The Brahmin

Amma came back around 7pm, carrying a brown paper bag.
“You want to see what I bought for you?”
The packet looked small and it certainly wasn’t the usual news paper bag you get at the grocery store. But somehow I still hoped that she bought all the ingredients for the ona sadya.
“What did you buy Amma?” Liza was jumping up and down.
Amma slowly opened the brown paper bag and pulled out 2 bags of banana chips.
“See, I bought onam chips for all of you. Even if your father isn’t here, I still make sure my children get to eat the chips!”
I wanted to tell my mother, chips doesn’t equal an ona sadya. I couldn’t tell her that, because at that moment, my mother was revelling in the thought that she is providing the best for her children, even with the absence of my father.

In the night I over heard Akkachi asking Amma
“Chechy, can I go to the temple in the morning?”
“ofcourse you can”
I ran all the way to the kitchen
“May I go with Akkachi to the temple?”
I regretted the moment the words came out of my mouth. Now I am to hear the thing about us being suriani kristiani and how we shouldn’t accompany the servant to a temple. I looked at my mother expecting to hear the insults.
But she didn’t. She just grunted” hmm”
I continued looking at her, waiting for her outburst.
I saw Amma taking some chips from the packet and going out of the kitchen.
I turned around and looked at Akkachi
“Did you see that? Amma told me I could go to the temple with you. Which temple are you going to tomorrow Akkachi?”
“Nina, are you sure you want to get up early in the morning and walk all the way to the temple with me?”
“Ofcourse I do. Are you going to the Thirunakkara temple?”
“Akkachi,don’t forget to wake me up in the morning”
“Ok, I will, Now go and sleep. You have to get up early in the morning”

“Nina wake up” Akkachi was trying to shake me and wake me up.
I got up, sleepily but excited, because today is Thiruvonam(first day of Onam) and I can go to the temple with Akkachi.
“Here, something for you”
Akkachi placed something in my hand and in the darkness I couldn’t really see what it was. I felt around the thing in my hand. It was a coin.
“What is this for Akkachi?”
“It is kaineettam for you Nina”
“Really? Can I use this money?”
“Ofcourse you can”
“Will I be able to buy a coconut with this money?”
“Oh Nina” Akkachi hugged me. “Nina, I know you want to celebrate onam with a sadya. But we won’t get a coconut for 25 paise. This is all the money I have”
“Never mind Akkachi”
“Go and take your shower, there is hot water in the bucket”
“Shower in the morning? Why?”
aiyyedi you thought you can go to the temple without having your shower ah?
“How will the bhagavan know if I took my shower or not?” I asked her
“Bhagavan may not know, But I know and you are not following me, without taking your shower”
“You know something Akkachi, it is really difficult to live with you. I pity the guy who will have to live with you for the rest of his life.”
“You don’t have to worry about him, That is my job to worry about him, now go and have your shower, or I am going without you”
“Ok, ok. Don’t go without me, I will have my shower”
The water was warm and it really felt good to have my shower in the early morning. I wore my green long skirt with golden border and the matching blouse. The skirt was atleast 2 inches above my ankle. I was relieved that, my classmates won’t see me now. If they did, they would surely ask”Why Nina, is there a flood? Is that why you tie your skirt so high”

Akkachi knocked at the bathroom door and spoke “Kochumaharani, have you finished your neerattam(royal bath)?”
“I am just wearing my dress, Akkachi, I will come out in a minute”
Akkachi was waiting by the door with a comb in her hand.
“Hurry Nina, we have to go now”. She quickly combed my hair. We closed the door gently behind us. Amma and my sisters were still sleeping.

It was still dark, the sky was turning grey to blue slowly. Children were busy singing and decorating Athapoo in the courtyards of the houses. There was joy and happiness everywhere. Everyone was ready to invite King Mahabeli for his annual visit.
Akkachi and I walked past the bus stand and the row of shops near the stand. We reached a huge stone monolith and Akkachi looked at the stone and said
athmavinu shanthi undavatte”(may your soul find peace)
“Why did you say that to the stone Akkachi?”
“Nina, this stone was actually a woman many years ago. She was cursed and she became a stone”
“Who is she? and Who cursed her?”
“I don’t know”
“Then why do you wish her peace ?”
“I don’t lose anything by wishing her, Nina. Every woman deserve peace Nina.”
We walked up the steps to the temple sanctum. I removed my slippers and went inside with Akkachi. There was a huge oil lamp and the diety looked beautiful under the light.People were walking around slowly muttering their prayers. I walked behind Akkachi, as she walked around the outer temple three times. I remembered Upadeshi Appachan and how he scolded Ammachi and me for going to the temple to watch Kathakali. I wondered what he would say, now that I am already inside the temple. I stood with Akkachi again in the main sanctum and the poojari came out with a lamp and and everyone touched the top of the flame and brought their hands to their eyes. I did too, but I wasn’t sure what I was doing that for. Then the Pujari brought some water and I extended my hand and he poured some water in to my hand. I drank that. Pujari gave everyone some flowers that were placed in the brass plate. With the flowers in her hand, Akkachi closed her eyes again and prayed. I realized then that I haven’t prayed. I was only watching till now.
I remembered the 10 commandments. ‘Worship no other god but me’. I looked at the diety again. He still looked beautiful and peaceful. I didn’t have a huge lists of wants. I only wanted one thing. I wanted my father back. I felt I am a suriani Kristiani in a Brahmin’s body. All I wanted was a simple request. I just couldn’t pray. I walked out of the temple with Akkachi. I stood outside to wear my slippers and I could still see the diety and the brass lamp. I was outside the temple and now I felt I am not breaking the commandments. I slowly prayed
“Please bring me back my father” I walked quickly away from the temple, hoping that Jesus won’t punish me for praying to a diety.

I found this link for the Thirunakkara temple.
To those of you, who hasn’t heard about the onam festival, more can be read here.
Does anyone know if that huge rock is still there infront of the Thirunakkara temple?

20 thoughts on “The Brahmin

  1. Hi– i have been reading ur post for sometime but never commented–all ur posts are nice but some are sad too–
    i always wished to enter a temple but it never happened!!
    i look forward to read ur post everyday.
    i think more or less the same time we landed in canada. i am in toronto.
    i wish i got an onam sadhya now—As i am expecting now– i really miss kerala food–

  2. hey,this is one of the best posts i’ve read on yr blog.great.that morning freshness and liveliness of onam is surely out there in the lines !

    nicely done

  3. Sarah,

    This post reminded me an instance where we friends went to Guruvayoor and one of the guy who was x’ian said .. “Ente Karthaave, Enna valiya Queue vaa”. Huh we were really scared that day, if someone would have heard that. He He …

    And its PalliNeerattam and not neeraattam.. When you add Palli only it becomes Royal

  4. I gues when u luk back u had a beautiful onam with chips and visit to the temple,even without the sadhya..

    I luv ur natural way of writing, thw way u relate incidents straight from ur heart.. I dnt knw if i can relate to it more as im also a so-caleld ‘Suriani Kristiani’ from so-called ‘madhya thiruvithancore’ (groan..).. But i fell as if im living the story thru ur words..

  5. Ya Sara, the huge rock is still there in front of the temple, in the middle of the road, untouched by the developers. Yes, the changing seasons had eroded it a little. By the way, what my Oommen sir told me was the stone was a low-caste MAN who once tried to enter the temple sanctum sanctorum and was cursed by the deity. According to his version of the legend, the stone moves a little towards the temple each year and when it finally reaches the sanctum sanctorum, the world will end!

  6. Lovely. “every woman deserves peace” = well said!
    Sarah, out of curiousity; what happened to your home in Kerala? When was the last time you were there?

  7. I hope one day you will compile your writings and publish it. It is a real page turner. I eagerly wait for each new posting.
    Thank you for sharing your memories with us. My life is sort of similar with yours in the sense that it took a traumatic turn when I was 11, when my brothers died.

  8. Jac: thank you

    Manju: Thank you for leaving a comment.. if you are coming to vancouver..let me know.. I will cook a super sadya..

    maya: they do..

    Thanu: there is joy in wearing a pattu pavada.. When my daughter was a yr old, I got her a pavada..

    Sujit: it is especially true, when you see people kill in the name of religion..

    Starrynights: thank you..

    BVN: what shall i say?? Thank you wouldn’t be enough

    Dhanush: You know..I always enjoyed going to temple.. there was never a routine..nothing..though I was always worried if I they would throw me out,when they realize that I am a suriani kristiani..ut it never happend..and thanks for the correction..
    BTW: do you know why the pujari at vaikom temple asks” athazham kazhikkathavar undo? before closing the nada?

    Neihal: tht visit to the temple, I will never forget.. even after 25 yrs.. i can still remember tht morning..

    Rose: Honestly I hd a lot of cultural identity crisis…Malaysian, malayalee, kristiani, brahmin ancestors..I am not 100% of one.. and that is the hardest part..

    Anon: from Chengannur.. ah.. then you will know what I am missing.. thank you for visiting my blog

    Chandu: I was told tht it is a woman, cursed for entering the temple and her athmavu will get mukthi.. when she reaches the temple door.. I am still fascinated abt tht rock.. The last time I was in Kerala, i tried to find out more abt tht rock.Nobody seems to know. Only thing they say is, tht area was known formerly as Nakkara kunnu.. and the rock is the last remaining piece of the kunnu..

    Cynthia: My wonderful father sold the house.. I was last there in 1994.. for a day.. for 4 hours to be precise..

    Anon: it must hv been hard to lose your brothers.. Life never stays the same.. I know.. Thank you for reading my blog

    Silverine: I was trying to knock as many doors as possible.. all i wanted was him to come back.. So I was willing to risk going to hell i guess

    Has to be me: I too was surprised tht she let me go..

  9. As Chandu says, the rock is still very much there with all the traffic flowing around it.
    May you have a good Onam this year, with a complete sadya & athapoo et al, with your family.

  10. Ohh theres a rock? Humm i guess knowing about the temple before going would have helped – its in the middle of bustling traffic though – its a nice temple – but kottyam has a lot of wonderful churces – did u visit any particular one?

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