come back divine ancestors and be fulfilled

mother and childShe was not like Gorky’s Nilovna who was immortalized for supporting a revolutionary son even though she herself was not educated enough to understand what the revolution meant. She did it for the seer love for her son. But, she was a mother and every motherhood is as great as it can be. I do not think any rating is possible as far as motherhood is considered.

Of course, I am talking about my own mother. But why do I remember her today? The fact was that when she was alive, she was so much part of my life neither did I felt her presence, nor her absence. She lived that way or rather preferred to live that way, just a whispering presence like the gentle breeze, not asserting yet as life sustaining as the air. Today is her twenty first death anniversary, or what we call shradha divas according to our sanskara.

Our ancestors never foresaw we would have to see the unfortunate days when the children will remember or give special importance to their parents while they were alive once a year on a day designated as Mother’s day or Father’s day.

It was envisaged that generations would live under one roof in the presence of parents and other elders for years to come. You do not remember when someone is present with you, day in and day out. Of course there is a need to remember them when they are away or dead and gone.

The word Shraadha is derived from Shradhaa which means fondness mixed with respect. So, on Shradha days, in our Hindu tradition, we remember fondly not only the departed  parents, but also three lines of progenitors from father’s as well as mother’s side.

My father was an avid ritualist. It was worth watching and being around when he performed Shradha for his own parents and ancestors. He himself did all the Brahminical rituals while my mother cooked elaborate satwik dishes that were too good to resist.  The rituals would take four to five hours. He was very meticulous. He saw to it that no part of  the ritual was left out.

It was a great occasion to skip school. I would also urge my contemporary cousins to skip school so that we would be able to assist my father in preparations. Our adventurous duty started before sunrise by practically stealing flowers from the nearby temple premises. In case my father felt the quantity of flowers was not enough we raided the village zamindar’s well-guarded gardens. We also had to collect Jackfruit leaves for making plates and bowls by stitching these with coconut sticks.

Then, we would be ordered to go and take bath so that we earned the merit  to sit near the place of Shradha proceedings. We could  understand neither the elaborate mystical drawings that my father made on the floor, nor his Sanskrit chanting. But his chanting, which were sometimes in a whisper barely audible to others and at other times  in a high pitch voice that reverberated around the whole village, created a mesmerizing and mystical effect.

Now I remember a few lines – “Ranganahta deva sharma  atra gachha, iha tishtah, achamanam kuru……… Ranganatha deva sharma trupytam” which may roughly translate as – “Oh Godlike Ranganatha (his father), come here, take your sit, wash your feet and have these many delicious dishes……. Oh, departed ancestors come and be fulfilled ……”

But as children, our real interest lay in the dishes that were served. We would eagerly wait when all these mumbo jumbo would  be over so that we relished those dishes, fruits and sweets. Sometimes out of compassion, my mother would urge father to finish the rituals and not unnecessarily prolong the proceedings.  My father would act as if he had not listened and would go on unruffled, to make it doubly sure he did not miss any part of the ritual.

Sensing that my father was in no mood to take a short cut and finish early, she would call us to the kitchen on some pretext. In the kitchen she would have a kept aside a few sweet cakes  specially for this occasion. She would tell us to eat those cakes without making any noise, wash our mouth and hands and re-join the proceedings.

With my generation, the tradition of elaborate Shradha ritual has become almost extinct. Now a day, we go to a temple and donate something to the priest and the temple in cash and kind. In return, the temple priest gives his blessings, the intensity of his blessings being dependent upon his mood and his ability to chant those difficult Sanskrit stanzas.

Since I write this article on the occasion of my mother’s death anniversary I must pay my tribute to her. She was no special mother- that was her specialty. She was like any other mother, an Indian mother to be precise -not educated beyond the primary classes, yet unschooled enough to follow her motherly instincts and insights to know at what precise time which of her children needed what. I felt she had a special corner for me, being the youngest of the siblings. If I recall all events great or small to exalt her motherhood, it will fill a book. But, the following  incident haunts and will continue to haunt my memories for a long time to come.

My parents usually stayed with my elder brother. I studied staying in a hostel and then joined Indian Air Force where you cannot live outside the bachelor quarters till you are married. It was going to be her first visit to my place of posting. I was coming back to Bangalore with my wife, parents and my three months old daughter. We were waiting for the train at Berhampur, my home town. It was announced that the train was going to be late by a couple of hours.   Coincidentally, the child fell sick. We rushed to a doctor and got medicines. Being novice parents we panicked and decided to cancel the journey. But my mother would not listen. She insisted we carry on with the journey and that everything was going to be alright. So we carried on with the journey, though not sure whether it was the right decision.

We reached Bangalore without much problem. Still I could not forgive my mother for being so adamant and putting us to such risk. After a few days she explained during a casual conversation, “ See, first of all I knew there was nothing serious about the baby and at this age these are common ailments. Secondly, if I cancelled the journey you would have got a very bad name. Without understanding he situation the neighbours would have murmured that you were trying to avoid the responsibility of taking us with you. Thirdly, who knows whether I will be able to visit you again at your place of posting?”

Hardly convinced, I told my mother not to say so. But the depth of her concern and her foreboding could be realized only after her death three years later. Even though everything for her second visit to our place was arranged for, she died just three days before the proposed visit.

She preferred to be misunderstood so that her son was not condemned. That is what distinguishes mother’s love.

And she had a premonition that she would not be able to make it for a second time. If I had missed the chance first time, it would have been a regret of a lifetime.

On my mother’s twenty first death anniversary as I recall her, I am reminded again of the Shradha chantings done by my father in his mesmerizing and mystical voice inviting the ancestors to come, partake of our offerings and go back fulfilled.

 If only, we could really get those ancestors back, even if for a day!

mother

those cool summer days

 

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“Now that Deepayan’s school is closed for summer vacations, why don’t you all come down here.”  It was my brother in law at the other end of the call.

“If Durga is not free, at least they  can send Deepayan here to spend a couple of weeks.” I could overhear his wife’s loud prompting.

“I heard what bhabiji said. We will discuss and call you back”, I said and hung up.

It was this invitation that brought back memories of long summer vacations of my childhood spent in my maternal grandparents’ home. It also prompted me to suggest the topic on Indispire.

Indian BloggersTill I was 8 or 9,  summer vacations meant my granpa’s palce in Narayanapur, a tiny village four  kilometers away from my own village. Usually we walked the distance, through rice fields, mango groves, and along a  river avoiding the  lengthier motor-able road.

Narayanapur is a small village consisting of about a dozen  houses. My grandpa’s was the corner house towards the western end of the village. It had extensive coconut, banana mango, palm and other plantations covering the back and the west side the house. In front, across the main village road, was his lemon estate. My morning and evening routine consisted of  assisting my uncles in taking care of the plantations. There was a thatched mud walled house in the lemon estate that served as the place for my noon time siesta and reading room. Other pastimes included  swimming in the  pond adjacent to the village, exploring the numerous ancient temples surrounding the village and occasionally, playing with the other village boys.

My grandmother specialized in preparing various types of traditional sweets. Back in those days my favourite sweet item was ‘Arisha Pitha’.  Whenever she sensed that the charm of grandpa’s place was wearing off she would say, “Look I have already made arrangement for your favourite sweet dish. Tomorrow you will have it”.  Another incentive to detain me was to inform me that the Mahaprasad  from the local Narayana Temple was the lunch menu for the next day. This Mahaprasad, which was home delivered in a huge thali, consisted of varieties of rice, dal, curry and sweets – twenty to twenty five items in all. It was  sufficient for seven to eight adults.  Of course you have to pre-book, sometimes weeks in advance. Now imagine, home delivery of lunch for the entire family including guests in a remote village that too against a very nominal donation. Moreover, this system is as old as the twelfth century temple.

Grandma also made varieties of pickles from fruits and vegetables which were collected from the plants  grown around the house. It was so much confusion to choose the pickles of the day out of so many varieties – carambola, bitter gourd, amla, bamboo shoot, mango, lemon and so on. Again some of them had sweet as well as pungent versions.

After spending two to three weeks or sometimes a whole month,  I would be back to my native village. The summer vacation was far from being over.  In my village the days would be spent among friends with the usual sports, games and a little badmashi. Our play ground was not restricted to the village street, our houses or the backyards. It extended to the two huge  mango groves, three ponds, two mountains and a river surrounding the village.

 The two mango groves did not belong to any particular owner as a whole. Each tree or a group of trees had a different owner. So, the access to the mangoes was restricted but not to the grove or the trees. Because of this, while the security guards had a very tough time,  it  provided many avenues of fun to us.

During those long summer days a personal connection was established with each of those hundreds of trees. Each  mango tree had a character of its own.  If one gave out mangoes that tasted sweet only when raw,  another  was useful only as pickle, and yet another one must be left alone till its fruits fell down ripe. A group of two to three mango trees in a corner of the grove provided such thick foliage, not a single ray of the sun could make it to the ground thus, making it ideal to host the marathon card games for the village idlers.

I went to my native village a couple of years back. When I visited the mango groves, I was almost in tears. The majority of the trees were either uprooted or branch-less. The Cyclone Phailin that stuck Odisha in October 2013 did all the damage it could do so that this vibrant childhood playground  lived only in our memories.

The Monk who is yet to get his Ferrari

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‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

In addition to sharing bits and pieces of information about my life on many of the posts here, I have written specific posts covering my personal life. All these have been categorised under 'memoirs' . 

May be this is an opportunity to sum up the journey so far. Maybe, I could be revealing some aspects for the first time in a public forum.

I was born in a remote village in Odisha about half a century ago and spent my early childhood there..

Did all schooling and colleging in government schools and colleges at government expenses (was recipient of generous Government scholarships from class IV till Post-Graduation)

In our days, campus placement was unheard of, but I got a campus selection.
(The head of our High School Campus selected me to marry his daughter.)

 After remaining an academic topper in all the exams till matriculation, decided to dip the academic graph so that I was able to join Indian Air Force, another childhood fascination. (Maybe to pay back part of the Govt. generosity bestowed on me during student days).

Now that our son has crossed fourteen, he is at par with both the parents and his elder sister  to have all the rights in our democratic family where no one imposes anything on another, even though consultations and opinions are actively sought.

While in high school, wanted to become a monk, so ran away from home for a brief period (safely during summer vacation) and stayed in a stranger’s house in Puri near Jagannath Temple.

Spiritual depth came in life after coming in touch with my master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living in 2001.

After living a vagabond life due to a frequently transferable service, came back to the city of my first love, Bengaluru,  in 2011.

In 1996, was bereaved of my mother who was unique, like every one’s mother and in 2008, lost my father – a simple man who never imposed anything on me even in my childhood.

I am a monk who is yet to get his Ferrari – having fun living the contradictions of life – being a mystic and a man of the world at the same time; trying to  delve into the depths of spirituality without getting biased or dogmatic towards anything.
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