80 year old Poornachandran - Poornam in short - was very sick, unable to speak and move freely due to a paralytic stroke he had a year ago. His daughter Chandrika, son-in-law Chandrasekar, and the only grand-daughter Uma Chandra, ten years old, all adored him so much and took care of him very well with all their love and affection. The only loss he could think of was his wife Ambika, who was a remarkable woman and a popular film playback singer. The sad part was, she died on the day Poornam had his stroke and she wasn’t there to serve him when he probably needed her most, for the first time in his life. Otherwise, he couldn’t complain of anything else in his life. His paralytic stroke and his immobility were, of course, an issue - but they too, stopped bothering him. Every now and then the thought that he shouldn’t burden Chandrika and her family surfaced. He wished to be sent away to Sharan, the old age home at Cheranmahadevi Poornam caused to establish, where any number of volunteers were ready to serve him. Chandrika and Chandrasekar vehemently turned down his request and accepted complete responsibility to take care of him. Strangely, Poornam was not responding to medicines and physiotherapy.
Everything was quiet until one day, an international television crew wanted to meet him for making a film on his life story. They had done some extensive research on his silent accomplishments and were proposing to name him the ‘Best Accomplisher of the Decade’, the conferment included a cash award of quarter million U.S dollars. They wanted to be the first to tell the rest of the world about his unique humanitarian social projects. They wanted him to be available for the ceremony that would be attended by the ‘Who is who!’ of the world’s dignitaries including the President of the United States of America.
Poornam shunned publicity, but this was one time when his non-verbal denial failed to impress Chandrika.
‘Appa, the world needs to know about you. Many more may feel motivated by your life. The Earth needs many more people like you.’
The television team landed at Chandrika’s small house at Cheranmahadevi. Poornam quietly acknowledged Welsch with whom he had worked earlier during his adventures at Brahmadesam. Poornam noticed tears in Welsch’s eyes as he was hugged. Though the TV team was sounded about his bad health, they didn’t expect it to be this bad.
“We need you and your active participation. Your health is very important to us. I can’t bear to see you lying immobilized.” Welsch chocked, as he said this. “I want you to agree to come with us for treatment in America. I want you back in action.”
The TV crew took about a week in travelling to places where Poornam had had his years spent and they were ready to pack off.
The very next week, the whole world knew about Poornachandran who made a silent appearance on the TV screen. Silence spoke more than words. His very appearance on the screen touched many hearts across the globe. His soul departed the very moment he, along with the rest of the world, saw himself on the television screen.
I was seventeen or so when that happened in mid 1940s. I was single, parentless and lived in a small village, somewhere closer to Shencottai, a prominent town at the foot of Podhigai hills that formed part of Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu in Southern India and a gateway to the adjacent State of Kerala. Thanks to the financial support from a Christian institution and the kind priest at the local church, I had just completed my school final examinations.
One day, I had acute stomach pain and a few friendly neighbors admitted me to the local hospital run by a missionary. Doctors were unable to diagnose my condition, in the poorly equipped facility. I held my stomach between my both hands and squeezed it. A dilute carbonate mixture that they gave me provided no relief. Besides, I ate nothing for the whole day and I was vomiting constantly. It was midnight. With unbearable pain, I said all the prayers that came to my mind and prayed intensely. I didn’t know when I slept.
I was jolted in the middle of sleep. I perspired and trembled. Was it a nightmare? I just had a dream where Lord Siva appeared before me. He looked so real to me like the one I always saw in pictures. He was seated in a deep meditative posture and opened his eyes briefly to look at me. He saw me suffering with pain. I saw myself standing up in great devotion and prostrating before him.
“I know you are suffering from pain. You will be relieved of this pain now.”
With folded hands, I fell flat again and prostrated, tears rolling down my eyes.
“But on one condition!”Lord Siva said.
I just wanted relief from my stomach pain. I was willing to do anything. I just nodded my head in acknowledgement that I was listening.
“You would meet with me in seven places!”
‘Oh, that won’t be a great deal’ I thought. He seemed to be reading my mind.
“But, it is not going to be easy for you. Are you ready? Your pain will go away now.” said Lord Siva.
Again I nodded in silence. At that moment, the only thing I wanted was relief from my pain.
“Okay! You have my blessing. Remember to meet with me in seven places. Don’t take it lightly.” Saying this, he disappeared into a cloud of thick white smoke which suddenly appeared from nowhere and I was woken up.
Everything looked very hazy. I noticed that my stomach pain had disappeared. I slowly rose from my bed. I prayed intently, “Oh, Lord Siva! Give me the strength to come and meet with you in seven places as you ordained. Give me the strength to maintain my commitment”
I called the duty nurse, a Christian nun, a kind lady. I told her of my dream and the relief I had from my pain. She was puzzled and didn’t know how to respond. Closing her eyes, she just touched my head and prayed. She asked me to stay on for the rest of the night and leave early morning. She asked me whether I would be meeting with the Christian Father and I answered positively.
The next morning, I left the hospital and walked to the Father’s place. He must have been in his morning prayers. I waited to see him outside his hostel. When I told him about the relief I had after I had my dream, he looked at me pensively for a moment and smiled. “May Jesus Bless You!” was all that he said to me. I took leave from him when it seemed he just remembered something and he asked me to wait for a moment. He went inside and brought a talisman. He tied it to me on my upper arm and said, “Remember to keep this safely with you all the time.”
I spent the next several weeks without a clue, but the thoughts kept returning back. “I must meet with Lord Siva in seven places.”
“What did he mean by that?’
I went to Thangasami, our village ‘karnam’ (the village chief) who was my well-wisher. I told him about my dream and sought his opinion. Thangasami was a very pious and god-fearing man. He took me to a local astrologer Muneeswaran. The astrologer drew some squares on the floor with a piece of chalk and threw a few small conches. He closed his eyes for several minutes and finally told me:
“Lord Siva wants you to visit him at seven places that are known for his temples. Courtallam, Tenkasi, Sivashailam, Ambasamudram, Papanasam, Brahmadesam, Thiruppudaimaruthoor and many more places in our Tirunelveli region are great ‘Sivasthals’ – abodes of Lord Siva. Many of these temples are very old, may be thousands of years and are very sacred places. You must visit seven Siva temples and have HIS ’darshan’. You shouldn’t be inviting the wrath of Lord Siva, lest he could become furious. But he is also a very kind god and a great benefactor. You know, you were relieved of your stomach pain instantly the moment He appeared before you…………………
It also appears to me that you are going to have great hardship going through these places. But, you seem to be destined for something very significant about which I am unable to speak or tell you right now. But you will have Lord Siva’s blessings all along. So, go!”
That was the beginning of my long story. I had no one at home to worry about me. My mother left for heaven when I was just born and my father too joined her a year ago, mourning over the death of his dear wife, all those years. Even when he was alive, it was a moot question whether he supported me or I supported him.
I left home on foot, realizing very little what life experiences were waiting for me. I never knew that my meetings with Lord Siva were going to be so long and arduous. Where did I find my energy during all those years – during those years of encounter with Lord Siva? Only HE knows!
I welcome comments on the Preamble to my new novel: "What If Our Dream Come True!"
Author: Short Stories for Young Readers - Book 1
Short Stories for Success for Young Readers: A New Lexicon Unfolded