As I was offered a seat in a revolving chair one Wednesday early morning, I was reminded of my age-old working days in an IT company even as I was gazing at the mirror in front of me. The chair would have been high enough for a project manager to oversee his team leaders and team members working. But now I was alone and was about to be worked upon. ‘Hhhmmm’, began Chakrapani, the veteran old man, trying to find his voice after gulping down a cup of coffee. ‘Kaapi saapidareengala aiya?’ he showed his hospitality as he would do every time I went to him. I politely refused his offer thinking if there was really enough left in the flask in his hand.
‘Mithuna raasi kaarargale’, beamed the astrologer in the television set who appears daily with a serene and smiling face raising the hopes of a million viewers perhaps, but with the same set of messages, yet carefully managing not to repeat the same on the following day. He also recommends a place of worship and a specific God to offer a puja for each astrological sign thereby raising the commercial prospects of the respective temples and their priests as well. ‘Tlick tlick’ went on the scissors in Chakrapani’s hand targeting the two month old beard that had spread wildly on my countenance. ‘Simha raasi kaarargale’, continued the astrologer after a commercial break filled with advertisements on undergarments during spiritual prime hours. Dropping his scissors suddenly and raising the TV volume with the remote, Chakrapani went in to a samadhi in with his eyes and ears wide open. When the astrologer harped on to wish the kanni raasikkaarargal, the TV’s volume was reduced a bit and Chakrapani’s went high. ‘Jayalalitha voda nakshatram thaan ennodathum – magam nakshatram simha rasi.
He then began his lessons on astrology to his only obedient student for the hour, who without much choice had to stay calm without any movement. The potential risk in being otherwise was too much. Chakrapani was one of the few hair dressers of the previous generation who partially met the requirements of vaidika customers, either in form only, or in function as well. Being in the form-er group, I was one of his regular clients. ‘Josyam theriyuma?’. I wondered how the daily repeated morning doses of astrology in various channels can make anybody an expert. All that one needs is patient and attentive hearing. I said am not too much interested. ‘Enna raasi?’. ‘Kumba raasi’, I replied. ‘Poorattadhiya?’ he guessed my star with a masterly skill. ‘Romba nalla raasi. ithellaam pothu palan, kodiyila orutharukku thaan balikkum. avanga avanga jathakam eduthukittu poi kekkanum’. ‘nadakkarathu thaan nadakkum. Jnayitrukkizhamai varavendiya nee innaikku thaan vanthirukka. Innaikku thaan varanumnu vithichirukku. Yaaralayum maaththamudiyaathu’. He revealed his ideology of fatalism in life.
Finding a date for kshavaram is an arduous task for functional vaidikas. Even if one is a vaidika by form only, as I am, one has to be carefully away from the sight of other vaidikas as there is a chance of being confronted with expressions like ‘innaikku ashtami aache!’ etc when it is done on prohibited days. Sunday was a prathamai tithi and so I decided to go on Wednesday instead. But I had already informed Chakrapani that I would come on Sunday without verifying the tithi. Chakrapani had a good memory and he promptly quoted that as a testimony for his principle on fatalism in life. The Vedantin in me was rushing to talk about the individual will and a possibility to change one’s fate or karma with efforts but then he had a knife in his hand and I had a fear for my life in my mind.
‘Saami’ went on Chakrapani, ‘avanga avanga uzhaichu saapidanum. thaanam vaanga koodathu. namma uzhaichu aduthavangalukku kodukkanum. ithu thaan en kolgai vaazhkaila’. He recounted with pride how he had refused earlier two or three plates of food that was offered to him by autorickshaw drivers on the day or aruvathumoovar festival that just got over. Aruvathumoovar festival draws a huge crowd every year and leaves the roads badly crowded with half eaten food plates and crushed plastic cups with so many people eating to their capacity whatever is offered in the way. The auto drivers religiously collect money from their customers and feed the passers by with a sense of self-less (sponsored by others) social service. ‘Ethukku naan athai vaangi saapidanum. vendamnu sollitten. Naan uzhaichu paisa koduthu thaan saapiduven’. He then went on to criticize those people who subsisted on such offerings.
‘unga aalungale sai baba koil munnadi kothudathelaam vaangi saapidaraangale. nyayama? pillai kutti illayo illa ennnanu theriyala. irunthaalum ethukku antha maathiri seyyanum?’. This question slapped me on the face as I have always kept worrying about the growing number of old parents being left behind by their sons and daughters who proudly work for other countries and have settled down with colorful cards as their identities. Not all parents are fortunate enough to be capable of living on their own without stress though being supported financially. And there are others who earn and live in this country yet neglect their aged parents.
What is the community doing for this segment of people? The sight of an old Srivaishnavite, with bright urdhvapundram and clad in panchakacham, knocking the closed windows of cars and begging at the signals of C.P.Ramaswamy road on a daily basis brings restlessness in my mind. But then I distract myself with the thought about my helplessness to this bigger social evil that is staring at all of us! Well the problem could be on either sides – neglected kids go on to neglect their aged parents. What are we doing as a society to take care of the neglected elderly? Does every old person have the capability and vairagya like that of Chakrapani?
Dr. Sreeram Jaganathan