Just Emkaying: The Old Man's friend

Mar 26, 2012

The Old Man's friend

A visit to "Daiv'd Mane"(explanation below) in the off hours, or when its not crowded is always an experience. You are either on the edge because of its eerie silence, or in awe of the tranquil sanctity of the place. Heavy wooden beams, Stone floors, the Oil lamps, the cool air, the ring of the bells resonating off the stone sculptures of the Deity's Guards. These are temples of old, not the quick-pray-pay-leave models that have begun to spring up in every nook and corner of modern Metro's. Even the most simplest of these temples in Udupi and its neighboring towns has a profound energy. It makes you want to believe.

One this visit, with my parents, we were pleasantly surprised to find 2 priests in the temple. A younger one, doing his traditional sandhyavandan, and the other an older person, age showing profoundly on him. Years of prayers and service had taken its toll on him, he was easily over 70. He sat leaning on the pillar, smiling at the rare evening visitors, who were obviously from out of town.

He looked at Mum, and then at me.

"Where are you from?"

Temples played a major role in society, in some places they still do. The senior temple priest knows everyone who is part of the society, or is supposed to be at least. I have no idea how they remember it, but they do. They know your great grandfather, their houses, their families, where they went, everything. No drop down reminders, no memory cards, nothing. Its like the Temple was the Google of the last decade. My mum dived into a quick Village-Grandfather-Husband-Family summary that lasted whole of 20 seconds. Practiced veterans, them mom's I tell you.

"Ah." He looked up, perhaps recalling the index and relevant pages from his memory. (Assassins Creed memory blockesque)

He looked at me with those grey eyes. I like eyes, I look intently at them sometimes. And I have this image of old people and grey eyes. My Granny, Grandpa, random Old People, all of them.The reasons could be many,  Browns and Blacks fading overtime, getting weary of not being able to connect to a world that is vastly different from their prime, a world that doesn't care for them anymore. Or maybe I'm just prejudiced to grey. This old man had grey eyes. Twinkling, grey eyes.

Mom was on a quick narrative of my move to Mumbai, Dad out to get some stuff for the Puja.

"Your house was right behind the Shop, no? I knew your uncle, he was a good friend. A gem."

Mom nodded in acceptance.

"A long time ago, we were friends. I had once gone to his home, for some Plantain Leaves for a temple feast. He was just about to sit for a meal. Do you know what he did ? "

 He was animated, the beads in his neck clicking together, adding to the drama. You could hear a pin drop in that silence.

"He got up from his seat, and took me right into that huge plantation.Acres together you see, as far as the eye can see.. And on the spot, he himself cut down much more than what I needed."

Getting up from a meal was a big deal those days. Something I follow even to this day.

I noticed his right arm was very thin. It was almost immobile. Only his fingers were gesturing. Must have been very difficult to not have the proper use of your right arm, especially when you are a temple priest. Or so I presumed.

"He came all the way to the bus stop and waited with me for the bus. What a fine gentleman he was."

Mom mentioned to him that uncle had passed away. And so had some of his sons. He didn't seem to hear us.

"60 years ago, child. We were friends from then. We were friends till he left us"

I noticed his eyes had welled up. Maybe out of emotion, maybe out of dryness. Coincidence? I don't think so. My mind began wandering. Here was an old man, weak in strength, strong in spirit. Remembering his friends of old, and probably in this age, suffering from what we already have begun suffering at a much earlier age - Loneliness.

"That's what friends were in that age. You make friends only once, and then you cherished them." And then he got into the regular discourse that all old people do - rue this age and its inhabitants, technology, and of people who mistake life for materialism and meaningless, superficial relationships.

I looked at him. He looked piercingly at me. I was staring now, my mind wandering into the ramifications of what he had said. I don't believe in coincidences. In a temple that has always been empty when we visited, to meet an old man who spoke of my grand uncle, and who looked at me as if he was looking through me. Profound.

Dad came back, and we completed the Puja. The Old man gave us the prasad, and blessed us. We left, me thinking of the last 15 minutes, the Old man, back to looking into nothingness.

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If you are from the South of Karnataka, you would be familiar with the term "Daiv'd mane" which in Kannada translates to home of the Deity. It's hard to explain, but its something like a Demi-God, who is more in touch with the immediate locality and families that are associated with them, and is associated with immediate well being or suffering. As every family has their family "Kula-Devasthan" (Ancestaral/Family Temple) there is also a Kula Daiv'd mane, or Demi God home/temple. There are elaborate ceremonies held, and while each Daiv' has a unique strength and weakness (Forgive the MBA terminology) they are particularly invoked as and when there is a problem or an issue in the town / Family.

They can get angry, upset, be happy and gift you with riches, curse you, irritate you, and so on. They can be pleased by simple ceremonies, or elaborate sacrifices. But they are powerful and are very much around. Or So it is believed.

While some may dismiss this as Superstition, I urge you to not mock it. I have seen unbelievable things happen, with many people.

My take on these belief's is a bit different. I respect them, and question them, But out of curiosity rather than doubt.

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