memories


Nathang falls on old silk route circuit in East Sikkim. This valley is very close by Nathula pass leading to Indo China border.

That day as we got out of our vehicle at Nathang , the little village at about 13500 ft altitude looked at us with it’s drowsy eyes. It was cold and cloudy . Almost no body was out on streets. little wooden houses sat huddled together as if in an attempt to counter the biting chill in the air.

Gautam had to go about in the area for few minutes to ascertain our homestay and then we entered the narrow lane between two houses, walking on the frozen layers of snow . Heaps and mounds of snow were all around homes.

 

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Way to our homestay.

 

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Entering the doors of homestay we were engulfed in the warmth of welcoming smiles of hosts and the cozy, comfortable indoors. Neat, clean rooms, bright colored comforting beds. linens and spotless western style toilets …… homestay in that little village on high altitude . surrounded by rough terrain was a very pleasant surprise.

Except night, I spent most of my indoor time in the kitchen of the home talking to the lady of the home and basking in the warmth of the indigenous room cum food warmer. It was a long, knee length high rectangle table with tin surface.  On the lower surface of the table ,almost in the middle an iron furnace was fixed. logs were burning in it. On the upper surface there was hole at the mouth of furnace but it was covered with an iron lid. A long cylindrical pipe arose from the table and went out of the roof, a chimney to carry out the smoke.Warmth around the table was very comforting. Moreover I got to share lots of family, community , life in general kind of things with the lady.  How easily can we open ourselves to the strangers… perhaps  the comfort of anonymity makes it easier to share. But you know the amazing part is that while conversing you never feel that you are stranger to each other. It’s easy to strike the chord, when you open your heart wide. And then I believe that one who is  closer  to nature is  simpler . Luxuries and material comforts do contaminate human thought process.

 

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Welcoming smile of lady of the home

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Those cozy warm moments in the kitchen

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This is the indigenous warmer I talked about above. That is the chimney pipe extending out from the table surface. dinner preparation are on.

 

 

From my room window I could see the far off mountains and snow but day light receded fast as hoards and hoards of grey, white clouds descended in the valley. Wrapped in the furry blankets of cloud as if valley too was getting ready to take rest.

Early. very early in the morning I parted the curtain of window and was excited to notice the signs of a bright morning.  Nudged others to get ready and after a piping hot cup of tea in the warm kitchen ventured out to walk in the valley.

The valley is guarded by mountains from all sides and have stretches of grasslands, Valley is totally devoid of any kind of tree. There are few streams crisscrossing the valley and there are cute wooden small bridges across the streams. We wandered around as if in a vast plain of nothingness. Except those few dogs no body was to be seen. Wind though chill was comforting. Those were the moments of uninterrupted interaction with mountains, with sky  stretched over.  a small shrine atop a ridge, beckoned,prayer flags fluttered in the air….. and… and you feel as if that noisy world full of chaos didn’t exist at all.

 

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under the blessed shadow of blue horizon above head, guarded by tough, mighty mountains and the prayers in the air.

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Sometimes to find yourself, you need to travel through wilderness, nothingness.

 

Pictures by Sunder Iyer and Shubham sunder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mankhim view point…….The temple at Mankhim view point is at the height of about 6500 ft and offers a wonderful scenic view of Aritar and hills around it.The temple belongs to Rai community of Nepali origin. The Nandi outside the temple and various tridents in the premises suggest that the temple is dedicated to lord Shiva however the Shivalinga inside temple is in different form than found in other parts of country. Lord here is called Paruhang. Rai, mainly a community of cultivators consider themselves children of Peruhung, who is supposed to reside in Himalayas. Rai people in Sikkim gather here every year to celebrate Sakewa, a festival celebrated for expressing gratitude towards Mother Earth. Sakewa is also known as Bhumi pooja or Chandi pooja. Prayers are offered  for peace and protection of all living  beings and for rich crops and cultivation.

 

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Temple at Mankhim view point.

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Peruhang….inside temple. As it was annual festival time in the valley, we found many youngsters visiting temple in groups and pairs. youngsters clad in western outfits, different colored streaks in hair and half shaved head kind of hairstyles…. taking off their sports shoes and bowing before God with that expression of surrender and reverence….. somehow the sight felt very reassuring.

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Nandi and Kalash in row outside temple.

Besides panoramic view of hills and mountains, from here we can also enjoy the beauty of Lampokhri lake and scenes around it.

 

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and when the blues descend to embrace greens, the dreamscape created is so surreal, so inviting that you close your eyes, stretch your arms and are almost ready to be lost in oblivion…. Niravana kind of feel.

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From up there, the view point, the terrace fields looked like wide spread poetry sheets, nurturing life in their womb.

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 A glimpse of  Lampokhri lake from Mankhim view point. Without the emerald spread all other colours would look so static.

 

Later on we went down to Lampakhori lake. Annual cultural function and fair was going on at the ground near lake so many parked vehicles and an ongoing stream of people filled the area. However the Green placid lake surrounded by hills and trees promised that on quiet days the place would be worth spending some time in one’s own company. It’s not like that I don’t like humans or I like them less but I like nature more, There midst pathless woods I find a different kind of joy, sitting on a roadside rock, looking at the mist covered street dissolving in oblivion ,as if leads me to altogether different vistas  and I love being there.

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Lampakhori lake and the small temple on it’s bank.

 

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A folk dance by seniors in the cultural fair.

 

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A lady in her stall in fair with some handwoven stuff.

 

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And the light of world, little girls in fair, enjoying their day out. Golgappa, pani batasha, pani-puri, fuchkas…. you may call it by different names in different parts of country  but they definitely are high on ladies favourite list, whatever might the age be.

 

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This Gumpa was quite close to our homestay.

Solitude is the language of these small places on Old silk route and ever smiling, hospitable locals add charm to one’s visit there.

Meet some people who made our Aritar stay more enjoyable—-

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She is Pinchu. We met her on our way to Mankhim view point. To reach view point we need to climb a stretch of well laid stairs and on the way is Pinchu’s home, her shop. Her parents provide home stay facility too. While returning from view point we stopped at Pinchu’s shop for sizzling Wai- Wai and hot coffee. Pinchu made our stop over very enjoyable. Very smart girl she is and was handling the customers confidently, offcourse consulting her parents for cost of items etc. As her father was telling us about their homestay facilities and tourist agency at other places too, Pinchu took out his visiting card from the drawer in shop and handed over to us. Her perfect business woman kind of gesture made us laugh aloud. Nobody there even mentioned the visiting card there but she knew what should be done.

 

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And he is Aryum, our homestay owner’s son. Kid with his young companion, Nasima, a girl of eight years filled our hours with pure joy and laughter, which you can enjoy only in the company of innocent kids only. Aryum and Nasima shared a beautiful relationship. Nasima proudly told us that she was a student of class third.

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She is Aryum’s mom, owner of Shangey homestay. wonderfully efficient lady,. I saw her with amazement running on her toes from ground to second floor, attending all the guests with a charming smile, managing her staff, looking into problems of water, electricity supply and kitchen too.

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And the aesthetically decorated dining space of Shangey homestay. We stayed at four or five homestays during this trip but Shangey homestay at Aritar is our most favourite one.

Reliving my memories feels like that rose pressed between the pages of a book, even after ages I can inhale the fragrance and feel fresh.

 

©All the pictures by— sunder iyer

 

 

Long, lean bamboo poles with bamboo baskets dangling on the upper tips stood in clusters on Madhis (the platforms on both sides of the steps leading to Ganges.) on various ghats of Ganges at Varanasi. This is a common site on ghats in the Hindu month of Kartik. Every evening Diyas [earthen lamps] are lighted and placed in these baskets in the memories of ancestors, the symbolic significance being that these lamps light the path of the departed soul upto heaven. These are known as Aakash deep or Aakash kandeel. The tradition is said to run from as long as people can remember.

As twilight descends, the ripples on Ganges water hitherto bathed in golden sunlight, dancing merrily get sombre.Sky overhead dons it’s inky blue night gown and Ganges flows placidly absorbing the calm greys of atmosphere. Groups of men and women with their pooja baskets start gathering near these bamboo poles.

This was the Kartik month of 2016 and we were on Nepali ghat at that evening. Preparations for lighting diyas were on. The hanging  baskets were lowered with the help of thin ropes attached to pulleys and baskets. Diyas taken out, filled with oil and fresh cotton wicks,  the lighted diyas placed inside basket and the basket once again pulled up on the poles.  The dangling baskets facing the sky and the flickering lights of Diyas paying homage to departed souls, women making rangolis near poles, chanting shlokas, praying with folded hands, lighting few more diyas on ground near each pole in the name of Gods and Goddess…. the entire scene filled the heart with peace and content. It was like a bridge of bonds and emotions has been erected from earth to heaven.The lighted baskets overhead moved slowly, rhythmically on the tune of winds. It felt as if the souls of ancestors are expressing their happiness, bestowing their blessings. What a beautiful concept of remembrance, gratitude and duty.

It is said that corresponding to the Diya in Aakash deep one more Diya is lighted on the ground near the respective pole. As if denoting that the lineage is alive and continuing. This one Diya is essentially lighted while rest are optional. one can light as many as one wants in the names of kul devtas, devis and other Gods.

On one of the ghats these Aakash deeps were lighted in memory of martyrs, who lost their lives defending our country  during various terrorists attacks.

We also witnessed lighting of Aakash deeps at Ganga Mahal Ghat on the terrace of Krishna temple. on ghats the poles were erected on Madhis (मढ़ी) near the steps of Ghats and the reflection of lighted Diyas could be seen in the Ganges water. View of Aakash deeps on terrace of temple from the ghats looked like a group of fireflies.

Aakashdeep are like lighted verse of prayers reaching zenith.

This month long event culminates on the day of Kartik Poornima.,when the glorious moon steps out in it’s most magnificent form, smiling and assuring the lamps that the journey of light will go on for ever.

 

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Few days ago I got to spend few hours with this ninety two year old gentleman with varied experiences of life. He takes care of this ages old temple but does not hold a good opinion of so called Sadhus and babas. He prefers to communicate with we grahasth [family] persons, who according to him happen to be more enriched spiritually.
He lived with Sri Govind Ballabh Pant, the first chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, when he practiced as an advocate and Our country was under British rule.He started his first government job with salary of Rs forty per month, did his char dham yatra on foot from Haridwar.He shared lots of memories of the days when entry of Indians was banned in Hazaratganj after four P.M. as that was the time British offiicials and their families used to come there for enjoying their evenings.He also shared how there was scarcity of educated people and posts in government offices, seats in higher educational courses lay vacant for want of candidates.
This temple where he now resides is ages old. He told us that no body knows who built it originally. years ago it lay surrounded by dense forest on the bank of river. Dacoits, bandits and freedom fighters too took shelter here.When he arrived here then also it was surrounded by dense forest and forty to forty five snake couple resided in the vicinity…and why not after all it is an ancient shrine of Lord Shiva.It is said that plastering of the temple structure has been done by the mixture of Urad dal [ black lentil] pulp of Ber [ indian plum / jujubi] and chasani [syrup of Gur[jaggery]

Talking to him was like turning pages of a old history book nay more interesting and enthralling. He created wonderful imagery while narrating his travel experiences of mountains and the underlying spiritual essence provided hope and strength.

 

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer.

World of Hindu mythological tales and folklore is very interesting, charming and varied. It is believed that about thirty three crore Gods and Goddesses occupy Hindu pantheon. Quite possible…in a culture where many plants, animals and almost all the elements of nature are worshiped, where every small village, hamlet has it’s very own guardian angle, reaching even that staggeringly high  number is not out of bounds. With every revered place and deity are associated certain folklore and tales.The authenticity is neither questioned nor argued. It is simply accepted.

One of these is Latu devta of Wan. The folklore related to Latu Devta is very interesting and one of it’s own kind. Nanda devi is  one of the most revered deity of Uttaranchal. She is considered to be Avatara of Goddess Parvati and Latu Devta is her adopted brother. Goddess Parvati nee Nanda Devi did not have any brothers. On one occasion she felt very sad about this and wanted someone to be with her at Kailash Parvat as her brother. She went to Royal family of Kannauj and requested the queen to send one of her two sons with her to Kailash. On the way to Kailash they reached Wan and here Goddess decided to take bath in the river Kali Ganga. While waiting for Her on nearby hillock Latu felt very thirsty. He went to nearby hamlet and asked women to give him water. Women folk were in a jovial mood and instead of water handed over the pitcher containing local drink to Latu. Unaware of their prank Latu drank the whole content of pitcher and became unconscious. On her return from river, Goddess became very angry with the women and conferred a boon on Latu that he will be worshiped by the inhabitants of the area but no one will be allowed either to enter the sanctum of his temple or see him.Till date the doors of the temple are opened only for one day in a year and then too neither devotees nor even Pujari is allowed to have a glimpse of Devta. The Pujari enters the sanctum blind folded and lights the lamp. Doors of the temple is closed by evening.

This temple is very different from any other temple. There is this massive Devdar tree at the place. It is the only Devdar found in entire region. Rest are centuries old Surai trees.There is another anecdote regarding presence of that single Devdar tree in the area. However I am not talking about that here as I am not able to recollect all the details narrated by the old gentleman, a retired porter, we met at Wan. So, the abode of Latu Devta is said to be inside the a chamber in the trunk of this Devdar tree.People of the area have great faith on Latu Devta. They visit the premises with their troubles and unburden their heart at His threshold and when the wish is fulfilled, the task done, they return to present a bell. Hundreds of bells hanging from poles are the testimony of people’s undying faith on the deity.The place becomes alive with massive crowd of devotees on the days of fair being organized there. People from far off villages come and stay in tents etc. Bhajans, Kirtans are sung in praise of Lord.

We first heard of Latu devta at Gwaldam.One local gentleman advised us that if we intend to go to Wan, we must go to Latu devta temple.During the day we spent at Wan village we heard His name many times from villagers and children.

While we were returning from Bedini, yashwant and Pushkar trekked upto Ran ka Dhar to meet us.In fact they knew we had to leave by evening and they wanted to spend as much time as possible with us.We too were delighted to have more of their company. With these two kids we went to Devta’s temple.Their enthusiastic company suffused enough strength into our tired limbs to trek upto the temple.

As we climbed towards temple we wished we had more time in hands.The Surai trees dotting the hill along the circuitous path leading to temple left us spellbound. Each one had it’s own tale to recount.They appeared so ancient as if they had witnessed all those mythological events unfolding. It is said that these trees have very long life. Don’t know much about their botanical characteristics but can definitely vouch for the enigmatic impact they imprint on your being. They look like wizened saint, lost in deep meditation.Their towering presence make you feel that they are the dwelling places of divine spirits. The secrets, the teachings, the lessons they have in their heart, one need to tune up to understand. Trees to me are one of the most sacred images of God.

 

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Sonorous sounds of faith and devotion.

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Behind us, under the tree is shrine of Latu Devta and these are the kids who brought us to temple. In fact before going to meet us at Ran ka Dhar they came here and kept incense sticks and match box…all set and ready …to be lighted by us when they brought us here. The little one Pushkar insisted that we should pray to Latu Devta for appeasement of our any wish. He had full faith that our wish will be fulfilled and then we would return to offer the bell. The faith, love and affection of kids filled my heart with sublime emotion. Kiddos, you are the harbingers of our hope and faith in all that is pure, innocent and selfless. We shall definitely love to return at least once.

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This one was clicked by Yashwant, the elder kid, on their insistence ofcourse. That triangle like structure is where incense sticks are lighted by devotees.The outstretched arms of Devdar trees….bless us Lord.

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There is a guest house of Garhwal mandal vikas nigam (tourism department) and another of forest department near the temple, on the hill. During Nanda Devi Jat Yatra, this is an important station for devotees.The time we were there the entire premises was very quiet, peaceful….kind of aura when you can feel nearer to God, more intimate to your best self.

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View of Wan village and valley from temple.

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Boys waiting for us to climb down from temple. They rush down speedily, said that going slow tire them.

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‘A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.’ Hermann Hesse

Pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

 

 

Raja’s tomb— does not that make one curious? It definitely intrigued me. A Hindu king and buried ? And that’s not the only interesting fact, feature about this place of tourist attraction at Medikeri town of Coorg, Karnataka.
We visited Raja’s tomb in October 2014. It was a balmy afternoon with clear blue sky and cool breeze, As I got down from the taxi in front of high gate of iron bars,  these kids trying to ride the elephants sculpted on platforms on either side of the gate made me smile. Their innocent laughter and mirth gave a perk to my holiday mood.

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Inside the gate stood three structures in a straight line, distanced from one another by the green lawns in between. These structures are raised on square platforms, skirted by parapet. I was facing the back of the buildings. I started walking towards right side on the narrow, meandering gravel path running through the grassy patches. Bushes of various colored flowers in between the soothing green brightened the scene. After covering some distance I reached a small iron gate which was locked from inside. On the concrete square were two rectangular platforms . An idol of Nandi sat on each of these. On the side walls of platforms on black stone, I could see that something was engraved but from that distance it was not possible to read it. At that moment I could not know what these platforms denote. Why the statues of two Nandi were carved there? Rustling leaves  tried to whisper some tales of bygone era but alas that could not satisfy my curiosity rather ignited it a bit more.

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moving forward on the circuitous path I reached the front of the tomb buildings.
Here in front of the middle tomb is a plaque that imparts certain information about the buildings, the tombs and other structures.
The central structure houses the tombs of Kondva king Dodaveerrajendra and his wife. Door of this structure was open when we visited. Inside was a Shivling and Nandi. Isn’t it fascinating— a temple within the tomb building.On the roof of the building is a dome in center flanked by minarets on the four corners. Well, these are the usual features of most of the sepulchral structures of Mughal time but what contributes to the uniqueness of these tombs are the Nandis sitting besides every minaret. what a fascinating amalgamation of two different cultures. The walls of tomb buildings are lined by windows and the side panels of these windows have carvings of various images of mythological and folk relevance and importance, each telling it’s own tale. Every time I visit a historical monument with such images carved, I feel curious to know what it represent, what it depicts.

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A view of the back of Raja’s tomb.

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An overview of a part of Medikeri town from a small hilly portion inside the campus.

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Tomb of the royal priest.

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Inside view of Raja’s tomb. The hanging lamp, the Shivalinga and other idols can be seen.

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This one was interesting…..two bodies one face. Was the sculptor trying to engrave something symbolic…separate body, soul in unison or just because he had limited space on stone slab and that was the solution found for symmetry. Who can reach the nooks of a creative mind?

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This certainly is Ganesha and in the center …is it depiction of Om…. and the figure in right ? Is it Ma Laxmi?_MG_0323

Figures engraved on upper side of the window on the wall of tomb building. What or whom can these be representing? The figure on the left, the one with bow does that represent Rama or a Kodwa warrior and that on right—- is it some Rishi, praying but then why is he sitting on a boar. Is it representation of some folk tale or a mythological. So many thoughts race through minds. What you have to say about it?

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 These two figures stood on the gate of the central sepulchral structure. Dwarpals they could be representing . But the Trident  annd Damru in the hands of one figure suggests that it could be Shiva’s representation. Quite logical too it appears as Lingayats are great worshipper of Shiva but do they subscribed to this avatara of Shiva or adhered to Linga form only. More over foot above snake ? We are used to snake on Shiva’s neck. The symbols, signs and manifestations of the art and sculpture schools of that era had their own expressions, own language. We, as common tourist can interpret the same as per our own thoughts.
To the right of this tomb is the tomb of Lingarajendra built by his son Cheekaveerrajendra in A.D.1820. to the left is the tomb of royal priest Rudrappa built in  A.D. 1834. The two platforms with Nandis on them are tombs of two royal officials Biddanda bopu and his son Biddanda somaiah. Boddanda Bopu died fighting Tipu Sultan.

These kings of Paleri / Haleri dynasty ruled over Kodagu for about 200 years.[ 1580-1834]. From Haider Ali to Tipu Sultan these kings fought with the powers of Mysore to retain their individual and free identity. Kodwa people of Kodagu were brave, full of valor and were very loyal to their kings. After every defeat they rose with fresh strength .
Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains. The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbors and has always maintained their unique identity.

Kodwa kings worshiped Shiva yet they were buried unlike all other followers of Hindu Dharma , whose body is burnt after death, this fact led me to search for an answer. Well, I came to know that these kings were Lingayats i.e. followers of Veershaiva faith.  Followers of this faith  wear a  symbol of Linga encased in a pendant around their necks. The faith preaches that Shiva is within every body and urges to worship the God within. Followers of this faith have their own unique customs, rites and traditions. During pregnancy of a woman on a certain month a  Guru gives the would be mother the pendant encasing Linga, tied to a thread ,which is to be worn by the child on the day of the birth itself and throughout his/her life that pendant with ishtlinga is on the body. May be the presence of Shivling and nandi inside king’s tomb has something to do with this belief. Alive or dead God is with us, within us.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

I stand there decked in all finery. The glittering starry lights drape my exterior. Today from rooftop to the ground floor every room,hall is brightly lit.  Bright colored festoons adorn each door . Rich thick rows of red roses and sparkling yellow marigolds  adorn the freshly painted grand front door. Fast dance numbers are continuously blaring out of the music system installed in the open courtyard near the gate. Rustling silks,glittering jewelry,booming laughter, teasing giggles— every atom of my being is reverberating with joy and happiness. I am brimming with life still deep down there in the dark interiors of earth the stones of my foundations are moist with the  unshed tears remembering the hands ,who laid down them some 25 years back with so much love and dreams.

The hands of my first master,who converted a patch of rough land into a home for his family. He must have been a young man in his late 20s when he started giving shape to me brick by brick,inch by inch. I still remember how enthusiastic, choosy and particular was he about each and every specification. He wanted his home to be just perfect. Loosing his parents at a very young age he never had his own home since he could remember.  Being shunted from one to another relative as per their convenience and needs every time a new wall rose around  him  and he coiled in the dark corners of his being. No body could fathom his craving for a little bit of stability, a small quiet niche for himself. His heart was full of muted cries,suppressed emotions . No body had an inkling of the passive storm raging in his heart. He heard quietly the discussions among the relatives of their being full of kindness and humanity to take care of an orphaned child. But that was not the whole truth. However he was very young and knew that to survive in the world he needs the shelter of his uncles and aunts. but all this time with clenched teeth and fiery determination he waited for his growing up ,his completing education.

The day he joined the bank, he felt that his dream of having his own home is about to be realized. Even before he became eligible for housing loan he started looking for a plot in a good location. He wanted to settle for the best in his means. And then he finalized this east facing piece of land in the upcoming colony. It was just few steps away from the central road of the colony.just perfect as it being away from the main road, the peace and privacy will be intact and in the future his own family will enjoy the facilities and conveniences of being near to the the main road. How he deliberated over all the finer details while chalking the future  plans for  his home.

How I came to know about all his these dreams and thoughts ? I know, you are thinking that I had not come to my being at that time. Right you are . but from the day the foundation stone was laid down he bared his soul to the earth and air of the place. The unshared pain, the agony of the loss of his parents all the torturous memories he tried to bury deep under my foundation and started dreaming about a bright future as the walls started rising.

By the time the structure of the three room set of the ground floor was erected ,he had another good news to share with me. His marriage to a girl of well established family has been finalized. I can still recall the happy note of his voice while he discussed a bit altered plan of my lay out and design with the mason- in- charge. He wanted to add one more room as this girl had two younger sisters and one brother and he wanted them to visit and stay with them quite often. The thought of having a big family around him was like the first shower on dry, parched earth.

And the day he performed the house warming pooja with his young bride was perhaps the most fulfilling moment of his life. Then started a long phase of selecting  home decor and furniture items. I can still visualize his curly top bent on various home interior magazines and brochures scattered on floor.

Sound of steps on the staircase broke my reverie. Who can come upstairs at this time? Whole house is abuzz with the activities in the ground and first floor. Who would want to come to the dark solitude of the rooftop ? Oh it”s Biji, the old grandma of the house. The dragging of feet and the heavy breathing gave her away. If not Biji,who else ? I should have known it.Though she had neither met nor known my earlier master yet besides me she is the only one who often remembers the family. She very slowly opened the lock of the small room at the corner of roof. The doors creaked a little. They always do as if protesting . Inside them the past is kept alive. When Biji forcefully  kept few of the items and pictures belonging to my first master along with all the family members, I too was quite perplexed. But gradually listening to her unburdening herself in the solitude and privacy of that room , I gathered it was not for that unknown family but herself that she needed to preserve the past. But that is altogether a different story. My mind has started wandering away and getting lost in various alleys. I am getting old and the burden of untold secrets, unshared pains of my occupants is taking it’s  toil.

Through the open door I could have a glimpse of the lovely wooden cradle  he bought for his first born, his little princess. Due to  Biji’s  regular care and upkeep it still shines and the red, yellow, greens have not faded. With the sight of cradle came flooding the memories of those happy times. Four years after the baby girl, arrived the son of the family. How fulfilled and complete he felt. Life went on pretty smoothly. During all this period his soft spoken, smiling wife lingered by his side almost like his shadow.  She never demanded anything and always agreed to what he said or decided. Some times he  almost wished her to throw tantrums, quarrel and argue about petty things like wives of other people. But the very next moment he chided himself and thanked God for such simple hearted life partner.

He felt the first pang of disappointment when his daughter was about six or may be seven years old and the school teacher pointed out that  the girl took time to pick up the things told in the class and mostly kept to herself. She did not mix up with other kids like a normal child. But so caught up was he with the  belief of his world being perfect and happy that he refused to see anything unusual in it. He started spending more time with the daughter to teach her and make her understand, learn. But with the passing of years he had to admit that her princess has some …… problem. As his sisters-in- laws got married and were busy in their lives and mother-in-law too could not visit them due to growing age and increased frailty, the home started showing sign of mismanagement. He realized slowly that all is not normal with his dear wife too. She too suffered from minor mental, behavioral disorders. He watched with great concern the cracks in his happy world but with all his might he tried to keep  it intact. However  son was his pride and constant support in maintaining the order. As he advanced in his career ,the work pressure and responsibilities too increased. On the other hand the conditions of both mother and daughter deteriorated. Now returning from office he had to  spend  time in kitchen and arranging the home. He wanted his son to remain unaffected from the gradually getting more and more depressing atmosphere of the home, so he sent him to boarding school. Now he was alone to fight with daunting circumstances. And he did face it with exemplary courage. However the increasing pressure, stress and strain proved a bit too much to handle. With horror he watched his world slowly crumbling apart. The layers of dust on furniture thickened, food items rot, clothes lay scattered all over the place.

Sisters tried to help but some how the mother and daughter developed a dislike towards the people who tried to rectify their ways. They gradually shut themselves in the house. He too  was slowly cut off from the social circle. He did not have enough time to maintain and reciprocate the relation. Perhaps not enough will and wish too was left. Now he felt defeated. destiny has been cruel to him. He suffered bouts of depressions. He still wanted to take care of his family. He loved them. They were an integral part of his being. He went for his treatment and went on pulling along. In the mean time the son completed his engineering and secured a job too.The boy was the only flicker of light in otherwise dark world of his.

For last few months he was feeling that he is loosening his hold on himself. For wife and daughter the doctor had already told that there is no hope of any improvement in their condition. He used to serve them food before leaving for office and when returned found the dry plates lying there on the dining table. Some times they not even took bath . He arranged for care taker too but none of them proved to be of any help. Rather all of them took advantage of the helplessness of his wife and daughter and took away valuables from home. The struggle made him tired to heart. He lost the will to fight anymore. To maintain his own sanity was proving difficult for him.

That day his son informed him that he had bagged a scholarship to study further in a prestigious foreign university. After a long time I saw him brimming with happiness. He applied for a ten days leave from office as he wanted to get the home readied for his son. He wanted his son to have loads of pleasant memories before flying to far off destination. The boy was to visit home after a week. I too heaved a sigh of relief and prayed to God for his revived spirit but our this happiness too was short lived.

Only a day of his leave had passed when he got a call from his one colleague informing him that in his disturbed mental state he has overlooked certain procedures/entries in office which gave enough room to miscreants to commit a fraud and now the bosses are preparing to frame him. He contacted people and tried to sort out the things but to no avail.  With the passing of each day it became more and more clear that there is no chance of his saving himself. he has to bear the punishment which could be imprisonment too.He shuddered to think about the condition of his daughter and wife in his absence, the mental torture, social embarrassment of his son. Would the boy be able to proceed to study under such circumstances ? he knew he would not leave his mother and sister unattended and sacrifice his career ,his dreams for their sake. He knew his boy would not run from his responsibilities. He was his son. The thought of his son brought a smile on his face. But how could he bear to see his son ruin his life.

I still remember him muttering incoherently” I know I am haunted with some black powers, nothing good could ever come across around me. I am cursed.” and there after his jaws clasped into a stony silence.

The boy arrived at his appointed time and both father and son shared all the plans. After a long time I smiled and laughed. Both father and son cleaned me and tried their best to restore my lost glory.

It was the last day of his leave. He had to report to bank next day and people there were waiting to serve him notice . All this time they were busy in strengthening the case against him. That night he talked to his son for long hours. he went down the memory lane remembering the time when both the children were kids. The son too enjoyed it. he knew his father would feel lost without him. He assured him that he would write a mail to him daily as talking frequently from there would not be possible. He told that once he would be back after completing the course he would take all of them with him at his place of work and he need not work any more. It would be easier for him to take care of mother and sister once he did not have pressure of office work.  All four of them would live together. He listened to his son silently with his heart brimming with love and eyes overflowing with tears. It was late in the night when the son drifted into sleep while he lay awake on his bed.

At that moment I too was having mixed feelings. I was happy that the boy is so caring and concerned but the thought of impending doom and probabilities of shattering of his dreams made my heart heavy. Poor boy was totally unaware of the circumstances his father was facing. Later on when he would come to know about it, I know, his heart would be full of remorse and deep sadness. But presently he was blissfully resting in the arms of deep slumber.

The night suddenly grew very still. I don’t know why but an eerie feeling gripped me in it’s clutches. I remember myself shuddering but then got relaxed, the gloom and depression had taken over this home for such a long time that happy moments made me unnecessarily apprehensive.  With a shrug I loosened myself and slowly surrendered  to the arms of peaceful night.

bang…bang…bang….I trembled with the sound of three gun shots. It was early morning and I had not yet woken up when the gun shots resounded. Seconds later shrieks of the boy ripped me. On the bed lay motionless  bodies of the mother and daughter. Their blood coloring the white roses of the bed sheet into deep red and my master lay in heap on the floor near the bed. He shot them point blank in sleep. They did not suffer any pain….how could he let them feel it, he loved them so much.

Long after the three bodies were removed,the dry stains of blood  on floor, on walls seemed like his tears. I could feel his touch, his caressing. I was his dream. He shaped me, nurtured me and even after he was gone he clung to me. People termed me haunted. For months I stood in utter darkness alone. They feared me, avoided me but every night when the moon shone over me I could feel him smiling through that lone star. He gave me company day in, day out and then one day Biji crossed my threshold like a boon to end the curse.

Was Biji not afraid of me ?  Why she coaxed his sons to purchase me? Was the low price of the property only reason. No, she in her life had to two abandon her two homes. Every time she started from scratch and piece by piece built  homes full of life and then had to leave them due to political disturbances, riots. In me perhaps she saw the reflections of her those homes and wanted to make me alive once again. Down within her she hoped some one unknown must be showing that concern and respect to her memories too.

Those who live  the pain and loss can only understand it. Those who are shattered can only restructure. She had known sufferings,borne loss and found her way out of the depth. Her experiences, her struggle had made her develop a sensitivity, an understanding of life and filled her heart with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. She infused life in me.   I was once again filled with life and laughter.

After lighting the lamp before the family picture of my first master she was going down . People were calling her. The groom party was about to leave to bring the new bride to me …. fresh dreams were to take shapes, new beiginings awaited ……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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