Kannan woke up with the sun shining upon his face from the bedside window. He seemed to have a bad hangover from the previous night. He must have sunk into unconsciousness for he still held the letter in his hand. He however clearly remembered his last emotions after reading the letter. He had to see his mother soon. He was not sure what he wanted to tell her or whether he was ready to forgive her, but he felt the strong need to meet her. He felt a sense of liberation from the grudge and anger he had felt earlier, he could let her know that and perhaps there was hope for reconciliation of sorts.
He took a quick bath, cleared his bills and walked towards Ullas Villa. As he approached his house he felt lighter for all his frustrations had been lost. Rupa was right; he had set himself free from a painful past now that he knew the truth.
Reaching the veranda he found the door locked from outside. Perhaps she has gone to the temple. Good, I’ll meet mother there. It will be a great place for a new beginning, thought Kannan.
He walked towards the kadavu only to find the boat already making its way to the opposite bank. Having atleast 15-20 minutes to spare he decided to make a brief visit to Advaitamayi a.k.a Janu’s ashram. The ashram was like any other ashram one would imagine, calm and peaceful filled with the smell of holy talisman, sandalwood and burning incense.
Devotees clad in saffron clothes could be spotted everywhere, busy in some chore or the other. Walking across the veranda he came across a huge entrance inside which he could hear bells ringing and people chanting. Assuming it to be where Janu was present at the time of the day, he entered. His guess was right for seated on a raised pedestal clad in a saffron robe, with several kinds of malas and a huge garland around the neck was none other than Janu. She had definitely aged but there was indeed a strange invisible energy emanating from her that made her seem vibrant and holy. Kannan would have laughed the feeling away if Janu, who had been attending to the devotees seeking her blessing, had not suddenly turned towards him and motioned him to come over, it was as if she knew.
“Come here son. Your pain has drawn me towards you.” she said
Kannan made no reply but went close to her and sat at her feet.
“I know you” she said and then suddenly closed her eyes and broke into an ecstatic stupor.
She then broke out of it and looked at him without blinking for a whole minute that it was almost eerie.
She then echoed “Your pain shall go away soon, you will find peace. God will show you the way” and she then lowered her voice as she repeated,
“God will show you the way.”
She then placed her hand on his head to bless him. She lifted her hand into the air above and drew holy talisman out of it, which she put in his hand. Kannan could not help notice the small pouch under her sleeve that ran all the way till the shoulder of her dress, a secret compartment which usually held such talisman or other small gifts - a trick commonly used to entice innocent followers. It was not something a layman would notice with ease but Kannan had seen more than his share of frauds in this holy business in Bombay, and was already familiar with their cheap tricks. She put the talisman in his hand and held it for a long time, it took a while for Kannan to realise that she was waiting for her reward. Kannan took a fifty rupee note and placed it at her feet. She cast a look at the reward offered, smiled and blessed Kannan once again.
As Kannan left he realised that though Advaitamayi had turned out to be an obvious fraud, her words being merely superficial and repetitive words used by many and applicable to many, they seemed profound at the moment, they made sense to him.
As he reached back at the kadavu, a small crowd had already gathered to get into the boat. He ran down not wanting to miss the trip.
The journey towards the temple through the Bomanchery fields at apparakadavu was like a walk down memory lane. Like a silent movie he could see scenes from the past playing out in front of his eyes. Though most of the fields had been taken up by small houses the infamous scarecrow seemed to have survived the onslaught of changing times.
He had not been to a temple ever since he had left Nellur, perhaps the reason why he felt a strange energy surge through him as he entered the Bhagavathi shrine. He prayed before Bhagavathi asking her to give him the strength to deal with his past and make a new beginning. He then began to scan among the devotees to try and find his mother but she was nowhere to be seen. He began to circambulate the temple in the hope of finding her. As he reached the entrance steps towards the river, he caught sight of her. She was seated on the temple steps leading to the river, clad in a saffron sari along with other devotees in a similar fashion. There was some recital going on and not following the strange proceedings he enquired about it to a fellow devotee.
“What is going on?”
“This is the sanyasa ritual. All these devotees have decided to give up their material life and become sanyasis. There will a mundan ritual, where the hair shall be shaved of their heads, after which they will take a dip in the river to cleanse and detach themselves from this world. The sanyasis then will leave for Kasi” replied the devotee.
Kannan could not believe what he had just heard but before he could say anything someone had already started shaving his mother’s beautiful locks from her head. He watched sorrowfully as they dropped onto the step beside her. But not all was lost yet and he had to let her know that. He rushed towards the step and kneeled at her feet and pleaded,
“Mother, please....please ....don’t do this. I know.... I am not ...strong enough to forgive you or my fate yet but I know I can, I know I will be able to understand what and why you did them in time...You have suffered enough... we both have. Come back, let’s talk.....don’t go through this.”
Saraswathi smiled, there were tears in her eyes as she said,
“Kanna I wanted to set myself free from all my past sins and sorrows, but it is you who have really set me free by saying these words. Thank you son, this is not to punish myself but it’s something I need to do. I have no more worries, son and I am doing this happily. You must live a beautiful life my son with your new family. I love you my dear and God bless you” she said and ran her hands through Kannan’s hair.
Kannan cried as he felt the warmth of her hands, her flawless affection oozing through them.
Saraswathi then got up, threw a compassionate look towards her son and descended into the river with the other sadhus to take the final dip. She kept descending even as the other sadhus reminded her that she only needed to take a dip and she could do it by merely going just a few steps down. She however cast a deaf ear towards them. Kannan sensed something was wrong for she did not seem to stop descending and when her head was almost below the water, he realised in horror what her intentions truly were and began to call out frantically
“Mother no stop mother………….”
It was of no avail for by the time he and the other devotees reacted she had gone far beyond their reach. Still they made a brave but futile attempt in the rough and angry river. There was no sign of her. The river had devoured her; it had accepted her sacrifice in sadistic joy.
As the hours passed by, morning moving on to night, he waited silently for some sign of her, each second more painful than the other due to the realisation of the impending sorrow that would surface any moment now in the Mayillatam.
Finally as the new dawn approached, it brought with it a withered flower from the past. He watched her rise as he stood at brink of the river, where he had been standing all night- amidst the floating lilies, she lay. She seemed, perhaps, more beautiful than them; her face, so calm having lost its shroud. It was at such peace, being delivered from all the worries in the world, that it bore the wisdom of a saint.
He wondered if she had seen the stones he had thrown as a child into the Mayillatam as she made her gradual descent towards the deep abyss of the river, if she had picked them up for him as she had been doing all her life by paying the price for other’s misgivings, if she had seen the beautiful wooden doll Chinnan had bought for Sheela struggling to dance at least once to fulfil its destiny……..
A slight drizzle had begun to fall and the air was filled with the sweet smell of mud being soaked by the virgin rain. The droplets of rain made the waves of the Mayillatam to move softly over her face.
The river was dancing now, dancing to the tunes of the gentle rain, the wind being its music, the rain its rhythm…………………………………..
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