KAKKA RAMA IYER AND UPANYAASAMS
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 is 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.
Kakka Raman and Vishnu Pattar Break the law.
Kaakka Rama Iyer had a very close friend by name Ananthakrishna Iyer.. Some say that Ananthakrishna Iyer had been in Ceylon for sometime and there was another school of thought that he was a peon in a British company which did business in slaughtering animals and exporting the flesh. Whatever it may be the man had become very pious when he landed up in our agraharam, but he had no place to live. So Kakka Rama Iyer gracefully volunteered to offer the Iyer number two the privilege of occupying the open thinnai of Kakkai's house as a dwelling place. Ananthankrishna Iyer sported a very huge oordhwapundram (naammam) and the performing of his make up operation was a sight to see. The village urchins would crowd around him while he deftly pasted namakkatti on his palm and drew and big U on his wide forehead, followed by a long red line in the internal bisecting area using thirummannu.. And once the makeup was finished, he looked just like Mahavishnu and hence the village people always called him Vishnu Pattar when he was not present within earshot.
Kakkai and Vishnu were a professional pair. They always went together for partaking in Sraadhams or getting Dakshina or dhaanam on good or bad occasions.
One day they went for Sraadham in Pallipuram village. It was almost five miles from our village. You must remember it was almost 45 years ago and there were not many buses and the Laurel and Hardy could not afford to pay the busfare also. They had to cross an open railway line near palakkad town railway station and they successfully negotiated Lakshman Rekha in the morning during their onward Journey. But while returning after sraadhdham, they again crossed the railway line and was accosted by a railway policeman. The innocent Brahmins did not know that crossing the railway track and making the railway premises as a thoroughfare was a punishable offence. Had they told the policeman that they did not know the law and apologized, he would have left them go. However in their innocent haughtiness, they told him to mind his business and that they were not afraid of any police, especially railway police. The enraged policeman booked a case against them for trespassing and gave a summons directing them to attend the sub-magistrates court one week later and let them go. The poor Brahmins could have given some wrong names and address and got away with it but they were too innocent.
On the day of the great trial the duo, clad in soman and uthareeyam, Mr Vishnu sporting naamam and Mr Raman filling his forehead with three broad white lines of Viboothy, presented themselves in the Court very early in the morning. The magistrate arrived in due course and seeing two Brahmins standing in the courtyard (the magistrate was also an Iyer), said that there was no sraadham or tarpanam being conducted in the court. The Brahmins said they had been booked by railway police and there was a case against them.
Finally the case was called, and R and V presented themselves in the dock. The magistrate asked them whether they had committed any offence for which they stated in unison that they had done nothing but had only crossed the railway line. Even at this stage they were not aware that this was an offence. The magistrate could have let them free had they sought pardon of the court. But they would not do it because they could not dream of any crime being committed by them. Ultimately the Magistrate reluctantly fined them eight anna each.
And once the fine was ordered, the two poor Brahmins could leave the court only after paying the fine and eight anna each was far beyond their capacity to pay. They were pleading with everybody requesting that they be allowed to go. Nothing worked.
Finally the magistrate came to know of it and he did a very wonderful thing. He took a one rupee coin from his own pocket and asked the court clerk to issue the receipt for the fine to Mr Kakkai and Mr Vishnu. May be Vishnu rode the Kaakkai vahanam on that day.
Have a nice and happy day
with profound respect and warm regards
K V Ananthanarayanan