Kerala Sojourn

I had  kept the morning alarm at 5.00 a.m. Unlike last time, when the alarm ditched me and we were almost to miss the flight, Padma and I got up in time. I had planned to leave by 7.00 a.m.  I was relishing hot idlis when Padma softly reminded me that Lord Ganesha was waiting for the customary coconut at the temple close to our previous house. We were leaving to go to Guruvayoor to attend a marriage of a cousin.

We were ready to move. I kept the bags near the lift and went to put on my slipper. I found that they had vanished. I broke into a sweat. It was 7.05 a.m.   I rushed up and down by which time Anand gently pointed out that they were in the shoe rack only and I had missed it.  I calmed down a bit with Padma pointing out that in old age (more like dotage) I get excited over small things. I reflected that she does not know how calmly I face despotic tyrants in Board Room.

In all this rush, I forgot to take the day’s newspapers. Well, I could take it at the Airport.

We reached the Airport by 7.45 a.m. As expected, the morning rush was there. Now, Spice Jet in their bid to increase revenue , has a kept a special check in counter  provided you pay additional  amount of Rs 500 for this privilege. That counter obviously had no crowd. I stood in the web check in counter, which too was crowded- though less than the Janata class counters. I tried to draw the attention of our plight to the Spice Jet staff by anxiously pointing out that we were Kochi passengers with flight time not too far off (8.50 a.m).  She helpfully said that we could stand in queue and hope to get the boarding pass soon. After some moments, she loudly asked for “Kochi passengers”. We were in the right spot. We rushed to the front of the queue and got our boarding passes. It was 8.15. a.m.

I realized that we had cut it fine. The check in counters close 45 minutes as per their declaration and if strictly implemented we could be in trouble.  I made a mental note to either reach early and have the printed boarding passes in hand and not just do web check in the previous night.

I did not get newspapers as the Boarding gate was on the first floor and there were no newspapers there.  Eco Times is particularly worth reading and I missed it. The flight left in time. I had booked one Veg Snack packet (Rs. 200). It was prepared with a view that taste is not everything so far as food is concerned.  I read the novel I had carried with me. The flight landed before time and baggage was not delayed.

We left for Tripunithara to meet Kannan’s parents.  Tripunithara is famous for its association with Music. Yesudas, T N Krishnan and several other well-known musicians are associated with this town. It is also known for the Poornathrayeesa Temple .It is a Lord Vishnu temple who is in the form of a Santhanagopala murthi. As the name suggests, it is believed that prayers offered in this temple may assist in begetting progeny. It is big temple – by Kerala standards- and the deity is very charming. It is worth visiting and it is on the way to Chottanikkara Bagavathi Temple when travelling from Ernakulam/Kochi.

Kannan’s   parents mentioned that Yesudas used to come a neighboring house to learn music and when the teacher fell ill, Yesudas supported him. They also recalled attending a concert by Yesudas in the Poornthrayeesa Temple several decades back.

We then left for Pambumekattu Mana. It is a temple for Nagaraja . I am giving the link to the website which is worth going through.

It is a private house in which public is allowed limited access to the place of worship. We had to take bath (it was 3.15 p.m.) in a tank and wear new clothes to go into the house and see the place of worship. We also saw Amma,  the Priestess who blessed us  from a distance  The peculiarity here is that the priestess is the daughter in law of the house and not the sons ( I think the system is the same in Mannarsala- a similar temple for Nagaraja). The legend in Kerala is that it was land of serpents when Lord Parasurama cleaved it out of the sea. So most inhabitants lived on the hills. After praying to God, the solution offered was that each house should have a small place reserved for Serpents where some small offering would be made each day. Hence, in old houses, there would be a sarpakavu (a place of worship for serpents) where lamp would be lit every day and some small offering given. ( I speak from hearsay and not firsthand experience as I have lived almost all my life in Mumbai). When such ancestral houses were dismantled, these Sarpakavu was re-located to temples like Pambumekkadu or Mannarsala.  Hence a visit to these temples occur whenever we are close by to these places.  Astrolgers ascribe certain shortcomings in our lives to inadequate attention to our ancestral practice on worship of serpents

Whatever may the reality or robustness of these beliefs, the underlying aspect is faith in an entity we believe to be God. It is a moot point whether God would demand such observances or be pleased with such initiatives. My view is that the underlying childlike belief we have in God  would reach His heart and move Him to guide us on the right path.

We then left for Guruvayoor. This is a famous Srikrishna Temple on the banks of a sea – from which the deity was retrieved.  It is a popular temple attracting large crowds regularly, I have stood in queue for over 3 hours at times. More about the temple later.

We reached the Hotel 7.00 p.m. The engagement function had started. We quickly changed and attended the function. I wore a bright green silk shirt which I had purchased on Kannan’s strong recommendation. These silk shirts are much visible in Malayalam movies where the hero and villain wear such bright colored shirt and glare at each other mouthing   rude dialogues. I believe in taking risks and wore it with aplomb (so I believe).

After a brief interval, Padma and I went to the temple which is just 2 minutes away from the marriage hall cum hotel (Rugmini Regency). Surprisingly, there was no crowd and we could see the deity in 20 minutes or so.

Some temples have a magnetic pull- Tirupati, Sabrimala, Guruvayoor are some of them. The vigraham (idol) of Lord Krishna has a magnetic attraction. There is a smile on Lord Krishna’s eyes which seems to tell that “I know you and your issues, don’t worry, I am there”. The individual forgets all the list and annexures to it he or she has preserved, bow their head and reluctantly tear themselves from the sanctum.

Does God really know what is in the deepest recesses of our heart?  Can He speed read the Power Point Presentation I had kept ready and omitted to present?  Does He know what it is to desire or want something more than anything else in this world? We can live or exist only if we believe that God can do all this. To believe anything else requires a leap of faith in oneself, which I certainly do not have.

Padma had gone ahead (even God gives preference to women) and was waiting for me. We did a Pradakshinam of the temple. There is a Lord Ayyappa Temple in the outer perimeter of the sanctum.  We bowed there also.

The temple closes after the Lord is taken around the inner perimeter of the temple on an elephant. There are three elephants and entire ceremony, which is between 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m,  is enjoyable to watch.  We had seen it during our previous visits and did not wait this time as we had an early morning program next day.

We returned to the hall, had an excellent repast from the buffet spread and went to sleep.

Kannan, Devi along with Shivam and Vedika reached slightly after midnight. It was a pleasure to see the two grandchildren. They were none the worse after a four hour drive and the late hour and were fresh.

The temple reopens at 3. 00 a.m. The queue for this Darshan begins to form at 1.00 a.m. The fascination with this Darshan is that the previous night’s adornments are removed and we can have vision of deity as it is.  Kannan and Devi along with the children went for this early Darshan. They called us, but we were not prepared for it.

Padma and I woke up at 4.00 a.m and went for Darshan at 5.00 a.m. Though it was a Thursday, the crowd was far lesser than anticipated. We could see Lord within half an hour or so. The Deity had only basic covering of loin cloth and sandalwood around the eyes. The chap standing in queue ahead of me had a long communication with Lord. So I could stand immobile before the deity and stare at Him. Did He see me I wondered? Did my “thank you” message reach him? Did He note my request or did He ask one of his EAs (hopefully a MBA from the best university in  Heaven- equivalent to Harvard or Stanford and not some grade II or III University)   to note it in Annexure 1 and not 5?

By this time, the guard near the door to Sanctum pushed me away gently. I bid bye for this day. I promised I will come again and again and again till my body cooperates. His image is embedded in mind so there is no bye there.

Padma had gone in a separate queue for women and had completed her tryst with God earlier. She came in search of me wondering why my communication meeting with God was taking so long. We returned to the Hall and had our morning coffee. The waiter remarked that we had left for the temple without imbibing coffee. I appreciated his ability to remember faces. We returned to the room. I wore a dark saffronish red color silk shirt with a sparkling white dhoti. I am sure I looked impressive. Since most others were jealous of my appearance, there were fewer than expected compliments. Human nature you know…. Can’t expect generosity of heart.

Kannan, Devi along with Shivam and Vedika came down after some time. Shivam and Vedika wanted toys. I took them out and bought a wheel roller and a superman for them. Vedika in true feminine spirit refused to part with it even for showing how to roll it. Shivam went into a world of his own and started playing with other children.

I spoke to S- an IT engineer who was in US for nearly 5 years. I was curious to know the present status of career in IT. He spoke of plateauing of growth, difficulties faced by engineers coming from vernacular background who are sometimes skilled but unable to communicate in English, lack of IT engineers from Kerala, exposure that an IT engineer gets from being on site as compared working out of an offsite location and so on.

It was time to leave for airport. We had a garrulous driver. We wanted to purchase the local raw and ripe banana (nenthrpazham) which has more original taste as compared to those grown commercially. We bought it from a local shop which he identified for us. They were good. The Banana chips, which we fried only yesterday, was very good.

We had tea in a new restaurant just outside the airport ( Rs. 10 per glass) and settled the car expenses. We were not too early for the flight which landed in time.

Looking back, there are memories of Pambumekaattu, bewitching Kerala scenery, Lord Guruvayurappan’s smile at our desires, hopes and dreams, a very well conducted marriage with the pleasure of meeting many close relatives, spending brief but joyous moments with Shivam and Vedika and most importantly the time Padma and I spent together.

May more such moments recur.

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