YOGA-SHEERSHASAN AND SHAVASAN

Yoga prescribes the above two positions.
In sheershasan, the normal vertical stand is reversed. It is difficult for elderly and handicapped people. The can have the easy tilted position, by lying on a plank, with the head higher than the feet. It is supposed to increase the flow of blood towards the upper parts of the body, against gravity. This is to be done in the morning.
Shavasan is the opposite of sheershasan. Here the body lies in perfect horizontal position, neutralizing gravity, which exerts pressure on the diaphram, separating the upper and lower parts of the body proper. In this “sleep”, one should forget the present and remember those pleasant moments of life. Your pulse rate will go down and you feel relaxed. This is for the evening, after coming from the work place
Both asans must be done daily.

AN UNFORGETTABLE EVENING

I was lonely among Muthurssi family clan, assembled for a marriage. To escape from them, I proceeded to Mahadevamangalam, a picturesque spot on the river bank.
There are not many Shiva temples on river banks in Keralam, like Kashi temple.
As I could not get any auto, I walked leisurely and by the time I reached the temple, the sun was about to set.
I hurriedly climbed down the steps leading to the river bed as the water level was low. It was clear, shallow water full of slippery stones; but the bath refreshed me. The evening arthy was about to begin and I waited patiently, my heart full of joy and devotion.
This Shiva temple is on the bank of Bharathapuzha river, a few miles downstream from Shoranur. There is a big stone hill on top of the steep bank, from where we can enjoy the sun set. This has been referred in my story PREGNANT AT THIRTEEN.
The poojary has to bring water from the river for use in the temple, though there is a well there.
Now the door opened and arthy began. I took out a five rupee coin from the purse and offered it to Him. Now it was very dark and I hurried home.
After about half a mile, I got an auto and was glad to get into it. It was then that I examined my purse. To my consternation, it was empty! The driver chided me for travelling alone, at the age of 78, and told me that he would take me home, even if I had no money!
At last I reached home and borrowed money from the first person who appeared.

WATER SUPPLY SCHEME AT ARATTUPUZHA

At the right side of the scenery you see in the” home” background of my blog, is a steep hill, which one has to climb, to reach the Sastha temple at Arattupuzha.

To the west of this temple is a vast open ground. earlier rice fields.

 I enjoy the cool breeze in the evening. I prefer it as the destination of my walk.

The river runs parallel to the road. Between the river and the road are several Harijan colonies which have come up after my childhood days, and un-tarred roads connect these settlements.

Last evening I walked along one of these and was surprised to see huge tanks coming up which reminded me about reactor building in an atomic power plant. Of course, it is imagination.

The workers were taking bath in the river, just a hundred metre down stream from the house which father built. Being deep, the water is clean here. I envied them. I have a liking for project site, cut away from the “madding crowd”. All those employed in the project have a sense of cameraderie and the structure is a triumph of human endeavour.

The water purification tank and the water tank are designed to supply drinking water to vast areas, I was told by one of the workers.

There is plenty of water in the rivers. We must uilise it; that is all.

HOLIDAY IN A REMOTE VILLAGE

Kaithapram is a well known Malayalam film music director and lyricist. His village is known as Kaithapram.

More than five hundred years ago, a group of twelve namboodiri families came down to an uninhabited area, almost encircled by a river and settled in the uninhabited,fertile valley. Then three more groups followed.

Now this village has more than two hundred families, all of the same caste and is known as Kaithapram.

Long ago, when my niece was married to a family there, we felt sorry for her. The village was too remote for us to approach, equidistant from Kannur and Payyannur stations on the Mangalore-Shoranur railway route. After leaving the station, we must travel by bus up to Plathara and then walk for an hour or so. Not a single terrace house and the only toilet, thankfully belonging to a lady who recently came there from south Malabar, was my relief. In those days, people just defecated any where outside the house!

Now I was taken aback by the changes, during the last two decades, which were a pleasant surprise. Almost all houses had concrete roof. Most of them have a car. We were picked up from Plathara by one of the twins of my niece (one is studying for engineering and one for medicine, with government scholarship) in their jeep. They had internet connection at home. Most namboodiries are computer shy. Many do not know what a blog is.

That evening they took us to the Parssinikadavu temple. It is an impressive big temple, right at the bank of the river by the same name. It is full of clean water. There are some boats, but something could be done to remove plastic bags and bottles.

The deity is Muthappan or grand- uncle. The head of an old man is worshiped here. The devotees are offered tea and dhal free of cost. Free meals are also given all the time.

Next morning I went for my walk with just a bath towel, after my bed tea. Within a few minutes, I reached the river. As the water was dirty, I reversed the direction and reached the Srikrishna temple, with good clean water in the pond in front. As there was no one around, I removed the only cloth I was wearing and plunged into the water It was my first dip in a pond, on coming to Keralam, this time.

After praying in the temple I roamed about for some time, but returned early, as I had not taken my break fast. I saw two old men reading newspaper, at Kaithapram Grameena Vayanashala (library). I too had a look at the head lines. I am a newspaper addict.

We were confined to the house, because of a hartal (bandh). In the evening, we climbed the highest hill in the locality. The top of the hill was a plateau, quite wide. I could not believe the spectacle of palatial buildings, constructed in feudal, artistic style. I was told that it was meant to be a music and dance academy , but the man found it impracticable and sold it to an engineering college.

There is a wide road along the periphery of the hill, from which we could see the surroundings.

The whole village is encircled by mountains and the river, which originates beyond Kerala border, in the Western Ghats. This explains the fertility of the soil and the abundance of water.

There is a well at the top, near a Shiva and Devi temple under construction. Water is available just ten feet below the ground. A large pond near by, also has plenty of water. This can only be explained by my theory of subterranean water channels, connecting the entire rocky crust of the earth ( Saraswaty- myth or reality? ).

At the foot of the hill, water level in the wells is fifty feet deep.

There is a rain gauge, well protected by fencing. I wonder if any one takes readings, climbing all the way up the hill.

GODS AND GODDESSES ARE ENJOYING DAILY BATH IN THE OPEN PONDS

I am now observing the pattern of ten aarattu (dip in ponds and rivers) of various Devis and Gods, during the pooram festival season.

In order to understand it, you should know their routine life.

Every morning, the poojary bathes the idol in water and then in milk. This is known as abhishek. In Tamilnadu, abhishek in various other media like a mixture of honey, plantain, etc. are also common. Shiva is fond of abhishek with tender coconut water. He is always hot and abhishek is the best way to please Him.

After the morning bath, they are fed. This is pooja. In Keralam, red rice (unpolished) is common. Milk pudding, appam, ada etc. are also offered. The pooja is done at noon and  in the evening also.

When free, gods give darshan (audience) to the devotees.

During ten days of festival season, the deity is taken out by the poojary, and paraded outside the temple on the back of the elephant, in surrounding villages. Any family can offer a large measure of paddy, filled in a para (a measuring vessel made of wood, cylindrical in shape, which was in use during feudal days), in the court yard or on the road itself, purified by smearing cow dung and in front of the lighted oil lamp. This is a good source of income and is now carried in a small truck or cart.

Normally the image is fixed to a semicircular wooden plank, decorated with brass pieces, plated with gold and the poojary has to hold it during the sojourn, sometimes for hours together (even six to ten hours, as the deity cannot be placed anywhere except in a temple). He can drink water, but how does he piss? I put this question to a tantry who said they have to hold it all the while.

At some point during the journey, the villagers arrange pooram. During pooram, the elephant carrying the deity, will be in the centre, with equal number of elephants on either side, so that the total number will remain odd. There will be drum beating for about three hours and fire works in the end.

After that, the deity will be bathed by the poojary in the open, either in a pond or in a river, when all devotees, irrespective of caste, are allowed to dip in the water, at the same time as the poojary dips himself, along with the deity. For this purpose, a small one is used, as the original image is permanently installed in the sanctum of the temple. This mass bathing is called aarattu.

When a pooja is done outside the temple, it is called irakipooja. Only a few families are allowed to do this. During irakipooja, the poojary can refresh himself.

Ammathiruvady (Mahalakshmi of Oorakam ) has only one irakipooja, at my ancestral home, the day before Arattupuzha pooram, this time on 28-3-1o

NINETY NINE, NOT OUT – HALE AND HEARTY !

We went to see a relative. They had all gone to see a prospective husband for their girl. Only the son of the old lady remained at home, as she was too old.

After preliminary exchange of inquiries, we wanted to see the old lady, who will complete her century in next September. We were all surprised to hear that she is taking bath, all by herself, as is her habit. After some time, she came out after changing her dress.

She went straight to her pooja room, as it was past six in the evening. She switched on the light, lit the oil lamp in front of the deity, burned incence and came out, not forgetting to switch off the light.

Then she came and sat by my side.

All the while, her faithful son calmly watched. “She feels offended if I try to help”, he explained.

He continued: She takes only bournvita with milk; nothing else. Last year she came to attend a marriage in his wife’s house (which happens to be my wife’s house), this time she may not come.

I looked at her in awe and admiration.  We must celebrate the century, I suggested.

I was told that another namboodiri lady has already completed 100 years; but she is laid up in bed. Her brain is intact.

SHORT STORY – JANE, MY HERO

She was our hero.

 To call her a heroine, is not in tune with her nature. Standing full five feet eight inches tall, she was taller than most men. Equally good in studies and sports, we in the women’s college were eager for her friendship.

 But she rarely mingled with us. She was not haughty; she just did not have the time to talk. She would come exactly at ten on her modest bicycle, in simple pants and shirt, and leave at five in the evening, to coach students in Physics and Maths., which were her favourite subjects.

 During break, she would eat the food she brought in her box. All our efforts to make her share our fast foods failed. Occasionally she took fruit juice offered by me and I was overjoyed.

 I ventured: are you alone? Don’t you have parents?

Yes, I live with them. I have a sister too.

 Where?

 Near the church. My father is a parson.

 Do you like to travel?

Very much; but my schedule is very tight.

 My name is Vidya.

 I have never been to a Hindu house.

Thereafter, we came closer to one another. My friends wanted to know every thing about her, but I knew very little.

 We were going for a picnic to a remote locality, of which I learned from the web. I was sponsoring the trip. There were only some ten girls. I somehow persuaded my hero to join us. When she agreed, I was jubilant.

 She had carried her painting materials. The spot was by the side of a hill. Almost as soon as we reached, she set up her things and started painting right in earnest

 I watched her face. Her brow was expansive, nose medium size and lips almost nonexistent; just two lines. Her eyes are two magnets capable of attracting even a blind man! So lively and dark.

Did not any boy make advances to you?

She looked surprised. Why do you ask this question?

 I did not know what to say.

 Jane : love is a foolish sentiment. Today you may like one. After marriage he will prove a different man.

 When it was time to rest, she looked around. There was none except the two of us. She removed all her cloths and jumped into the lake. She invited me but I felt shy. Her body was like a chiseled wood sculpture. I enjoyed watching every movement of her body. When I heard voices from a distance, I called out to her.

 She came up and wore the same cloths. Then we all had lunch.

 When she had finished her work, she drew the outline of my face but refused to show it.

Then onwards we became friends. One day I told her: some one is coming to see me; will you be there, to give me company?

 I felt relieved when she agreed. I drove her to my house. When we reached there, all had assembled to give her a resounding welcome.

 My younger brother Binoy was bubbling with joy. I felt jealous. Mother was seeing a Christian for the first time! Where will she sleep? I told her they are just like us. She will sleep in my room.

 We drove round the town, with Binoy in the back seat. In this short time he had become very much attached to my hero. She patiently explained all doubts he had in Physics. Binoy expressed his admiration for her ability to explain in simple terms, even complicated concepts.

 When the party came, I felt uneasy. Take it easy, she said. I insisted that she must sit by my side. I did not even look at him properly. When we returned to my room, I told her I do not want to marry.

 She: wait; let us know all details.

 Before she returned, she gave me my portrait. Do not open it now, she told me.

Later, whenn I opened it, I could not believe my eyes! Am I so cute? 

We three drove to her church to drop her there. It was a modest establishment, her dwelling little better than a slum. We distributed cakes, fruits etc. which we had brought with us, to all those present. I wanted to help her. I bought all her paintings, some of them quite good, for one lakh rupees, saying, my friends wanted them. I paid her a cheque, then and there. She was visibly moved. She even gave me a kiss!

 She got campus selection and joined the IIT, Kanpur. I felt lonely and bitter. I went on writing to her, though she replied only once in a month. Meanwhile, my marriage took place. I acted as a good daughter but felt empty at heart. Even the son, born within a year, failed to enliven my heart. He is a business man (or machine?), interested only in profits.

 Binoy joined a college at Kanpur, staying with my hero. I envied him.

 One day they came to see me. When I saw her I could not hold my tears. I embraced her and wept unashamedly.

We went to my father’s home and enjoyed those few days, dropped from heaven.

It is impossible to continue like this, I told Jane. Now she listened seriously. She is now more handsome, if I may put it that way. That night we slept together, talking almost the whole night. My husband was away on tour, not that it matters, in any way. He seldom talked to me. I went to Kanpur, with Jane and Binoy……