At the reception he was met by Chandran, who seemed more than happy with himself for having succeeded in drawing a customer to his hotel. As a gesture of hospitality he invited Kannan to his office room at the mansion. It was small but tastefully furnished with a beautiful oak table that served as the office desk. There were some fine paintings on the wall, which Kannan knew would fetch a fortune if sold any where today; he knew especially of certain streets in Bombay where such paintings, mostly stolen, were in high demand.
Chandran poured himself and Kannan drinks as he began to chatter on about his accomplishments at Nellur. Kannan was the least bit interested and decided to trigger the conversation in a different direction as he asked
“Where exactly is this God woman’s place? I would like to visit her tomorrow.”
“It’s quite nearby. In fact you can see the ashram the moment you set your foot outside Pisharadi Mansion in the eastern direction. You can go there any time but if you want to get a direct darshan you must go between 7 and 10 in the morning or 5 and 8 in the evening” he replied.
“Make sure you give her something in return for anything she says or else she knows how to get it out of you” he added with a smile that implied Advaitamayi had her own small mafia like most God men and God women in India, and she was not to be messed with.
Kannan could see his own house from the window in the office. He kept staring at it as he sipped his drink. Seeing Kannan’s interest in Ullas Villa, Chandran said,
“It’s a beautiful house isn’t it? I wanted to buy it as a guest house for myself. But the lady in the house wouldn’t budge in spite of being in the deepest of debts. She should be grateful for most people wouldn’t go near that house, a murder having taken place there long time ago. Her father had debts all over the place, her husband helped her finish most of them off but then he left one fine day and there were still pending payments to be made. Her father had a huge gun collection but all that had been entrusted to a trust as per her father’s wishes, otherwise it would have been more than enough to pay of all debts. She had to give up her mother’s fields and cows, sell most of her jewellery and still she could not make ends meet. I jumped at the opportunity to help by buying the house from her. However, she turned out to be a sentimental fool. She still clings to the house in the hope that her son, who had long gone missing since the day he was released from jail, would return.”
“Does she still have debts?” asked Kannan almost choking on his words as he experienced conflicting emotions within.
“Not anymore, you know you have got to hand it over to her. She went from house to house cleaning vessels, cleaned the temple surroundings everyday, even worked here for a while, she did everything that an otherwise high caste woman would consider inappropriate except of course sell her flesh. I hear many a few had knocked at her door for you see she was and is still a beautiful woman. In spite of my failure at making her sell the house to me, I have always felt sorry for her. She has been living alone for many years now, most of the day she spends at the temple, cleaning it or serving the sadhus, and then she returns home and waits at the gate till the last boat has left for the day in the hope that her son may return some day. It’s truly a heart breaking sight” said Chandran giving out an empathetic sigh.
Kannan had heard enough and he wanted to stop himself from feeling sad but it wasn’t helping. So he kept reminding himself of his mother’s infidelity and the pain he had to go through as a result. Not wanting to hear anymore and thereby feel any less angry towards his mother, he took leave of Chandran and went into his room.
The room was small but with only a few more hours left for day break, he wasn’t exactly concerned about the extent of comfort it offered. He took out his bottle of rum from the knapsack and began to drink from it, with his other hand he opened the envelope his mother had given him. Inside he found his father’s will which he put aside making a mental note to return it before he left the next day. Next he came across O.G’s letter, which he straightened out in the most dispassionate manner.
What did the old man have to say now, having played his part well in the conspiracy against him, thought Kannan.
As per your desire, I did not reveal to your mother your whereabouts until now for I fear I shall live no longer and by keeping your mother in the dark I might be inflicting greater pain on both of you. I believe you would have learnt the truth by the time you hold this letter in your hands and by then I would have gone. Perhaps you may hate me for having influenced your mother into taking that decision. But in all fairness to your mother, if it had not been for my practical thought process, your mother would have never made you look like a murderer at her own will. She would have stood by you no matter what. You stood to lose a lot more if the truth had been told then. It would not have made a difference, just maligned you more.
Yes, it was cruel of me to make her think differently but it was the only way. It would have been difficult to make you understand then but now that you are an adult and capable of empathising with another, I think you may be able to comprehend the reason behind this decision.
All her life, Saraswathi had to play second fiddle to everyone, it was either Mahendran or Lakshmi for your grandparents. She got neglected and ignored most of the time. When it came to love, your father put money before her. You were her only solace but you were too young to understand her desperations as an adult, the constant loneliness she felt. She yearned to feel better, happier but even that came with a price. She hoped that you would return with your father and you would start a family again. The pain would be erased with time and no one ever would need to know the truth – the incident would just remain an accident and you would also have believed it.
And why bother now, you may ask, because the hatred has cropped in and you will not accept anything but the truth, so we can only give you closure.
However, you must understand the sacrifices she has been making all her life. She never avoided you by choice, circumstances forced her to. It would have been difficult for her to see her son in the gallows and pretend to her son that she had spoken the truth, she just would not have survived that and so she never could come face to face with you. Think of all the times she has selflessly been there for you, forgiving your mistakes big or small. Don’t you believe you owe your mother the same, after all she is only human. All these years while you were away, not one night has passed without her waiting for you at the doorstep of Ullas Villa.
Remember it was a selfless decision she had made, when she sent her most precious son to the gallows while she chose to bear both the pain and burdensome guilt of betrayal. It is perhaps the ultimate sacrifice of a daughter and the ultimate punishment for a mother.
Yes, you have been wronged but not by your mother’s infidelity, but by the cruel hands of fate that put your mother in such a dilemma. You have both suffered enough. You were subject to a lot of pain but all the while you knew you were innocent; that was your solace. But your mother has had to live with the horrifying truth of being responsible for Chinnan’s untimely death, responsible for betraying you in spite of knowing the truth. She saw blood on her hands every single day. Don’t you think that was punishment enough?
And fate has been indeed cruel for she lost you, the family in spite of all the sacrifice. I was wrong, perhaps.
Pisharadi Master showed you the magnanimity of forgiveness; it is your turn to do so. Do it as a gratitude for all the nights she remained awake to ensure that you slept well, for all the days she starved in penance so that you would not go hungry, for all her prayers that let you survive this great challenge, for all the nights she stayed awake waiting for you, for all the times she made you smile while she was hurting inside.
I do not ask you to forgive me or your mother but I ask you accept the truth, to put it behind not just for anyone’s sake but your own.
With Love - O.G apoopan
Kannan did not realise he had been crying as he read the letter, he could see his entire life flash before him and he realised this time he actually felt free. He could see clearly what he failed to see earlier, the knot in her throat as she sang lullabies to him at night, the tears that rolled down her face as she looked away from him, he saw her pain, he saw her suffering. He felt he needed to see his mother at that very instant. He had to speak to her.......…….