Sunday, January 14, 2007

parivartanAvartanam -- Life, Transformation, and back to Life- II


When Priya got home, her grandmother was not at home but she found all the arrangements made. An olive coloured silk saree and blouse set were lying on a stool, and some water, cold as a rule, was present in the bathroom. She quickly cast away all of her 'city' clothes, took bath, and wore her saree, braided her hair and made it into a bun, applied a short vertical tilakam on her forehead, wore some green and a couple of golden bangles, a small nose-gem (not a nose-ring), a set of small golde ear-rings set with pearl, and finally set a small lenth of flower strip into her bun.

The process which had come to seem so natural to her now, was not so a while ago. It began only as a small and gentle curiosity about year and a half ago. By and by, her grandmother sensed the flow of her granddaughter's feelings as the curiosity grew into general interest, then into a fully-grown hobby, and then avid enthusaism and finally maturing into realisation of she had been missing all this time as her mentor-grandmother, feeling happy at the progress made by her protege, taught her all she knew-- to cook, dress up, and behave in the trational manner.

VakuLa herself was perplexed how she could imbibe all of this so easily. She felt something was not right, and she tried to keep away from the town and cut all contact with her grandmother. But the urge to come back was too swift. She gave up finally. At times, she used to wonder if she was enjoying it because she was so good at it, or was it the other way around, but now, it did not matter much. She knew where she belonged. Every weekend, she had been coming to her grandmother's place. She kept lying to her parents, friends, and people at office about her whereabouts at weekends. She hardly used to go to her home. But whenever she went, there was a feeling of frustration and loss. Her parents were not qualified enough to peep behind her formal smiles to sense the inner volcano of feelings.

She also had come to know many of the traditional Indian chants by heart. She began reading books on Indian philosophy and very soon she was able to convince other scholars in town that she was someone to contend with. She even had started participating in some of the temple ceremonies. A small coterie of orthodox Brahmins tried to bar her progress, but being well versed in the shastras by now, she came over them, yet without hurting their self-respect using her tact. She now looked into the mirror to give final touches to her transformation from Priya to VakuLa-- the name her grandmother had chosen for her when she was born, but rejected by her parents who found it too old-fashioned. She came out and saw the framed photograph of Goddess Laxmi by the wall in the outer room. She took a slow deep breath, and she felt she was now richer, having driven out Alakshmi from her life:

Kshut pipásá-amalám jyesthám alakshmím náshayámyaham
Abhūtimasamriddhim cha sarván nirnuda me grihat.

She wrapped her neck and shoulders with the saree and went to the grocers, who knew her only has the grand-daughter of the old widow Narmada, and ordered the necessary vegetables and condiments. Cooking SODasapakvAnnAs for fifty one people is not an easy task for a beginner. She was used, by now, to cooking for the temple, but the scale was much smaller. A tough task but she had taken it upon her willingly.

She returned home where her grandmother was waiting for her. She had gone over to the neighbours' place. As her grandmother went inside to cook, vakuLa went into the small garden to collect some tulasi-daLams for the puja the next day. It was going to be another long but beautiful day.

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