only to preserve but to worship the Nature. But, what do we actually do? Cut trees indiscriminately, build huge dams which  forcefully  stops the natural flow of waters, destroy our rocks which will take millions of years for their  reformation, denude rivers of their sand bed and do everything against the law of Nature.
It doesn’t augur well for us. If we had not misbehaved with the nature, Uttarakhand tragedy would have been less severe, perhaps, and  so many innocent lives would not have been lost. It is anyway, a warning, too severe a  warning, for us . Shudder to imagine the consequence if we ignore this warning 
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Vancouver diary page 1

 June 14, 2013

In Vancouver, since  3 days, with my nephew  Ramu.  Ramu and Ashu both medical specialists, go to the hospitals and children to the school. We three oldies, my first sister Ammu, her husband Ambi and self, spend our time  chatting incessantly and  the youngsters wonder, ‘ from where do they derive so much energy?.  Does the energy expand as per the need?’.  It does. You w’ll agree with me had you been chased by a mad street dog, a bad boss or a greedy wife. If you had never been chased , wait till you reach our age and observe how the theory of expansion works.

 More we pull out, more come out  bundles of  memories of the past, till the sleep overtakes us, which naturally will, as the exhausted body needs rest. But, suddenly remembering an unexplored and unexposed  incident, I return from my bedroom and declare a truth: ” we missed something big. We skipped our ‘chundeli(mouse) Chuppani’s story” 
” That guy who hid  behind the kitchen door fearing his wife’s scoldings?”, responds Ambi. ” Isn’t he our catapult Kandaswamy’s cousin?”. Thus starts the second chapter of our session. 
” chuppani had already  left this world long back but when he emerges  from the well of our memories, he becomes active, moves around  the water, might  even climb up the wall of the well and join in our conversation. Such is the attraction of the debate of seniors.
I enjoy this Hyderabad -winter-like climate, though they say it is summer here. While strolling in the woods overpopulated with Maples and pines, wearing a black coat, I can see a lovely mountain range, dark blue in colour. It brings to my mind the memory of  the Western ghats visible from the back yard of my Olavakkode house, gazing which I spent half of my childhood, dreaming and receiving the scolding of the elders for neglecting food and books. Do you believe that mountains walk and talk?. I do.  My friend the western ghat , used to walk and watch my bathing in the Kalpathy river, when I was a child. Later, while doing sandhyavandanam standing in the knee- deep waters of that river, the mountain used to echo my Gayathri mantram and move its head in appreciation. When I go to Perinkulam and bath in the Chooriyappn kulam , the mountain used to  keep an eye on me. 
Mountains were actually talking and walking, says great poets of lore.They were not only talking and walking but had wife, children, attachment, aspiration, like you and me. Long, long ago, they had even wings! Imagine huge mountains with abundant wealth of forests, streams, animals and birds flying as they wish and landing as they wish. As long as a mountain, however mighty it might be,  quietly sits in a place,  no problem. You can even stone it and boast that you have subdued it. But if it slowly gets up , that is enough to make you to run for your life. The chases mentioned earlier including the one caused by your wife becomes insignificant, if a mountain with wings chases you.
No wonder that the gods in the  heaven were worried; an atheist hill could  fly up and attack the celestial gardens and damsels. The Rishies were worried; an impish hill could could settle on their homakundam, fire-place for religious offerings and put out the sacred fire. They all went and appealed to the ruler of the heavens and he dutifully cut the wings off  the mountains. One young guy with golden peaks escaped, when the god of air, Vayu pushed him into the ocean . He was Minakam, son of Himavan, the holy mountain-king and Mena, his royal consort. Indra assigned him a job of guarding the gates of the nether world, pathalam, the abode of Asuras. ” Make sure that they don’t  come out and  trouble us”. The Mainakam could move side ways as well as vertically. 
When Anjaneya was crossing the ocean on his mission in search of Sita Devi, the god of oceans, requested Mainakam to raise up and pay host to the great monkey god, Anjaneya.  The mainakam first tried to block the path of Anjaneya  to test his strength and when he received a minor hit by the mighty hand of the monkey king,  he changed his form to that of a human and pleaded Hanuman to dine and relax on the mountain. As you know, Hanuman politely rejected the offer  and proceeded with his task. 
The sky is still bright though it is 8.00 at night ( how do I say it is night , when the sun is still active and visible in the sky?) . I have gone rather deep into the forest.  Ramu had warned me, ” mama, beware of bears” . There are many things in me to attract the animal: my black coat, unruly hairs, my face . Why take risk. But these trees are not leaving me. I sit on a rock and dream.