Bharathi and Chellamma thanked parASakti with a celebration for saving us all from the storm. Meena, her sister-in-law, her mother, Padmavathi, her baby Raji, vAdyAr's wife and Bhagyalakshmi Ammal were also invited. After the pUjA, Bharathi sang vandE mAtaram as usual, and then his new poem 'peNmai vAzhgenRu' (victory to womanhood) in an english meTTu (tune). He then asked each of us to sing a song. Meena's mother was reluctant at first about her girls singing.
Bharathi: Let them sing, Amma. You know that there are no strange men in this gathering--just us, who are like your brothers.
Then, Meena's mother asked her daughter and daughter-in-law to sing.
Meena's mother: I didn't realize until now how genuine and open you are! I'm old-fashioned. Men in my younger days, if they asked us to sing, like you did, would gossip behind our backs later. Don't misunderstand me for my refusing at first!
Bharathi: We are not such hypocrites, AmmA. In fact, we want to do away with the enslaving of women. We detest gossiping about them!
Meena's mother: I understand. Oh, are you looking for a match for Thangamma?
Bharathi: Not yet.
Meena's mother: In our days, they would get busy when the girls were eight. Nowadays, even when they're sixteen, people don't seem to bother! Chellamma, don't delay. Find a match for Thangam.
Chellamma: Don't we need money for it, AmmAmi?
Meena's mother: The important thing is to find a boy. Money, you can somehow manage. Don't take me wrong for telling you this.
Chellamma: There's nothing wrong in what you say. My sister is coming from kASi this year. Thangamma is more her daughter than mine. She will not return to kASi without seeing Thangamma married.
It looked to me as though Chellamma was suffering a lot inwardly. BharathiyAr did not seem to be happy either. I could not figure out as to what was ailing them.
My mother was away. I wasn't well-versed in giving the baby an oil bath. I would keep everything ready for Chellamma who came to our house every day at four to give the baby a bath. Then we freshened up and went to the beach. Bharathi came with us sometimes, but it wasn't like old times. He barely sat down with us. Even if he did, they both started arguing. He would walk away and sit alone by the sea but he joined us when we returned home.
The Sivan Temple asked for a bhajanai song for SivarAtri from him. He wrote the song murugA murugA and gave it to them. "If six of you sing it together, it will put you all in a trance", he said.
He was very fond of chanting nammAzhvAr's ten verses at that time, acting it all out that God dwells in every particle of us. He did this by gestures, pointing to the top of his head, his tongue, his chest, shoulders and so on. I did not understand NammAzhvAr's verses very well then. All I could think then was that Bharathi proclaimed that God lived in him, but in reality, he was helpless when it came to driving away the problems he and Chellamma had to cope with.
ivaiyum avaiyum uvaiyum, ivarum avarum uvarum
evaiyum yAvaiyum tannuLLE Agiyum Akkiyum kAkkum
tani mudal emmAn, kaNNapirAn en amudam
Suvaiyan, tiruvin maNALan ennuDai SUzhaluLAnE
(The following is A. K. Ramanujan's translation--Arasi)
We here and that man, this man, and that other in-between,
And that woman, this woman, and that other, whoever--
Those people and these, and these others in-between,
This thing, that thing, and this other in-between--whichever,
All things dying, these things,
those things, those others in-between,
good things, bad things,
things that were, that will be--
Being all of them, He stands there.
Bharathi was not the same anymore, but my devotion, affection and esteem for him remained the same.
I knew he had changed and that the changes came in rapid succession. It looked as though he was drawn to unwelcome influences. No one could stop him, it seemed. I could see that he was mindless of Chellamma's pleas. When I was a child, I could question him boldly, but I was a mother of a child now. I also realized that I couldn't communicate as freely with him as I did with Chellamma.
Bharathi had a way of looking at everything intently, without batting an eyelid. The glow and the beauty of his eyes were gone now. Chellamma said that it was because he was now given to staring at the sun a lot.
When Bharathi came to our house, he sang vENDumaDi viDudalai in the kIRtanai mode .
Yadugiri: Why have you set the music for this song as in a kIrtanai?
Bharathi: Thangamma says she's not keen on my old tunes any more. She wanted it sung like a traditional kIrtanai. That's why. Do you like it?
Yadugiri: I do.
Bharathi: I'm searching for something new.
Yadugiri: What is it?
Bharathi: I don't want to die. I'm going to find a way to live forever.
Yadugiri: They say miracles are possible, but not this. If you can, that would be the wonder of wonders.
Bharathi: I'm searching and I will find it.
My father happened to hear this. He said, "Bharathi, what's the need for a young woman to get into the realms of vEdAntA? kuruvi talai panangAi pOla (like placing a burden of a palmyra palm fruit on the head of a sparrow to carry around). She can wait until she gets older to ponder over such things."
Bharathi did not answer him. Without saying a word, he got up and went away.
As for me, I kept singing the song 'vENDumaDi viDudalai with the help of the notes* he gave me.
*Yadugiri uses the word kuRippugaL sometimes when she speaks of the copies of the songs that Bharathi gives her. I wonder now if they are notations--Arasi.
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