That was Jan 1, 1986. My father, my brother and I did Kar Seva in the new Adambakkam Shivan Sanndhi at Raj Vinayaka temple. We climbed up the Vimana and poured water on the new construction. Later in the day we decided to go to Kanchi Muttt and get the blessings of Maha Periaval. At that time I was more of an agnostic and performed rituals or poojas only under my father’s duress. I did not have the reverence too for Periaval. My opinion frankly was he was just another sadhu but a good one and certainly not a charlatan.
My father, brother and I reached the mutt and stood in the line. It was a huge one and hundreds of us. Swamigal was seated with a rope separating the crowd from him. There was a brahmin sitting near Him and explaining to Him about the visitors’ names and antecedents as and when Paramacharyal asked him. The people who were before us in the queue were introducing themselves with the names of their great grand fathers and grand fathers and were delaying the others in the queue. “ I am Neelakanda sastri’s grandson , I am Thiruvaiyaru Mani Sastrigal’s great grandson” and so on. I was fretting and fuming. Paramacharyal was 92 years old at that time. “ How this old man is going to remember the Neelakanda sastris and Mani Sastrigal who would have passed away from this world decades back?” I can’t even remember or recollect my schoolmates’ names”. This was my thinking while I was standing in the queue and I was also mentally cursing the people who were delaying the movement.
Before I proceed further, I must inform my friends about my ancestors’ connections with the Mutt. My great grandfather Umamaheswara Sastrigal was a great Sanskrit scholar and was older than Paramacharyal by 2 years. Paramacharyal used to send post cards to my great grandfather at Kattuumannarkoil regarding any grammar doubt (Vyakarana). My great grandfather used to write back to him. Periaval had conferred the title “Grahaangyya” on my great grandfather. I do not know the meaning of this word but certainly it is a honorific title. My great grandfather passed away on July 11, 1959. Since I was the first the grandson born after his death , I was christened after him.
Our turn came. I passed first paying just a salute (namasthe) to him. My father’s turn next. He introduced himself as the grandson of "Kattumannar Koil Grahaangyya Picchu Sastrigal." I glanced angrily at my father just I was angry with others. We had better things to do in a day than getting introduced thro a person dead 27 years back!!!. I also looked surprised because until that day I never knew that my great grandfather had another name Picchu Sastrigal. Read further.
Just then this miracle happened which was one of the first spiritual things that became a cause for my complete transformation from an agnostic, a non-confirmist to a right wing Paramacharyal devotee and a champion (may be you may call me self-proclaimed, I don’t care)) of Sanathan Dharma.
Paramacharyal asked the Brahmin sitting next to Him:
The Brahmin replied, "Yes, Kattummannar koil grahaangyya Picchu Sastrigal Peranaam”.
Paramacharal sharply asked “Is it Umamahesweran”? and looked at me piercingly (he did not look at my father) and waved his right hand at me as if to say "I know both Umamaheswerans too well, both great grandfather and the great grandson”!
My ego was totally crushed. He could seamslessly recollect at 92, the name of my great grandfather who had passed away 27 years back. The Acharya would have met thousands of people in these 27 years, traveled all over the country and there were million incidents. Secondly , I could sense that he could see our thoughts just like we watch TV!! He is Conciousness embodiment and goes thro our body and mind in the astral form!!! This was only the beginning. I called on His Holiness 4 or 5 times before his Maha Samadhi in Jan 1994. Each time He performed a miracle that became a landmark turning point in my personal life!! If you like this episode, I will come out with all of them . Otherwise let them rest with me forever!!!
The day was Nov 16, 1986. This time the trip to Kanchi was with my father only. I was 25 and my next younger sibling, Bhuvana was 24. Besides that there are two more younger siblings, my brother and the last, another sister. We lost our mother in 1980 when I, the eldest was only 19 and the last child, my sister Raji was only 11. Bhuvana, the immediate younger sister was the one who took up the position of our late mother in running the family right from age 18 till she left for US permanently after her marriage. This preamble is necessary for understanding the current episode with Paramacharayal which effectively resulted in the happy marriage of my sister and subsequent prosperity of our entire family to this day and God willing well into the distant and unknown future.
Bhuvana was employed in a private pharmaceutical firm and was also taking care of the entire family. She had the onerous task of taking care of the kitchen and also attending office. On Oct 16, 1986 the parents of her husband (at that time prospective son-in-law) came to see her as part of the “bride seeing” function. The prospective son in law at that time was in US and was employed there after finishing his MS in US having gone there in 1980. They were distantly related to us and were of the same middle class as we were. There was no news for a month from them. Also there were many eligible brides within our Ashtasahasra clan even among our relatives and they were better off socially and well connected too.
On Nov 16, 1986, my father and I decided to go to the Kanchi Mutt and seek the blessings of Periaval.
My mood was sullen and depressed right from the time I started from the house because I had seen my sister struggle very hard to keep the family flag flying and at least after the marriage her struggles should cease no matter even if we continue to struggle after her marriage. In my first encounter with Paramacharyal, he had already converted me from a Doubting Thomas to a full fledged theist. We purchased some apples for Periaval and I kept those apples in my hand. I began chanting “Rama Nama” throughout my journey. We reached the mutt and as usual hundreds of devotees were swarming the place to have an audience with Periaval. Some Iyyappa devotees came to seek the blessings of Periaval. I was standing in the crowd with my apples still chanting the “Rama Nama”. Periaval asked the Brahmin assistant near him to get the apples from my hand . This itself is a miracle because there were hundreds holding variety of gifts for Periaval’s blessings. I gave it to the brahmin. Periaval asked the Brahmin to give it to the Iyyappa devotees.
Next. Many people were asking “boons” from Paramacharyal. Promotion, Job, cure of diseases and what not? The demands were legion. My father asked to me to request the Periaval “my sister should get married”. Periaval was at a considerable distance. I was a bit shy and my English education prevented me asking what my father told. It would all make several hundred pairs of eyes turn on me. Some skeptic in the crowd may jeer at me “If he wants to marry off his sister, why should he come here? He should go to the matrimonial market and find one “.
Periaval was doing some Japa with a big “kamandal” (holy brass vessel) before Him. Even as I was thinking how to ask Him, He got up suddenly and rushed to the back side of the Mutt. I was surprised by His agility at 92. Immediately we all ran hurriedly behind Him and took up positions near Him. Mark you , we were hundreds. This time my position was relatively closer.
And then this miracle happened. Periaval Himself pointed to me among all in the crowd and asked the Brahmin near Him to enquire about the purpose of my visit. Since He himself had asked, this time there was no inhibition for me to tell Him the purpose of my visit.
“My sister ought to be married “ I said.
His Holiness looked straight at me and raised His right hand! At that time I could see the “Unfathomable Peace in His divine face” the peace that “passeth understanding”. Readers must understand that at that time like many people I was not aware that He was an Avatara Purusha and so I took the blessing as a blessing from an elderly person with good intentions only. I never could know that the raising of His hand was an act of annihilation of all my previous bad karmas first and secondly the raising of His hand was actually an act of showering gold and diamond for the rest of my life!!!!!! When I look back with all the future events that happened after this event, I could easily attribute that to the simple act of His raising the right hand on this day!!! Let me tell you only about my sister’s marriage in this episode as that would be very long, fit enough to be written in 2000 pages. The entire family attained unimaginable prosperity during the course of time!!!
One month passed. The day was Dec 16, 1986. Second day of Tamil month Margazhi. I had taken bath and was reading the Andal’s Thiruppavai. There is no news about marriage and I was already thinking that one full month of Margazhi has to pass until we can hear anything about marriage. My father had gone to Trichy officially. Those days he toured various parts of the country officially and was on tour 15 days a month. Suddenly he entered the house and even as he was entering, he was announcing joyously. “Day before yesterday evening. (last day of Karthigai), I had exchanged “Thamboolam” informally with the prospective in-laws. They are happy to have an alliance with us.” The prospective in-laws were living in Trichy and my father had met them without our knowledge. The whole family was overjoyed. Those days we did not have even a landline connection and the cellphone technology was at least a decade away in India. So my father could not communicate the information immediately.
Exactly in a month’s time after we met Paramacharyal for His blessings! Readers may wonder what is so great about a marriage. But this marriage is unique in our family as it bestowed abundant prosperity to each and every member of the family and we all owe this to Paramacharyal’s divine blessings! The details of other blessings starting with my sister’s marriage will form part of my future episodes!!! My sister got married in April 1987, left for US in 1988 and is living there happily to this day!
On Feb 15, my father, my sister Bhuvana and some other relatives left for Kanchi Mutt with the sample invitation of the marriage to see Paramacharyal for His blessings again. Somehow I did not accompany them to the Mutt. I must peruse my 1987 Diary to see what better thing I did on that day instead of going to the Mutt!! Sri Mahaperiaval reportedly kept a coconut with shell ( Matta Thengai) and vermilion (kum kum) on the invitation and blessed . When the news reached me I was elated and even exclaimed .” Oh! That means our Thatha is not going to die before April 8, 1987 the day of the marriage!!!!!!! What a blessing!!! “ Readers -Please do not mistake me for my selfish thoughts! I would rather expect you to appreciate me for the faith that I have developed for Maha Perivaval in 3 months’ time!!! I was thoroughly convinced that nothing untoward would happen to anyone especially to my grandfather until the marriage because of Periaval’s blessings!!
My grandparents arrived in Chennai on April 5, 1987 for the marriage. My brother, who was an Engineering student at the Annamalai, Chidambaram accompanied them. He had a torrid time with my grandfather as the latter developed chest pain in the train and my brother had to seek medical help for him on the wayside stations. At last the D day had come. The marriage of my sister Bhuvana was indeed celebrated pompously on April 8, 1987. After the marriage was over, my grandfather once again developed chest pain during the reception time on the evening of April 8, 1987 and was again nursed back to safety.
After the marriage our groom Sridharan left for US on May 5, 1987. Bhuvana had to wait full 20 months for her green card and landed in US on the Christmas day in 1988.
My grandfather passed away on March 16, 1988 and lived full 11 months after the marriage although he did not live to see his granddaughter go to US. She was the first lady in our clan to go abroad and settle down permanently there. Until then US was a never never land for us existing far far away or hanging in between earth and the Sun!!! We only had seen it in our school Atlas and even in the Atlas, US was to be seen in a remote corner as seen from our country. Bhuvana was the front runner for many girls of our clan to go abroad and settle down. It was out and out the blessings of Sri Mahaperiaval!!
In this episode, I am going to narrate the faith of my father-in-law on Mahaperiyaval what skeptics would call bordering on insanity but how it resulted in a happy married life for me. My father in law who served the LIC of India was a mad devotee of Paramacharyal and goes by the self proclaimed name of Jayendradasar. Once some time in the mid eighties, he sent the horoscope of his daughter (presently my dear wife) and my horoscope to Sri Paramacharyal. Sri Paramacharyal sent back the 2 horoscopes blessing it with vermillion (kum kum). That was it. There began a great chase for 5 long years starting from 1985 and ending in 1990 Feb with our marriage.
My father in law, S.V. Sivasubramanya Iyer was related to me even before marriage as he was my maternal uncle’s co-brother (shaddagar). Personally I had no career, just a graduate hopping from one company to another at my will and wish. My sister Bhuvana had got married in 1987 and was waiting for her green card. I was yearning for a permanent solution to human miseries and wanted to run away from the house the way Buddha did. Having come into divine contacts with Paramacharyal, I had a secret ambition to renounce life and go out into the vast world like an ascetic and mendicant, either realize myself or die in that process.
My father, an extrovert and a person who never much thought about the “other world”, renunciation and related things are strict no no. He wanted to get me married no matter what I earn or what I do. Exactly at this time, my would be father in law contacted my father and insisted on an alliance. My father was surprised. Who in the world would give his daughter in marriage to a person like me? At that time there was the computer boom in India. Ordinary graduates with a diploma course in NIIT were flying abroad and there was a huge demand because of the famous Y2K problem! I too did a course in NIIT and certainly not with an intention to go abroad! My sister Bhuvana, while waiting for Green Card was taking care of the kitchen. She had also landed in a Tamil Nadu Govt Job, the Dept of Fisheries. By Dec 88, she had received her green card and flew to US to join her husband. My brother had just finished his BE and he being a good cook took care of the kitchen even as he was employed in a private firm.
Meanwhile my prospective father in law was chasing my father and me for an alliance. I was safely eluding him. On one particular family function, I called my prospective father in law aside and counseled him. “Look here sir! I am a vagabond! I neither have a good career nor a good employment. It is a grave risk to get your daughter married to a person like me! I bring home a salary of Rs.750/ when the ruling rate of rent itself at suburban Adambakkam for an independent house is Rs. 1500/ in 1988. (That we are all living in our father’s house at Adambakkam right from 1984 is a different story.) Now it is a whopping Rs.25000/. My would be father in law was not to be put down by my warning. “When Periaval himself has already blessed the wedding, there is no question of seeing another boy for my daughter. “ This was his line of argument. “What will you do if I refuse to marry your daughter?” There will be no marriage at all for my daughter was his reply.
If the readers conclude that my fiancée would have been an epileptic or a differently abled person, to marry a person like me, you are in for a rude shock. My wife at that time was one of the most beautiful girls of our Ashta Sahasra clan with a flawless noseline resembling the late Nargis and possessed the lovely lotus eyes of Shilpa Shetty!!! Women lose their beauty eventually during their battle of life with their intemperate husband and his relations!!!! If the readers conclude that my father in law was agreeing to this because of abject poverty, then also you are wrong. He was one of the union leaders of mighty LIC, a polyglot, a magnificent poet, a scholar and a social worker who brought train lines to suburban Thiruninravur by corresponding personally with Madhavrao Scindia and Prof. Madhu Dandavate , the 2 great railway ministers of the past. He is 77 and is living in the 2 ground palatial house at Thiruninravur which he constructed 46 years back!
My sister who went to US was working feverishly to get my brother there for higher studies. She finally succeeded. On one day in August 1989, when I reached him from my office, my brother threw this bomb at me. “I have got my visa to US. I will be leaving in 10 days’ time”. I got alarmed. My dear cook is leaving! Neither I nor my intemperate father know anything about cooking. My younger sister was only in the 3rd year of her Engg course at Annamalai. The first thing I did next day morning was to rush to my maternal uncle’s house and conveyed my desire to get married to his shaddagar’s daughter.
My marriage was arranged. As my brother left for US on Sept 9, 1989, my betrothal was arranged on the auspicious Vinayaka Chathurthi day on Sept 4, 1989. My father in law’s faith in Paramacharyal did not go in vain. First of all I too realized that I could not work against the established blessings of Paramacharyal. ( My marriage, the tremendous luck and blessings it brought, how Periaval raised my status gradually thro years and put me today in a position of unimaginable prosperity and income are all stuff of fairy tales and will be told in subsequent episodes. My apologies to readers if the events narrated were like my autobiography. My stress and focus is on Paramacharyal’s blessings on each and every event in my life after his direct blessings on Jan 1, 1986).
Narrated exquisitely by Shri Umamahesweran. More episodes will follow...