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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Episode 2/Chapter 10 - What, If Our Dreams Come True! An Extraordinary Meeting with Lord Siva

The Story so far…..

Armed with the extraordinary power of the blessings he received from the mysterious sadhu at Courtallam, not knowing what exactly lay ahead, Poornam walks all the way to Ambasamudram, on his way to Papanasam. There, in the Siva temple, on the banks of Tamirabarani, he encounters another sadhu-like mendicant. Developing a conversation with him, Poornam hears about the colossal damage that had happened in Ambasamudram region due to the flash floods in the upper regions of the river. Ambalam, the mendicant narrates a few stories of people who suffered due to the floods.

What follows is the narration of the series of stories of people who suffered in the floods……

Chapter 10: The story of  zamindar Rathnam

Rathnam was a respectable ‘jamindar’ in that village. He generally helped all villagers for their needs. He never missed local functions at people’s homes and he liberally gifted money on those occasions. He was the principal attendant to receive all honors during local temple and other functions. He lived in majesty with all comforts. However, his wife Meena was his opposite, though she never showed it outside. She was extremely beautiful and was the envy of many other women. She was very demanding, greedy and she feared that Rathnam would lose all his possessions by his charitable dispensation. She started extracting more and more money from her husband.  Rathnam loved his wife very much. This was his one single weakness. They didn’t have a child for long and Rathnam’s wife was always suspicious about him. She accused him that he was camouflaging his weaknesses and demanded more money, wealth, jewelry and other possessions. Gradually over time, Rathnam was unable to meet her demands from the income from his properties and started looking out for borrowing money.

Shailesh Babu, a shark from the neighboring town was enormously rich from his money lending business and he smelt Rathnam’s predicaments. He somehow convinced Rathnam that everything would be kept a secret and managed to persuade Rathnam to take money from him as loan for short term. Rathnam pledged his properties as security for the loan, believing that he would be in a position to repay the loan soon after the harvests. The money thus obtained as loan was given away to Meena to meet her extravagant demands and soon he found himself short of money again. Rathnam kept everything as a secret, even from his wife. His loans spiraled out of control and soon Rathnam was deep up in debt. He never discontinued his other charitable activities too. Gradually, most of his assets got transferred to the money lender, while the real benefits went to his wife, who accumulated wealth in her own name.

Rathnam adored his wife so much that he never complained about her. Slowly, rumors started leaking out in the village town. Some of his well-wishers advised him discreetly about redeeming himself. Seeing this, Rathnam’s wife became more poisonous and stepped up her pressure on him. Rathnam gradually lost all his assets and became a pauper. The news spread and people started talking openly about this. They accused the money lender of plundering Rathnam and his wealth, but they could do nothing.

One day, Rathnam’s wife said that she was going to her mother’s place and thereafter she never returned. Rathnam came to streets. Initially the villagers took pity on him and helped him in every way. His modesty didn’t permit Rathnam to accept the help that voluntarily came his way. Not knowing any other trade or business, he had no clue as to how to run his life. He was pushed into depression. When many in the village offered him help, his self-respect took a plunge. When he initially accepted some food from some villagers to sustain himself, he died of shame every day. One day, he decided to end his life.

He never thought nature would come to his rescue in an unexpected way. That day, he was sitting on a small rock in the middle of Tamirabarani river as usual and brooding. This had now become his favorite spot whenever he was depressed. He would tell his story to Tamirabarani and he thought she listened to him. She appeared to wash his feet and seem to assure him that everything would be all right. But that day, he noticed that the water level was slowly rising unusually and the rock on which he sat was slowly submerging in water. It had rained very heavily that morning and the previous day. The sky was dark and cloudy, but he didn’t care. It never occurred to him that the river was rising and flooding the place. He saw at a distance, people rushing back to the banks of the river and looking at all sides, bewildered. Some called him out to rush back to the banks, but he didn’t want to hear them. As the water level rose, one or two who recognized him, tried to get into the waters to pull him out to the safe shore, but the water current was strong and unmanageable. The water was breaching the banks and people started rushing towards safer shelters or towards hillocks.

Now, the rock on which he sat was submerging in water and Rathnam was wet below his waist. But he never bothered and continued brooding over his life. He got angry with himself. He called, “Oh, dear Tamirabarani! Come and take me. My life has become meaningless now. Please oblige me.”

Some villagers went and brought others, in an effort to forcibly rescue Rathnam. But many were busy in rescuing their own kith and kin and their belongings, as the water slowly inundated many parts of the village. The current was high and people found it difficult to wade through the water. Even with their sincerity, they couldn’t come to his help.

Now, the rock had completely submerged in water and Rathnam found it difficult to manage to sit on the rock. The current was pulling him away. He knew swimming well. But he didn’t care anyway. He remembered his wife and all that she did for him. Strangely, he had no ill-feelings towards her. He thanked her for being his wife and for bringing happiness in his life during good days. He even said goodbye to his wife and wished her well, as she was in a safer place.

All of a sudden, when he least expected, the water current pulled him away forcefully from the rock into a twirl. For a moment, he struggled to come out, but the next moment, realization dawned on him that, after all, he didn’t want to continue his life. He surrendered himself to the currents and was carried away swiftly in the current. He lost all consciousness, as the water entered his lungs.
He must have been in hell, Rathnam thought, as his whole body hurt him. Everything looked hazy. There were people surrounding him. He could recognize ‘Yama’ (The God of Death) with his wild unwieldy hair, a big moustache stretched between his two ears and egg-like eyes, popping out of its place.

What was this! His wife was also there among the crowd. ‘What are they doing in hell?’

‘Are they here to pronounce judgment on me?’

“Am I in hell?” he tried to ask. His voice was feeble and unable to rise.

He saw his wife looking at him curiously.

“Are you also in hell? You don’t deserve to be here. You did no wrong. Why are you here?” he asked his wife feebly.

The vision was better now. He saw several on-lookers. Everything was smoky. “Why is my wife here?” he wondered.

Slowly, his vision was getting better. He could see more clearly now. He could recognize at least one face and it was not that of ‘Yama’ but his village chief. ‘Why is he here in hell? He was a good man.’

He slowly remembered. He was being dragged into the water while sitting on the rock. He wanted to surrender himself to the water. That much, he remembered. He was calling forth the river, to take him. That also he remembered. He was drowning and he was finding it difficult to breathe. He remembered water entering his lungs. Then what happened? How quick was his journey to upper kingdoms? ‘Why is my wife here?’ He asked himself again.

Again, slowly, he recognized the voices. He came to his senses and noted that he was not in hell or heaven, but very much on earth. He recognized he more faces, besides that of his wife and the village chief. But he couldn’t understand how his wife came here. He couldn’t understand her blank look.

“My God, finally he has regained consciousness. Give him something to drink. Let him gain some strength.” Someone in the crowd ordered.

Some brown liquid was brought and he slowly drank. He threw a questioning look at everyone.

Pazhani, the village chief told him, “You survived the flood by a miracle. Luckily, I was around when the river was flooding and some washer-men saw you sitting on the rock. They came running to me. I dashed into the river. But before I could get you, you had gone under water. I was strong. But the river was stronger. It pulled us apart. You were virtually gone, but I didn’t give up. Finally, when I spotted you, you were caught between two sharp rocks. I rushed and saved you. You were bleeding heavily with cuts and bruises. I brought you home. You ran a high temperature for the last fifteen days and muttering a lot. You were alternating between consciousness and unconsciousness. We had a tough time and we thought, we lost you.”

Things were becoming clearer for Rathnam. He pointed his fingers at his wife.

“She too escaped from the floods. Her village and several families there, too didn’t escape the fury of floods. Her parents too were swept away. She lost all her possessions. No one knows how she alone survived. She frantically ran for help and became hysterical at her loss. She had cried, laughed, threatened, questioned - but finally, became quiet. Somehow, she had reached this village once again and started searching for you. Once she saw you, she became totally dumb. She is just staring at you and you can’t expect any other reaction or response from her. We believe she has lost her mental balance.”

Rathnam’s wife was looking at him pathetically and Rathnam looked back. What consolation could he offer to her when she had nothing but a blank look on her face?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Episode 2/Chapter 9; What, If Our Dreams Come True! An Uncommon Meeting with Lord Siva


My days with Sri Papanasam Siva

Chapter 9: My arrival at Ambasamudram

Like Adi Shankara, I too travelled to places by foot. Shankara could even reach the top of Himalayas, travelling through thick jungles, crossing over difficult hilly terrains and dangerous rivers. He had no map, no compass and no written travelogues. Today, conditions of travel had tremendously improved over the centuries and therefore my comparison with Adi Shankara is inappropriate and unfair.

Honestly, I didn’t have much direction while I set forth from Courtallam. I believed I was being guided by some inner voice. I passed through Tenkasi which was just at a walking distance from Courtallam and Lord Siva christened as Kasi Viswanathan majestically sat there in a colossal temple built during the days of Parakrama Pandian of 15th century. The beauty was (or was it a pity), I learnt that the main temple tower at the entrance was damaged by a lightning sometime in the 15th century, may be soon after its construction and had still remained a flat tower for nearly five centuries. Though I had frequented Tenkasi very often, for strange reasons, I never reckoned it as one of the places I was destined to. So I set Papanasam as my next destination. Besides, inexplicably, I had no engagement with Sri Kasi Viswanathan at Tenkasi and so I moved on. The chief priest at Courtallam temple with whom I had become very friendly over years had given me a detailed account of the region, especially about the river Tamirabarani. Papanasam attracted me much more than other places, to start with.

The river Tamirabarani had a great history. However much the North Indians may feel proud about their perennial rivers like Ganga, Sind or Brahmaputra that have their origins in Himalayas, Tamirabarani, the perennial river of South was unique in the sense its origin is yet to be discovered. Even today, it remains a secret and mystery. It is believed that Tamirabarani originates inside a cave in the Podhigai hills, travelling almost about twenty five kilometers through a dense forest of herbal plants, where it doesn’t even see sunlight, before it falls as ‘Banatheertham’ in the upper hills of Papanasam. During the course of its one hundred and fifty kilometers of travel till its final merger with the sea in the Gulf of Mannar, many other smaller river tributaries originating at different places in the Podhigai hills join it and enrich the whole region. From the days of the epic Ramayana, the river had assumed spiritual and religious significance for various reasons. There is also a mythological story that the river originated several thousand years ago from a small divine pot the sage Agasthiar used to carry around.

Ambasamudram was a small town on the way to Papanasam, on the banks of the river Tamirabarani. As I walked closer, I was beckoned by Lord Siva sitting over there in another majestic temple built almost thousand years ago by the Chozha kings. I walked, marveling at the tall ‘maruthu’ tree linings on the banks of the river Tamirabarani on the way to the temple. The trees with thick branches had grown sky high that even sunlight could penetrate them only when their leaves bristled with the wind. They presented a picturesque scenery of a marvelous arcade. I walked through the arcade of trees imagining myself to be a king, greeted by thousands of on-lookers lined up on both sides, waving their hands, and bowing their heads. Like a camera, I captured the image of this beautiful place, as I walked past the trees and reached the temple. Just then, it began to rain all of a sudden and I took shelter in the front corridor of the temple. It was mid-afternoon and the sanctum sanctorum of the temple was closed. I was standing there for sometime looking particularly nowhere.

An old mendicant sadhu, who blanketed himself with a torn rug, spotted me and beckoned me.

“Are you new to the town, thambi?”

I nodded. Having had a very powerful association with a ‘sadhu’ at Courtallam, I wondered whether I was due to have yet another encounter with a yet another sadhu.

Hesitantly, I went closer to him. He asked me to sit by his side. I obeyed without resisting.

“So………… you are an outsider, I know……………… I know most of the regular visitors here. By the way, did you eat anything at all? ............... You look so famished,” he remarked.

Looking at my blank face, he continued, “Don’t worry! The temple would be serving annadhan (free food) shortly and the food would be just good. Just bear with your hunger for some more time.”

He seemed to be reading my mind.

Actually, I was very hungry and looking for some food. I felt relieved. It was a long story how I had been managing myself in the last several days when I walked from Courtallam to Ambasamudram.

The sadhu continued, “My name is Ambalam. What is your name?”

“People call me Poornam.”

“Pardon me, I can’t speak loudly. My vocal cords got damaged due to a disease during the last heavy rains that flooded the whole Ambasamudram and nearby villages. Have you heard about it?’ he continued.

I shook my head in the negative.

Paiya, you must have been very lucky not to have seen the gory calamities of that rain. It is a horrible story!”

As the rain intensified, I had nothing else to do. I was willing to hear the story. I urged him to tell me about the last rain.

“This river Tamirabarani has several tributaries. Some join it at the upper regions of the hills and some along the plains. Those that run at higher altitudes are wild, running uncontrollably through thick forests and hills. It was not uncommon for the river to get flooded every now and then due to heavy downpour in the upper hills. There are not many water reservoirs along the hilly path the river takes. A few barrages help diverting water for productive agriculture, but do not help containing floods. We don’t even know who built these dams and when. The terrains are difficult and the plains suffer because of flash floods. Several villages got inundated in water and disappeared as a whole. Hundreds of people had died. Serious diseases had spread post flood and had infected several hundred people. Who would want to hear the sad unpleasant stories of a few survivors, anymore? Do you want to?”

He knew he had my full attention and that I was eager to hear the stories. Ambalam didn’t wait for my answer. He started telling me stories of a few individuals who survived the last flood, five years ago.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What, If Our Dreams Come True! An Uncommon Meeting with Lord Siva

Over the past several weekends, I have released the first full episode of "What, If Our Dreams Come True! An Uncommon Meeting with Lord Siva" through my other blog:

For the sake of operational convenience, I have since decided to shift the 2nd and subsequent episodes and chapters through my regular blog:, One chapter will be releaed over every weekend.

I have since received good reviews about the first episode and I thank everyone who had sent in their comments. There are 6 more episodes to come. I hope readers would continue to enjoy reading the remaining episodes too.

To read the entire book online, click: What If Our Dreams Come True!

To buy the print version, click: What, If Our Dreams Come True!

Greetings to everyone.

T N Neelakantan