Our Two Pilgrimages

January 10, 2007 at 9:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Kala was alive, it was all hustle and bustle what with trips to Medical consultants and hospitals.  Confined to our bedroom she directed the conduct of the house those last six years.  When she could move around and still able to work, she used to come to the kitchen and supervise our domestic help, the sweet girl Rama whom Kala liked and loved like a kin, as the girl went about with her chores.  At times she will prepare our evening fare, a recipe we call ‘Sevai’, sitting on a cooking gas cylinder in front of the gas stove, prepare the rice flour paste, and when I help move the rice paste to the dining table, she will use her hands to kneed the still warm paste, savouring the soothing effect on her work worn hands and gnarled painful arthritic fingers.  We will feed the paste in the press and collect the noodlelike strands on a big platter, cool it enough to mix a portion with ‘usili’, another portion in a lemon, green chillies paste, and salt and turmeric powder, and the third portion in roasted grated coconut, salt and some green chillies paste.  This is a great dish generally liked by us all and particularly relished by Raju who will gobble great quantities of these three Sevai types.  Another favourite curry of Raju’s is Roasted Potatoes Curry.

Just to please Kala, and to realise her long cherished desire to visit Manthralayam, we made our first long car trip.  Raju had purchased his Tata Indigo just over a month ago.  All of us, Kala and I, Raju, Rupa embarked on this first road adventure.  We hadn’t even cleared the city limits of Hyderabad before one of the tyres burst.  Since Raju didn’t remember to call Tata helpline, we had the puncture fixed, and exchanged the burst tyre with the spare one.  We had wasted over an hour.

We were then on our way then, and we found a good restaurant in a town on the way, refreshed ourselves, visited the toilets, had a face wash, and continued the trip.  After about three or four hours, we entered Manthralayam, which must have been an insignificant village before the Holy Raghavendra took his abode there.  We found  accommodation in a lodge.  We were ready to visit the holy memorial shrine after taking our bath, and drove to the temple.  Raju dropped us near the temple entrance and after parking his car rejoined us.  We all entered the temple , with Raju and Rupa going ahead to find whether we can avoid the long queue for Kala.  Kala with her crutches and I walking slowly along with her, were just inside the main portal of the Gopuram, when the temple elephant, with the mahoot sitting on its back, was also entering through the door.  The gap on both sides of the entrance way was narrow but there was  about one or two feet clearance on either side even when the elephant ambled through the passage.  We were trembling with fear because Kala cannot walk faster.  The mahoot assured us that we are safe and we cringed as near the wall as possible to let the elephant pass us harmlessly.  It did too but as you know the elephant ambles from side to side,  even like very obese human beings, and we only prayed that the elephant does not wag either its trunk or its bristly tail any pendulously.  Eventually the elephant passed by us, eying us sarcastically like it is eying some insects.  We were the least hurt, only our self-esteem was hurt. 

Some temple staff noticed that Kala was walking with crutches and helped us to bypass the queue, and we could have our darshan much earlier than Raju and Rupa.  We sat on a raised parapet of a convenient height for Kala and rested  sometime before they came along and we came out of the worshipping place.  Raju hurried ahead and brought the car as near to Kala as possible, and we drove to the river to collect the holy water.

Some people begging for alms approaches us also on their rounds, and I surruptitiously extended a few coins to some of them.  For some reason Kala was always getting angry at healthy looking with no apparent physical deformities  begging and pestering the pilgrims, and when a saffron clad person approached us , Kala, despite her physical pains and in tears because of her discomfort, blurted out to him in Tamil to scram.  Unfortunately he happened to be a Tamil himself, and he preached to Kala not to get angry with beggars and to keep quiet at least if not giving alms.  It was a bit of a situation because one instant she was crying and shedding tears of self-pity and the next instant her mood totally changed and she chided the mendicant.

I dont remember if we stayed there overnight, but only when we were driving back, and only safely reaching us into the Hyderabad city limits, did Raju relax, his fingers aching due to the tension of his first long driving.  This trip was incident free but our next trip, the one to Srisailam was more adventurous.  I will tell about it in my next post.

Our Trip to Manthralayam was for the second time.  The first one was afew years ago, which we undertook while we were living in Chromepet in Chennai.  We had staying with her Kala’s hectagenarian father, Sri Ramamoorthy Dixit, and we made that trip by State transport bus.  We received a better treatment then as my father in law is the personification of orthodoxy and was respected for that.  We also partook the meals served by the Manthralayam Trust authorities.


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