Breeze  ....PART II

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 This spell of silence of the place is briefly broken with the arrival of the priest at 10.00 am. This priest popularly known as sparrow Iyer ( hops about and is always in a hurry) visits the temple twice a day. He rings the bells, pours potful of water over the idols, throws a few flowers and shows a lighted camphor at the idols -all done in haste. All through the ritual he carries on a dialogue simultaneously at two levels, one at the mundane level- chit chat with the congregation. The congregation consists of a few stragglers who had come to witness the Puja, and a few permanent fixtures of the temple - the likes of mad samiyar. The kids playing around Ther Muddi are mustered, with the lure of candy and bananas (Kathali -a poor cousin of super market bananas ) to add to the numbers. " Thamby! like a good boy, run along and fill the kudam with water, Annai! tonight there is a yaman Koothu and chinna Melam (poor man’s cabaret) at Maruthadi festival ........" in the same breath he ascends to the divine level addressing and cajoling the gods to bless bounties and longevity on the devotees " Suklam baratharam vishnum, sasivatvarnam, chathurpujam, prasanna vathanam sarva vignoba shanthaye...." comming down the line of gods, to Vairavar - the guardian deity of the village is invoked. Thereafter he plugs in a few lines for the devotee .".Sinniah Namatheseeya, Kudumba Ayurl, Arokia, Veera,Vijaya......Thevaram arulipadhuha" The closing of the ritual prescribes a Thevaram and one puranam from audience. He looks around and collars one of the elder kids, who was just then slinking out of sight, fearing the inevitable " Aday! come forward, cup you hands in devotion and sing the Thevaram I must go soon" and announces to the audience "He is a clever fellow (kettikaran) , he will sing well". The inspired hymns of the saints of yesteryears were thus rendered by the victim in a flat sing song tone characteristics of Thevaram singing. Nobody minded it. Things are over soon. Closing the huge door screeching at the hinges, he hurries off on his bicycle slinging the jute hessain bag with his tools of the trade (still loudly carrying on dialogues with any passer by who happens to cross his path ) to attend to the other temple across the fields.

After sparrow Iyer's departure, silence descends again punctuated only by the shrill metallic tune of beetles ‘chil vandu’ from the groves nearby. The occasional cawing of a crow perched on the Flag post (Kodikambam) searching for bits of offerings sticking to the sacrificial altar (Pali peetam) heightens the sad-sweet- exquisiteness of the place.

 Resting on the high platform, you hear the music of the wind rustling through the thick foliage of the large Marudham trees, overhanging the lotus pond. You see the ripples on the green moss covering the small quaint pond. There are only a few lotus flowers in bloom at the center of the pond. The flowers near the bank had been plucked for the puja. The lotus and lily creepers are kept afloat by the large circular leaves, bobbing up and down in the pond. The mercury like droplets on leaves glisten in the noon tropical sun. Bees and red dragon flies hovering incessantly all over the pond seemingly without any visible aim. But looking at their determined goings and comings, they seem to have urgent duties, unknown to us children, to be performed before the day ends . Looking at this scene has a refreshing effect, it is as if you had just had a ceremonial bath in a river. Recollecting the scene now after decades, I feel the sweat on the face evaporating in the breeze , which can only be described as being at peace -Suham.

 This scene is repeated through the monotonous Jaffna landscape. This is also a recurring theme in Tamil poetry. The Kamba Ramayanam and the Sangam classical works have immortalized such pastoral scenes, of course in differing details. The appreciation of poetry is heightened by personal experience. In some ways these common place scenes and moods attained a poetic connotation and we were elated when we discovered that this experience was validated by classical poetry and Thevaram. Although our excursions into the world of poetry was elementary, it gave some confidence that our daily life is what the ancient poets were trying to celebrate. This validation gave a good feeling. This is unlike the present day attitude that all arts and literature are far removed from our lives and are to be authored by a TV/screen approved alleged genius.

 Let us switch from this point, and explore the meaning of two words " Chidambaram" and "Manasa Gangai" Chith+ Ambaram = Chidambaram. Here "Chith" means the mind and "ambaram" or "ambalam" means a large hall or empty space. Thus the word denotes "Space of the mind" or the inner space, still better, interior landscapes ( A word that prompts me to use it - picked up from A K Ramanujan _ poems of love and war-translation of Tamil Sangam poetry). Manasa Gangai is the sacred river of the mind. Both the words alludes to a fresh mind, uncluttered mind. A mind which has space to contemplate and is not always pushed around by its own urgencies. Manasa Gangai alludes to the well spring or fountain of creativity. In literature as well as in common use, expressions such as " Just after a bath with hair still wet" or ‘Sprinkling of water" are used to portray freshness. These images are adopted from the religious rituals of purification, which in its turn appears to have been sublimated from chores of daily living. Thiruvembavai hymns are a fine example of freshness of early morning bath cleansing the mind with words. A shining brass vessel full to the brim being carried on the hips by women. The cauvery water has floating pollen. This imagery by Sambandar about Thiruvaiyaru is another example of nature in poetry. EpaetaD nIrf CmnfEttfti p<Kvarf `vrf pi[f p<KEv[f. (left: Pics courtsey Chantal Boulanger http:www\imaginet.fr\ Poonool ceremony of a Brahmin family. out of the five elements, water is life giving, literally cleanses the body and in effect refreshes the mind. Washing of 'pavam' is akin to washing aeons of conditioning of the brain. Purification by waterv (Theertham) is an indian traditional ritual. Chantal is a photographer. She has written books on Wedding ceremonies of Mudaliyars of Tamil Nadu and on Kancheepuram silk sarees. )                                                                     16.jpg (1075 bytes)

Without getting too much into obscurities (if we are not already into confusion about what is said), the point made here is that sensitivity to nature refreshes the mind. This sensitivity is simplicity, it is creativity and this is intelligence in highest sense. To be in harmony and being sensitive to nature wherever one is, I think is an important hall mark of Tamil culture.

 Returning to the theme of creativity, there could be lot of things to be said about this much abused word, such as lateral thinking, etc but in modest terms it is a genuine interest in things around one and a state of mental alertness. Creativity is an antidote to dullness. So how can this alchemy which turns mundane life into magic moments be sparked? I will leave these as Questions for listeners to ponder. These reminiscences may be interesting, but isn’t it nostalgic, like chewing the cud?. What relevance is this to young people?.

 There is still a point to be made , which goes beyond nostalgia. As we grow older, the problems of life wear us out and we loose this magic touch with nature and have nothing original to say, with feeling. That may be the reason why people tend to go back in time when they wish to illustrate something original? Anyway as I said earlier, these I am happy to leave as questions, without having to defend anything. 

Encroachment of the social and economic pressures and the intrusion of high-tech entertainment into homes has taken away the simple but valuable pleasures from the children. The modern child is deprived of savoring unhurriedly an enchanted natural world. This is the only point I wish to make here. There have been some connoisseurs for my program "Once uopon a Jaffna" who felt an english rendering could bring, what they felt was a taste of Jaffna to the young people. I doubt whether youngsters will jump in joy. I can not compete with their high tech distractions. This was as a sceptical experiment.

( Left photo Steve Hoffman : - A bird in solitude at Sunrise. "AUM O! face of truth with a disc of gold, remove the viel of ignorance so that I can see you face to face" - Hymn to the dawn- and dusk )

This program is like friends going on a long walk together. The program ‘Breeze in the Lotus pond’ hopes to take you along for a pleasant walk and pleasant talk along the river of life. We can talk of many things " about ships, shoes, cabbages and sealing wax, whether pigs have wings".

 With two cultural notes we end this program.

1.  A few weeks ago, I happened to pick out a Video film Boraka in one of the normal video shops. It is a film without the distraction of commentaries or dialogues, and is a mixture of pure images and beautiful music. It mixes some sublime, some beautiful, some harsh images and rituals around the world. It had genuine flashes of creativity.

2.Talking of Cinema creativity, Satyajit Ray’s films come to my mind. The films "Pather Panchali" (song for the road), "Apur Sansar" (world of Opu), "Aparajitho" (undefeated) were classics which I saw in my University days. At that time, I was a fan of Shivaji Ganeshan and thought that he was the best actor in the world (‘even Marlon Brando confesses he can’t act like Shivaji in such varied roles’ - a piece of tit bit picked up from Madras film magazines Kumdoosi and Pesum Padam)- Not that Shivaji is not a good actor, far from it. I am trying to get at something else. What gives a little more understanding of life is good. Not because it is high brow or arty but it shows a wholesome flavor of life in its simplicity. A small confidence about our own lives. This apart, my views on these subjects (Tamil cinema) at that time were considered to be erudite among boarding house circles of Wellawatte Colombo. This life in boarding houses of the sixties is another story. To cut the long story short, an uncle of mine obviously alarmed by the turn my aesthetic development is taking, persuaded me to see Satyajit Rays films. He had different ideas about culture but never imposed it. Ray's films were a revelation. It is as if the lens is directly exposed to life itself. It was so very different from the contrived efforts of commercial films. It is as if the medium of cinema was created only for such an expression. My views on cinema changed after seeing Ray's films. I suppose my uncle achieved his objective without much effort. Still I see Tamil films. It is difficult to swim against mainstream.( Tamil access programs transcripts and some material on poetry for Tamil school combined. Wellington, New Zealand of 14th September 96 Kumaraparathy)16.jpg (1075 bytes)

 

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