The silence was eery. I had to speak something
I asked her”Who is Bhagavathy?”
“She is Lord Shiva’s wife” Ammachi replied
“Do you know the story behind the Bhagavathi temple? She asked me.
I shook my head again
“Long ago, Siva was getting married to Parvathy on top of the kailas mountain. All the devas and their associates came for the wedding. Nobody wanted to miss the wedding dinner. There was 1000 varieties of payasam.”
“All the devas and junior devas started to crowd along one side of the mountian. I am sure there were all rushing to eat the payasam like how the people crowd near the KSRTC bus door!!!”
“What will happen if 10000’s of devas stood on one side of the mountain?” She asked me
“It will crack and crumble “I told her
“not only the mountian will crumble, the earth too will tilt to one side”
I tried to picture the earth tilting to one side and all of us sliding to the other side. May be I would be able to see Taj Mahal.
“Lord Siva got worried, he didn’t want the earth to tilt. He asked his trusted saint Agasthya to go to the south and stay there and try to balance the earth. The saint was sad, not only he is going to miss the wedding, but also the wedding dinner and all the payasam”
Lord Siva pacified the saint saying, I will come with my wife and stay with you in the south after the wedding. The saint came to Chengannur and built the Bhagavathi temple. Lord Siva and his wife Parvathi did come and stay in this temple”
“Ammachi do you really think it happend?”
“Nina. Do you really believe Jesus Christ came to save us?”
“Of course I do. It is said in the bible”
“Well the hindu’s have their puranas, and who are we to say it isn’t true?”
When we entered the temple ground, there were many people. I didn’t know a single person. But I did notice, most of the people giving way to Ammachi, as though she is a celebrity. We walked all the way to the front. Ammachi placed the mat on the ground and both of us sat down
Some one sitting next to my grandmother asked
Ammachi nodded her head.
“This is her first time watching Kathakali and I hope she will enojoy it”
Soon Ammachi told my entire life history to everyone around. That my father works for the British Government, that all of us were born in Malaya.
“It is not Malaya, Ammachi, It is Malaysia”
“It is the same”. She replied
Now everyone started looking at me as though I just landed from Moon. I pretended not to notice the attention I was getting and looked at the stage infront of us. There was nothing interesting except few palm leaves hanging here and there. An old cloth canopy hung on top of the stage as though it really didn’t want to be there. The only thing of interest in the whole stage was the lamp. it was a brass lamp and it was tall. Defenitely taller than me.It was the tallest lamp I have ever seen.
Then the banging on drums and cymbals started. After some songs, two men came to the stage with a small piece of cloth. They held it on either side like a mini curtain. The singer was singing and I didn’t understand a thing.
Then the Kathakali dancer started dancing behind the curtain. Every now and then he would lift his head over the curtain as though he is looking for someone.
“Ammachi why is he peeping? Is he looking for his family?”
“Nina, that is part of the dance. it is called thiranokku . He is representing the Lord Krishna today and creating a feeling of suspense.”
Then they removed the cloth and there were 2 players. One male and one female.
“Ammachi, why does the female looks like a man”
“Oh Nina, that is a man, who is acting a female part”
“Why are they not hiring females to act?”I asked
“Shh..you are talking too much. keep quiet and watch the show”.
I tried to understand what the dance is all about. All I saw was the eyes and how they rolled their eyes to football size.
I must have slept off, because all I remember is Ammachi shaking me and telling me to wake up.
“What time is it Ammachi?”
“Must be about 4.30AM”
“Ammachi and I walked home. Just as we reached the bund junction, Ammachi took the match box from inside her mundu and lighted the palm leaf bundle. In the darkness of the night, the palm leaf torch suddenly bathed the area around us with light. I could even see the grass on the ground with the light from the torch. Ammachi kept swaying the torch with her hand, so the fire won’t die out and we reached home.