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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?


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