A visit to remember….

“Yan Ammeye pala mura nokki” – Knowing that we were first time visitors there, Unni, our Auto driver, was enthusiastically telling us. We had just got down from Parasuram Express, at Karunagapalli, and were on our way to Valikkavu, a village 12 kms from Karunagapalli, in Unnikrishnan’s auto. The weather was cool, the clouds were dark and a slight drizzle set the mood for our pilgrimage, or so it seemed. “Good men and Women are few in this world, and saints, fewer still!” – I told my wife. For, more than me, it  was she who wanted to visit this place and get the blessings of this woman saint. She gave me a glare, and said nothing, for she knew my views on religion only too well.

We reached the ferry service point, from where we would be ferried across to Valikkavu. On the boat, amidst the tranquil waters, my heart felt light. I hastily dismissed it as “scenic influence” – lest I fall prey to irrational devotion, like my wife. At the other end of the bank, a narrow path led to a temple like structure, with lot of devotees going hither and thither. I glimpsed several foreigners sweeping the ground, washing dishes, clothes, and I was surprised to see a white woman washing the toilets and cleaning them.

We asked at the reception whether “Amma” was there that day. `Yes, she is there, you can go in.’ We climbed the steps into the hall where scores of people were waiting already. After about half an hour, slips with numbers written on them were given to all those assembled there. I asked what it was for. “Don’t you want an audience with the mother?” asked the man. I nodded, and kept the slip. The ladies were a separate queue.

I had seen her in some news photographs, and my wife had shown some news clipping about her. I was not impressed. “India has an abundance of saints”, I had then blithely dismissed my wife. But now that I was going to actually see her, I wanted to ask her a lot of questions. Questions, that would do a rationalist, proud, like, “Why do you encourage personality worship?” Mentally listing the questions, I observed the place around me – people waiting all day just to get a glimpse of her while the inmates of the ashram went about the business of their religion with utmost sincerity. I told myself that I should not forget the questions that I have to ask. She should be amazed at my intelligent questions, I prided myself, for I was sure that all the questions were truly rational, and could not be answered without scientific reasoning. I did not know her, and yet I was sure that I’ll stump her with my questions. I sat there, waiting for the doors to open, so that I could go in and start asking the questions.

Then, all of a sudden, the doors were opened, and a dimunitive dark lady in white clothes stood before us. In all humility, she pranamed to the gathering, and prostrated before all. I was moved. I went ahead to see her, and saw people of all hues kneeling in front of her, and telling her their troubles. Many of the people, wept on her lap.

I inched along the queue with a lot of gusto, but strangely, my heart was quiet. Right in front of me, an old man wept like a small child weeping before his mother. With all compassion, she heard him, said something to him, and he came back a different man.

Was this all a drama ? The supreme rationalist in me was all alert as I moved forward. When my turn came, I went near, and then she saw me. Something happened inside my head, or so it felt. Suddenly, all my rationalist questions, seemed superflous. It was as if I was face to face with compassion personified. To recall Jack London in White Silence,`Strange thoughts arose unsummoned’. And unknown to me, I had tears in my eyes. My wife’s faith had found it’s mark. Rationalism took a back seat while I indulged in a new-found irrational wave of devotion, and I bowed before her, and came back, conquered by love and a hug, not reason.

(This was 12 years back. I am still grateful to my wife for having insisted that we go and meet Amma. And, I am even more grateful that I am still irrational with devotion ….)

my views….