KAKKA RAMA IYER AND UPNYAASAMS
About 40 to 45 years ago it was an annual festive event for lovers of puranas and such divine lores, that some great Scholar from tamilnadu like Sengalipuram Anantharama Dikshithar, Manjakkudi Rajagopala Iyer, Santhanagopalachariar, Sivanantha Vijayalakshmi, …the list will be long, would be invited to Palakkad to give discourses on some purana, Itihasam or Bagavath gita and other Vedantic subjects. Usually the venue would be the front of Thiruvangattappan sannadhi at Vadakkanthara, or somewhere near Nurani. ( Nowadays the Brahmana Sabha arranges similar discourses but there are special chairs arranged for persons who pay money and cold frowns reserved for people who just linger around to hear the discourse. )
Old and middle aged mamas and mamis would walk long distances to assemble at the venue of discourse. I was very young, the age range between 9years to 13 years and Sri Raman would take me also along with him to hear the discourses. One reason may be that he is visually impaired and there should be someone to keep his company and the timings usually were from 8-30 in night to the midnight. Somehow, I was a dreamy fellow and I loved to attend such discourses. But Rama Iyer, as a matter of special consideration for my late night vigil and long walks, would purchase for me some” naaranga mittayi” for one and half annas, and hand it over to me with an advice that I should just keep the mittay in my mouth without biting it so that it will dissolve slowly in the mouth and keep me awake during the discourse. Anyway, as far as I am concerned the sweet was gobbled up immediately on receipt. However basically I never felt sleepy and listened and learned the nuances of Ramayanam and Bhagavatham at that age because I attended such discourses. I used to attend the discoursed with keen attention but the hero will doze off within minutes of start of the discourse and usually I would have to wake him up at the close.
The roads we had to negotiate were very unfriendly and negotiating the return path to Sekharipuram, our native village, was a really arduous task. There were no street lights and the way was infested with stray dogs, donkeys, old horses which had lost their utility as cart pullers and added to this various reptiles.
It was true that a lot of mamas and mamis will be walking back to the various villages, but our hero was obviously slow and I was compelled to fall in steps with him.
There was a place called Kuppavandipura where the carts carrying the entire dirt of Palakkad were parked and this place was also the rendezvous of donkeys and street dogs. The place would instill mortal terror in me, a boy of ten years, but the hero was nonchalant, always. From this point we had to take a diversion to our village through a lonely mud track. Usually no one else would be near us as others would have walked home faster. There was one tree called etti maram en route and a Cobra was supposed to be occupying the bottom of the tree. Once a boy from the village was bitten by the reptile during day time recently and he had also passed away. So it was always a nightmare to pass through that terrain even in full day light, then what to say about being there at midnight!.
On one such occasion I was on the brinks of tears of fright, when fortunately an old paatti was also returning after upanyasam along with her two daughters. The threesome had fallen behind their group because it seems one of them had the urge to urinate and so wanted all people to pass on. After achieving their purpose the paatti and the two girls were coming along behind us and the patti was in her vocal best swearing at the two daughters by two unparliamentary words (1)&#####& and (2) #&&&&&&#, and the old woman was repeating these two words like some manthra. So to console me and allay me fears, Our hero told me “ enthukku bhayappedanam konthey namma koodey 1)&#####& um (2) #&&&&&&#, irukkaley, pinney antha jagajilly pattiyum, paampu ivalayellam kandal nalu nalakku sekharipuram pakkamey varaathu” ( my child, why should you be afraid, (1) and (2) are keeping company with us along with that witch of a paatti, so if the serpant sees these three it will not come anywhere near Sekharipuram for at least four days
The naranga mittay, kathakaalakshepam and the paatti and daughters are all part of my memories of Sri Raman.
Naranga mittay a sweet solid piece of sugarcandy mixed with lemon flavor—it was so cheap those days that you would get about twenty of them for 10 paise that is one and half anna.