My Mother and Me

My Mother and Me
"My Mother" - Mrs.Vedambal 96 years young

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sahasranamam's Grandson ( Fiction)

Ganesan was the ninth child in chronological order of Smt.Nagaratnammal; first eight children 
were girls. Sahasranamam's Joy knew no bounds when his daughter Ratnam as he affectionately 
called her, gave birth to a baby boy on the Eve of Vishu. The village Anamooli wore a festive look.People danced in Joy and merriment. They burst crackers and distributed sweets. The news spread like wildfire in the entire village that Sahasranamam has begot a grandson.

Anamooli is a small village where one can see beautiful Paddy fields, lush green forests, Mango groves, hills and small streams, betelnut trees besides coconut trees. There is an LP School at the top of the village hill. There was a small temple of Lord Subramanya also called as Murugan Koil in Tamil Language in the heart of the village. Devotees thronged the temple premises during evening hours to offer prayers.      
Lord Murugan 

Sahasranamam's house was know as Chengotta Madom. The house derived its name due to Red Colour of the Bricks which was used for construction of the house. The only Brahmin family in the entire village was that of Sahasranamam. He was a Vedic Scholar and an authority on religious matters. He had mastery over Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Saama Veda and Atharvana Veda. His son-in-law Shaktivel was appointed as the Chief Priest and Purohita of the Murugan Temple.

One can hear from a distance chanting of Vedic Hymns and Sacred Mantras and Shlokas flowing out from the house which rent the air during evening hours. Everybody in the village respected the family members of Sahasranamam.; who was the oldest man in the whole village. People used to consult him on matters of every day importance. He acted as an Adviser to all in the village. He was the only person who could converse well in Sanskrit and English with the same ease. Thus, he carved a niche for himself. Even the Britisher's respected him for his Intelligence, Sincerity and Honesty. He was a very simply and upright man. He stopped wearing Shirt soon after Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. He wore only a simple Khaddar Dhoti, One Rudraksha Maala, One long Towel which hung on his shoulders like a snake on Lord Shiva's Neck besides a pair of slipper and a walking stick. He had only few hair on his head which he locked like a tuft. He had a long Nose, glittering face and sparkling eyes - a sign of Intelligence it seems ! Despite the fact that he had crossed 87 years of age, he could walk erect without anybody's help. Sacred Mantras chanted by Sahasranamam included the following :-
" Om Satyam, Om Tatsa Vithurvarenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dee Mahi, Dwiyo Yona: Prajodayaad, Om Bhurbuvaswaha" ! Sahasranamam had a melodious voice. During evening hours he chanted "OM MUKHEM NAMAH SHIVAYA" 1001 times daily.Ganesan learnt most of the sacred hymns from his grandfather.

Sahasranamam named his grandson as Ganesan after the name of Lord Vinayaka the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. When the boy was hardly five years old he was admitted in the local school. He went reluctantly to the school carrying his satchell which was almost his own weight !! Ganesan was a child prodigy.He mastered all the four Vedas by the time he was 9 years old. Even the senior pundits sometimes consulted him for his opinion; in case of a debate on some points. He gave his unbiased opinion without any fear or favor. Ganesan had powerful memory and used to recite Sanskrit verses fluently. Sanskrit came to him spontaneously like how a duckling takes to water. While, elders admired Ganesan, his peers and seniors were jealous of him. But he did not mind them at all. 

Only Kuttivelan had the privilege of visiting Chengotta Madom off and on; even though held as an outcaste, he belonged to the "Cheruma" community. Untouchability was very much rampant in those days. Kuttivelan had a pair of Buffaloes which he used to bring to the open courtyard of the Chengotta Madom for grazing.; where grass is abundantly grown. He was well behaved and noble hearted. Ganesan was fond of him because he narrated fairy tales and stories which included ghost stories and supernatural stories. He was well versed in Parables too !! Ganesan listened to the stories with rapt attention.

Kuttivelan was entrusted with the work of coconut felling, cutting of logs apart from kitchen gardening.He took great care of the plants which he grew in the garden There were Brinjals, cucumbers, chillies, tomatoes, lady's finger, bitter gourds, beans and pumpkins. Kuttivelan addressed Ganesan as " Kutty Thamburan " meaning young master.

Sahasranamam was the only octogenarian who survived among his contemporaries. People believed that he had some kind of supernatural powers. He knew magic besides, Mantra's and Tantra's. The place for construction of his house was given to him as charity (Dhaan) by a rich peasant who died without an heir.  He also received thirty acres of land and charity. 

His fortune began to decline when the land reform Act came into being. Consequently, he too lost his entire thirty acres of land to his tenant like many others. The richest landlord in the village was Karunakara Menon, who managed to retain over five hundred acres of land. He was very cunning as well as arrogant, besides being an athiest. Before, returning to the village, Menon had served an American Company as Chief Executive. He was very greedy and wanted to drive this Brahmin family from the village. Menon found no other way but to buy the Chengotta Madom from Sahasranamam. In fact, the place for construction of the house belonged to Menon's ancestors.
Thus, he bought the house at a throw away price. Sahasranamam's family moved to a rented house near the Murugan temple in the same village. Meanwhile, Ganesan had passed his 3rd standard. He was good at studies, even though he reluctantly went to school. He became the darling of his teachers and favorite of his friends. After the Vishu festival was over, the school closed for two months' vacation. Ganesan was very happy and he enjoyed playing with his friends in the neighbour hood. He often visited the Menon's house too.

During the 'Vishu' festival there is a practice of giving silver coins to young people and children which ranged from 25 paise to one rupee., by the head of the familly known as 'Karanavar' in the local dialect. The other recipients of coins were Tailors, Washer-men (Dhobi's),  Barber's and other servants. Ganesan too collected coins from elders and his collection turned out to be 
rupees twelve!! Ganesan went to Karunakara Menon's house as usual for playing not knowing what destiny was in store for him. Menon was busy supervising digging of a well at his newly constructed Bungalow. So many servants were busy digging the well. five rupees was missing, Mrs.Menon informed Menon who was near the well. Menon thundered at the servants and called each one of them and questioned. Everybody pleaded ignorance., thus, the missing coin shrouded in mystery. One could buy a bag full of vegetables in those days. Suddenly, Menon's eye fell on the playing children. Ganesan was one among them.He called Ganesan near him and demanded the money. Ganesan also pleaded ignorance like many others. Menon didn't hear his pleas. He soon called his muscle men and instructed them to extract the truth from the boy.They beat him up and tied him with a rope. He was taken to the middle of the well and made to stand in the mid-air without food and water.They rolled their eyeballs and threatened to take him to the Police station. What can an innocent boy of nine years, a student of 3rd standard do but cry. Ganesan wept until there were no more tears left in his eyes. At last, Ganesan was released in the evening. He ran home crying and explained his ordeal which he went through. His face turned pale, his eyes swollen  
and became red.

Nagaratnammal broke down uncontrollably. Tears rolled down her cheeks like pearls She had faith in her son. The boy never took even a small candy without her permission. How can he steal five rupees ? What can he do with the money ? She immediately rushed to Menon's house  dragging her darling son. His grandpa also reached Menon's house in defense of Ganesan . Menon didn't heed her words at all. He abused all the three of them and shooed them away.

Sahasranamam began an indefinite fast which lasted three days. He renounced not only food but also water.He chanted the sacred 'Gayathri' for three days constantly without a break. On the fourth day he was a bit relaxed. He prayed to God for saving his grandson from this ignominy.
He cursed Menon from his heart, and thereafter Menon had an untimely death as he was bitten by a mad dog. He died at forty years of age leaving behind his young wife and five children. The innocent child was branded a thief.The old man could not withstand the shock. He became in a state of soliloquy. After a couple of years he left for his heavenly abode at the ripe age of ninety one years. Though, the missing five rupees remained a mystery people still believe that Karunakara Menon's death was due to the pious Brahmin's curse.

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