English translation of Sujatha’s story….an outstanding translation by Shri B.Narayanan
Dr.Sivasankaran looked through the window of the Boeing aircraft. The coconut trees of Chennai were nearing and the concrete buildings started raising like big horns. White sand was visible near the foaming waves of the sea.
“Exactly twenty years have gone by after leaving Madras”—–said Sivasankar.
“There will be a lot of change”—–said Bageerathi.
“Only the sea hasn’t changed”.
Bageerathi opened her hand bag, selected one of the many small bottles , opened it and poured the pink solution on to her hand and started applying it on her cheeks. and reduced her age by ten minutes! The scent spread around inside the aircraft.
“You are wearing a make—up to see Sankaracharya?”—–Sivasankar.
“No! My skin cannot stand the heat of the sun.”—-Bageerathi.
The speaker above blurted, “ May I have your attention please?’—-After this whatever was said was not understandable.
“Indian Airlines should be given award every year for being the worst airlines in the entire world”—-said Sivasankaran.
As Bageerathi was in deep silence, he said again, “ The worst airport in the entire world is Bombay”.
Bageerathi looked at him from the corner of her eyes and said, “ So! You have started your India—bashing?”
“ I am only telling the truth! Tell me, will this country ever progress? Not a drop of water to drink in the airport; no chair to sit and relax; They say that no message has come to them for the ticket, which was confirmed in the U.S; the flight is delayed by three hours. Why an aircraft for this country?”—–Sivasankaran blasted.
Bageerathi preferred to keep mum, as otherwise, the debate will intensify, if she started answering those questions.
Sivasankaran continued his sarcastic comments, “ Is there any hotel in Kancheepuram, or should we stay in the fields?”
Bageerathi did not reply.
“With an Aluminium pot?”
Again, she didn’t speak.
The aircraft touched the runway and jumped once. “ What a bad landing?”—Sivasankaran said.
The aircraft cruised.
“If you are particular, you go and have His darsan! Why are you dragging me also?—–Sivasankaran.
“You should also see Him”
“Why me? I don’t believe in these things. I am a physicist and an agnostic.”
Not wanting to continue the conversation in this manner, Bageerathi changed the subject and asked, “ What is the day today?”
“After coming to India and waiting for the Indian Airlines flight, I forgot the days also.”—-Sivasankar. “ why it takes so much time? Why these people need aerobridge?”
The passengers, in a hurry, rushed to the exit door.
“They were sitting for three hours and cannot wait for three minutes. Oh, these Indians!—-Sivasankaran.
Bageerathi wanted to ask, “Aren’t you an Indian”, but got wiser and changed the topic.
“When you started for the U.S, for the first time, how many dollars you had?”
“Two dollars! Just two dollars!”—–that is his most favourite topic: how many times he has narrated it?!—“Landed in Kennedy airport; I didn’t have sufficient money for even making a phone call. At that time I didn’t know what was a ‘collect call’. At that time there…….”
Bageerathi prepared herself to listen to that narration for the 27th time! They remained in their seats till every one got down and came out; for about 50 feet, the heat beat down on them and then they entered the A/C hall. Sivasankaran saw the board announcing that the escalator was out of order and laughed sarcastically.
“It is sufficient if India feeds its poor people and try to control the population. Nothing else is needed; why satellites and missiles?”—–he gave a simple solution to the country’s problems in three lines. Baagi walked silently without answering, ‘ it is easy for us to comment like this; but implementing is the hardest part..” She didn’t want to indulge in any discussion till they reached Kanchi.
In the hall, they picked up a trolley, which struggled to move. “ Tut! Can they make a trolley properly in India?”
Their luggage was coming on the conveyor , crawling like a princess coming for ‘Swayamwara’ ( an occasion in the olden royal days, where the princess will arrive at the hall to choose a partner from among the many princes who gather there to try their luck!); at that time, an assistant standing nearby took hold of it, wrongly reading the number on the luggage tag;
Sivasankaran ran towards him, saying, ‘excuse me! Excuse me’ and caught hold of his hand; the man got furious and said, “Tell me if the suitcase is yours; instead, if you put your hand on me, it will not take much time for me to do the same on you; if you are a rich man, keep it so in your place; here I am the chief.”
“What? What?”—when Sivasankaran turned his face, it was red; he took a sorbitrate pill and put it in his mouth; he took out his anger on Bageerathi, “It is all because of you! Why you are denigrating me like this? I told you that I did not want to come to India and that I would stay in Princeton ; I don’t like all this; why do you torture me like this? Why should I hear all this from a loafer in Madras airport?”
“daaaayyyyy! ( டேய்! In Tamil, to call somebody while quarrelling) Who is loafer here? If I give one kick, your half—drawer ( Bermudas?) will all be soaked in blood.”
“Come, let’s go! Why quarrel with him?”—-Bageerathi pulled him away. In such times she knows too well not to talk much.
They came outside to the corridor and looked for the car which was supposed to come and pick them up. All the others boarded their cars and went away; soon the corridor was empty.
“want an autorickshaw? Only seventy rupees. Mylapore, right?”
“What is it to you where I go?”—Sivasankaran.
“don’t talk to him!” Bageerathi intervened;
“I asked just like that madam! Why do you get angry”—The auto driver retorted.
At that time a man came and asked him, “Are you Sivaraman?”
“You are the Kanchi party, isn’t it? You had asked for a car from Pradeepa Travels, right?”
“ Wait, I have brought the vehicle”
“I am not Sivaraman.”
“Right Sivasankar, come! the vehicle is for you only!”;
Bageerathi was impressed by the driver
He took the luggage, put it in the dickey, opened the door for them, and closed it after they got inside and sat down.; he then got into the driver’s seat.
“What sort of travel agents are they? Cannot give a name properly?”
“Sometimes, such mistakes do occur; in the telex message…….”
Sivasankaran didn’t wait for the driver to complete his sentence, “ Which was done properly in your country?”
“Driver! What is your good name?”——Bageerathi.
“Paulraj, madam! Shall I switch on the A/C? Shall I play the cassette player?”
He inserted a cassette in the player, “ Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadiththaal Kaadhal endru arththam…….” (கண்ணும் கண்ணும் கொள்ளையடித்தால் காதல் என்று அர்த்தம்……).
“I don’t want Kaathal, brother”
The car started and soon joined the main road.
“Shall I play some devotional song?”
“We do not want any song! Leave us alone!”
After turning towards Poonamalli, Bageerathi told him, “ Go slowly Paulraj! we are not in a hurry!”
“Don’t you want to have Darsan of Periava today?; we can reach there in two hours.”
Sivasankaran replied, “ We will have Darsan tomorrow, leisurely; I am not particular about it; only for this lady ; she has come all the way from America, only for this.”
“Oh! Is it so? I am so happy! Periavar is God-incarnate Sir!
So far I had had Darsan 88 times; another 12 more to complete 100, same as His age!”
“ Paulraj! Aren’t you a Christian?
“Yes Sir! What if so?”
“He is our God in my home, Sir! You know what He says? ‘Go to church! Go to Masoothi! Go to the temple!’ Finally, all Gods are same, is it not?”
“Does He bring out Vibhoothi (sacred ash)?”
“That is SaiBaba! One look by Him is enough; Whatever you seek, will be yours!”
“Did it happen to you?”
“Why not? Yes! I wanted my daughter Rosemary to get the post office job. In my next trip, she got the appointment order.”
“Is it so? He is in Telephones also, then?”
Paulraj didn’t notice the sarcasm in the statement.
“ Periavar is the God. From a distance, look at Him and ask, your request will be granted. What do you seek, Sir?”
“A good hotel in Kancheepuram”
“Madam, for you?”
“Peace of mind!”
“Sir is very sarcastic!”
“Look here, Paulraj, I have no faith in these things. In my research God is not needed.”
“I need it, Sir!”
“Look out!”—shouted Sivasankaran.
The car just avoided hitting a lorry by a thread’s measure, ran out of the tar road and stopped near a tree!
Sivasankaran was sweating and trembling; Paulraj got down and noticed a tyre was punctured. “ In fifteen minutes, I will replace the tyre with a spare” said Paulraj and got into action.
Sivasankar lighted a cigarette; a man was selling tender cocoanuts under the tree.
“Shall I open one Sir?”
“No, I do not want.”
“I already opened one for you”
Bageerathi was expecting another row, but fortunately, Sivasankaran said “yes” and accepted it.
He sucked in the sweet water and said, “ This is the only one which is still good in India!”
Bagee said, ”have one tender cocoanut, Paulraj”
“No, madam! Till I have His Darsan, not a drop of water shall I take!”
“We just escaped by a hair’s breadth”
“All with Periavar’s anugraham”—said Paulraj.
“Is it so?”——Sarcasm aplenty!
It was 3 O’Clock when they neared Kanchi. Ducks were swimming in the lake, embracing which the road was lined with palm trees Temple towers looked bright and new. The whole city was decorating itself for celebrating the 100th year. Thatched walls and bamboo logs were criss crossing everywhere; cows, bulls and dogs were running here and there, lottery ticket vendors were on cycles in some places….Bageerathi was overwhelmed with joy! A big shamiana was being erected there.
“The celebration is going to be here, madam!”—–Paulraj.
“Will anybody, looking at this place believe that this was the capital city of the old Pallava kings? You saw Vatican, how was that (as compared to this)? How the U.S will preserve a place which is 1000 years old?”
“ For me, that is not crucial, Sir!”—Paulraj.
“I am not talking to you, Paulraj”
“We will straight away go and have His Darsan, after that, will visit other temples!”—–Paulraj.
Sivasankaran decidedly disagreed and said,” First check in the hotel and only then any other job.”
“No, Sir; we may have only half an hour to see Him. That is why I drove down so fast.”
“We will see Him tomorrow; first hotel; I am hungry.”
Only one three—star hotel was available; when they checked in and entered the room, Sivasankaran started again, ”cockroaches in the bath room, blood stains on the wall, dirty towel, medicine smell. At least a small percentage of the comfort available in America……..”
Bageerathi couldn’t stand it any more, “Please, can’t you leave the U.S and come back to India for at least two days? We have come here to have Darsan of Periava, not to count the bed bugs!”
“Don’t say’ we have come’, only you have come for this. I don’t have any desire in this; I don’t believe in this; it is ok even if I don’t see Him. I have a head-ache.”
In the meanwhile, Paulraj came there and called Bageereathi, saying that Junior Periava is conducting pooja for Ambal.
“Coming Paulraj! Hallo, get up , let us go”
“I am not coming; You may go; I stay put in the room.”
“I am not going alone without you.”
“Paul is there”
“Sir, I will not come inside; it is enough if I see Him from outside.”
“Tut, it is a pain Baagee with you!”
“Please, for a day, just for a day, can you not forget your physics talk?, can’t you give up your adamancy? Did we not lose our son just because of this adamant , inflexible approach?”
He looked calmly with burning eyes at Bageerathi and said, ‘Am I the cause, am I the lone cause for that?”
“Don’t start all over again”
‘Tell me , am I the lone cause?”
“Ok, I am also in that!”
Paulraj realized his own delicate position and left that place, saying that he would bring the car to the hotel entrance.
“Ok! I will come! But I will not remove my shirt; I will smoke now and then; I am an atheist; I believe that religion is also a drug, a cheating game!”
“Just accompany me!” said Bageerathi. He wore the Bermudas and the university banian, put on the base ball cap on his head and said,” come on! Let us move!”
Bageerathi tried to control her sob and thought, ‘Why is he so adamant? Is some thing bad going to happen?”
Hundreds of people were sitting in the hall and watching the pooja being performed.
“Who is this boy?”
“Junior Swami ( புதுப்பெரியவா)”
“What nonsense? Should I fall at His feet?”
“You don’t have to”
“Is he number three? Where is number two?”
“Will you please keep quiet?”
After a tiresome wait, they moved along the wall and went near Him.
Sivasankaran stood at a corner; “Why are you standing? Please sit down. What is the name?—–Puthupperiava.
“In Princeton, America, I am a Physics professor.”
“Jayaraman, who is very close to the MaTam, also lives in Princeton, Is it not?”
“I do not know. I know that a very learned man called Einsteen lived in Princeton once.”
“What does your Physics conclude? Is it not the same what AdhiSankarar mentioned?”
“No Swami! Physics has come far far ahead The whole universe is a single particle, one single power; that is what they are trying to explain.”
“ The same thing is explained here as Sakthi and Sivan residing in one whole thing as Ardhanaareeswarar.”
“ No. What we are saying is different.”
“That is English; This is Samskrit. Bavaaneethvam; “ I will hereafter become you; I will dissolve ‘ME” and ‘MINE” in you.” That is what He says.”
“It is not like that”
Bageerathi intervenes now and says, “Come, let us go”
“You don’t believe in miracles?”
“Paul Brunton, Arthur Koslar have all written a lot on this. Haven’t you read any of them?”
“When Paramacharya was camping in Mehboobnagar, for Chathurmasya puja, a person from America, like you, had come to see Him. He came from the bus stand on a cycle rickshaw. He took His blessings. He used to talk in those days. He smeared the Kumkum on His forehead and gave him apples. He had his meal in the Matam and looked for his wallet for giving some contribution. Alas, he had lost it somewhere.! Not only the wallet but also the passport and the travellers’ cheques, for fifteen thousand dollars! He was dumbstuck. Where will he go searching for it? It was not in the dining place, nor in the house of the cyclerickshawala. Finally, do you know where it was? He got it from the cement bench in the bus stand where he was sitting! At least two thousand people would have passed that bench! What do you say for this Sivasankaran? Is it not a miracle? How does your Physics explain this phenomenon?”
“You may call it a miracle; But I would call it ‘Probability’ or ‘Chance’. Is the Darsan over, shall we leave Baagee?”
He smiled and gave him prasatham.
After coming out, Baagee said, “should you have argued with Him also?”
“Why? He is also an Athma like me, isn’t it? That is what Adhvaitham says?”
Paulraj, who was waiting outside, said, “Come! We can have His Darsan! He will be there for another half an hour.”
The queue stretched upto the street; Bageerathi came running and joined the tail of the queue. She forgot all other things.
One English lady, clad in a toothpowder—coloured dress was sitting in meditation and was looking at the entrance door. It was slightly dark inside. They slowly neared the place.
Inside the room, Periava, 100 years old, was sitting in a reclining pose. Above His head, above the saffron colored cloth, was placed a crown made of leaves. The knee was bent. He was not looking at any body in particular. Near Him, a young Brahmin boy was regulating the crowd and was putting the garland around His neck, now and then. He recognized Paulraj and asked him, “How many times now?”
“ninety! This Sir is coming from America.”
“A lot of people come from America. Come madam, come near and have Darsan .” He invited them. Bageerathi lost control of her emotions at that time and started shedding tears, which fell on her saree and fell off.
“Please tell Paramacharya. We travelled 10,000 miles and came here just for this moment . Though my husband argues a lot, inside, he has belief. We had only one son; we named him Balaji. He was ok till he was 12 years old. But in that cursed country, father and son had difference of opinion and one day he went away from home. We searched all over the world, Nepal, Ceylon, Japan, everywhere. Whether he died in an accident or is he alive, we do not know. We have lost our only son. No peace of mind till today.”
“Pray to Paramacharya; Sir, you too.” That young boy went near Him and narrated it in His ears. He lifted His hand and blessed them. One big eye from behind the glasses looked at her. Bageerathi’s heart filled with joy and bliss. The youth gave them an apple and Rose flower and said, “Everything will be ok. Do not worry. What is the boy’s name you said?”
They came out. ‘Why are you crying like a child?” asked Sivasankar. “ You expect your son to return like it happens in movies?”
She cried uncontrollably.
“Bagee! Don’t be silly! Do not make a scene! Come on” For the first time , he revealed a glimpse of love, put his hand around her neck and lead her away.
Behind them, they heard a voice, ‘ Hey! Balaji! Your father and mother have come down”
Categories: Devotee Experiences