Faith stories from the heart – 1

Faith comes to us in various ways but there is always a beautiful soul in the story of faith.

Do you know the Skanda Shashti Kavacham? Its a song or a sloka comprised of 244 lines, written by Devaraya Swamigal in praise of Lord Muruga, where he asks the Lord to protect him and grace him. Whenever Skanda Shashti Kavacham is mentioned, it is Sulamangalam Sisters who come to my mind. Their rendition of this slokam (the tune, music and the pauses inclusive) is what I learnt from and it’s what I will remember forever. Kavacham means armor and the words in the sloka are the perfect armor to us.

I learnt this Skanda Shashti Kavacham when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My appa’s cousin sister, Viji athai was the beautiful soul which brought this Skanda Shashti Kavacham to my life. She taught me and my sister in the same tune as what the Sulamangalam sisters have sung. When I think of Viji athai, all that comes to my mind is her beautiful eyes full of life, her long hair plaited and the simple down to earth attitude of hers. She is one of the persons I adore with all my heart.

Is there a reason for learning this slokam? Maybe there was which I understood much later in life.

As I hit puberty, along came the cramps which was (and is) very painful. Generally in a Tambram household, the rules were very strict and menstruating women were not allowed to go inside the house and touch anyone. They were not allowed to pray, cook or do anything inside the house.

But my paati was an angel. Even though we were not allowed to go inside the house or touch anyone,  I was so happy when my patti said that I can recite the Skanda Shashti Kavacham. To allow me to pray during the cycle days was indeed a great thing which my paati did. My thatha encouraged my paati to give me hot food, which again was not the norm. My paati was more broad minded than others in many ways. Even though she couldn’t overcome her self-laid rules on touching us during those menstrual days, she did give us a lot of levy on other things. We, I and my sister, were attended to with much respect and taken care of nicely.

Reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham was a boon for me, as I saw myself being relieved of my pain. Whether it was my belief in the sloka or in Lord Muruga or the mere fact that I got used to the pain and in due course overcame it – whatever, I loved the recital of that slokam. It pacified my mind and may be numbed me to the pain.

Even today, as an adult, I automatically start reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham the moment I feel there is a need to heal the body. Its a kind of faith in those 244 lines, which the brain accepts as medicine to heal. Its the faith of a small girl who healed herself to her greatest astonishment. And its a faith with which I live.

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Remembering Appa…esp today!

With so many ads and reminders in the TV and social media, one just cannot skip the fact that today is the special day for fathers. When one day is never enough for celebrating the father-daughter relationship, this day can be the affirmation day of such a beautiful love.

I’ve written so much about my Appa before, here in this space.

There are many things I adored in my father and I greatly respected him for that. One such thing is the simple fact of giving us the space to find our foothold.

This man, my Appa, needs to be applauded for the simplest fact that he just let me make my decisions on what to study, where to study, where to take up a job and he quietly supported me in my endeavor to make a difference in the world.

Out of all the support he gave me, I consider this incident to be the best in his life as a father, for it meant a great deal to me, then and now.

I was working with a company’s research department, after my college. Even though my dream then was to work with Microsoft, this was the most coveted job among my classmates. And I was the lucky one to get through the rigorous training, which made me the happiest one ever. Appa was elated to know about the job and he was so proud of me, which meant the world to me.

Over a time frame of two to three years, I felt a natural shift inside me to search for something else as I felt that that the job I was doing, was not my calling. I started feeling a natural boredom in the place of passionate research. I just wanted this whole thing to sort out by itself. It just took me some more time to realize that whatever change that needs to happen in my life, will happen only because of my decision to change.

And one fine day, as I was sitting and pondering in my chair, I just wrote a resignation letter and submitted and quit the job. Phew…I felt relief. I didn’t know my next course of action. But I was open for new things to happen as I was free of those things which held me back.

I came home by afternoon. Appa, thatha and patti were having lunch. Appa asked me “Ennachu?” (What happened?) I told him that I just quit my job as I didn’t feel like continuing in that job and that I wanted to do something else. It sounded strange to my ears as I was prepared to let go of that engineering studies and its related job profile, while I was the one to go for it after school.

He just smiled and said “Just sit and eat” – just pure acceptance of me, my decision and whatever I wanted to do later. My God! What a relief it was for me for such blinded acceptance from my Appa. It just made me to work harder and to get back in a good job about which my Appa will be proud again. Even though I did things for myself, I secretly aimed at making my Appa proud.

Today, I sit back and reflect all these, as my daughter has quit her job and come home to take a break and there is this smile of acceptance and support from her father and I feel grateful for such fathers in this world.

For without such understanding fathers, we daughters are never complete.

Sunday musings – God dwells inside us…

With the birth of the Tamil month Karthigai, there begins the feverish activity all around the southern states, where people decide to take up the 48 days viratham before going to take darshan of the Lord Ayappan at the end of this mandala. Those people who undertake the viradham wear the customary mala around their neck and wear black or blue colored dress.

This year is special at my place, as my husband has taken up this viratham for the first time. And I keep hearing to the dos and don’ts during this period of 48 days. This period is actually a preparation time for the devotees to take up the difficult path via the jungles to reach the Ayappan shrine in Sabarimala. The walking of barefoot, restricting food intakes to two meals per day, sleeping on the floor are a few things that might look like the luxuries of life are being given up. Devotees abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking, usage of curse words and other activities which are considered a vice.

There is a saying that anything that is done consistently for 21 days becomes a habit. And when something is done for 48 days, it becomes a way of life. And then I wonder how these people, who have made it their way of life for these 48 days, leave all this and go back to their vices after the darshan of the God!

In all these days of observing these people, I noticed that they call each other as “Sami” meaning God. And everyone is treated with the utmost respect during this viratham days.

There is also a viratham for people to go to Melmaruvathur Adi Parasakthi temple. And here everyone is called “Sakthi”. Here also people treat other devotees with utmost respect, during the viratham days.

Even to the primitive mind, this will strike a chord that the God dwells in each and every human. And this is not restricted only to the viratham days – God is inside each one of us always. While people call each other Sami or Sakthi, during these viratham days and then later spew enmity at each other after visiting the temple, just proves their constricted thinking or rather no thinking at all.

The terms used to call others are not for just showoff during viratham days. It’s a direct implication to the God (conscience / supreme power) inside every human being.

Let us open our minds to accepting that each one of us needs to respect the other person irrespective of this viratham.

Lessons yet again…

Recently my friend posted this on her timeline:

For a long time, it had seemed to me that life was about to begin…..
But there was always some obstacle in the way, 
something to be gotten through first, 
some unfinished business, 
time still to be served, a debt to be paid.
Then life would begin.

At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

  • – Alfred Souza

I would just make a small edit to the above quote – I would use “challenges” instead of obstacles. We think of them as obstacles when we don’t understand what is life all about. But when we understand that all those “so called obstacles” maketh our life, the right word becomes “challenges”.

I copied this quote in an effort to write a post, but its been more than 2 weeks and I’ve not written a word. The simple reason was there were many challenges to be met that didn’t give me time to sit in front of my keyboard. But throughout this time, my mind went around my archives of thoughts over the last two decades!

I was the peacefully-quiet-routine-loving woman. I loved my motherhood moments. Life was super fun or so I thought with the regular routines of managing a household. Shopping for home, for the girls, for friends were all major events I looked forward to. Walking, exercising, yoga were all done to burn my extra calories. Food was top priority and all the chores revolved around it, everyday. Get-together with friends, breakfast meets, weekly dinner meets were on the cards. I had my own house and I was feeling on top of the world that I was finally settled. But there was this feeling inside which said that life is not complete with this routine. I just didn’t know what it was that I was missing. But I just didn’t allow that feeling to grow nor did I listen to it. The fun which I having felt more wonderful.

There were moments when I missed my career but one look at my daughters erased any such thoughts. Being with them was my own choice over a career and I was having the time of my life.

Fast forward to the last five years…

We moved base to Chennai and selling our house at Hyderabad was a logical decision. It tore me up but I went ahead to do it. That was like the first jolt of those “challenges” in my life.

When the husband started his own business, I joined with him full time. Little did I know what I was expecting with that jump.

I was shaken up from my reverie of to-do lists – there was no routine for any day. This bothered me a lot in the beginning as I just can’t tolerate change of plans; even a power failure will make me annoyed at things.

There were times when things were not in my control and I was helpless; but I was feeling guilty like silly…

Schedules kept changing…

And I was apprehensive to this feeling of things not happening the way I want them to happen.

After repeatedly facing unplanned days and events and after repeated knocks on the thinking door in my mind, I hit the Zen moment…

It was a hard earned truth; the learning to let go! I accepted that each day is different and new things can be done each day in a different way. I learnt that the routine 9-5 job is boring and this was like living life to the fullest. The mystery of not knowing what’s next and what the next day is bringing to me is absolutely exciting. Am learning to love this excitement.

Along with it, came the realization to “love myself” as it led to inner peace of mine. When I am my usual critical self, my efficiency goes down. But making mistakes and accepting them with a smile helps me in dealing with the mistake by giving a solution to it.

I’ve understood that being absolutely busy 24*7 is such a blessing, as the mind is always focused on the challenge at that moment. It helps in overcoming negative thoughts, wild imaginations about situations and wondering what others are thinking about me…

I feel much lighter and I don’t stress too much on following my rigid practices at home. I don’t stress when I am not able to cook – yeah…surprise there! I sternly remind myself not to look at the heap of unfolded clothes…yup, that’s certainly not my usual self! These days, I cook something so that there is food to keep us going. And sometimes I choose my outfit from the heap of unfolded clothes! The interesting fact is that there are no hard feelings about this to myself!

My work is my holy place and all that I do revolves around it. When Lord Krishna / Ganesha came calling, I didn’t stress myself for my usual elaborate food preparations. Rather, I prayed sincerely for 5 minutes and let the work take over the day. It felt very soothing when I didn’t criticize myself for not doing the kozhukattai or the seedai. Rather I was happy to give fruits as prasadam.

As they say, its all in the mind…its all in the thinking and am glad that am able to face up to my challenges in a more joyous way!

And today I say that there have been lessons which has been the result of my own experiences, which I am sure has made me happier and a better person.

Yes, I’ve changed but that’s what life is all about, right?

Happy birthday, my sunshine girl <3

Her smiling face is her passport
To all the good things that comes her way!
Her perseverance is her guiding light
To those amazing things that make up her life!

Her vivacity
Friendliness
Intelligence
The josh to live life on her own terms
Standing up for what she thinks is right
Her fiercely independent nature
Gives her the glow of joy of living!

She enthralls her group of friends
With her laughter
Lame jokes
And a great zeal for doing things!

Her clarity of thought
On things to do
On her studies
And way beyond too
Makes me so damn proud of her!

And this is the best time to thank God
For bringing her into my life
Through me
As she is the sunshine
Which I need everyday, to be!  

Happy birthday, my sunshine girl ❤

Thoughtful Thursday

A new temple to visit
New procedures to follow
Buy this color flowers for God…
Buy ghee for lighting lamps
So that your wish is fulfilled…
Start a puja cycle for 48 days…
Spread the paddy grains in front of God
And write your wishes
To find them fulfilled…
108 circumambulations will help…
Donate to the temple annadhanam…
Give your details and we’ll mail you prasadams…
The list is endless
For wishes to be fulfilled…
Every item in the list is followed
And more lists are welcome too…

But outside the temple
The old lady who is hungry is ignored…
The animals are shooed away when they come near…
Helping others is found time consuming…
People think that talking loud and arguing
Are the ways of this world…
Bargaining for a few rupees from a local seller
Is being the smart one…

Somewhere along this journey
In search of the never ending things of life
There is a heavy loss of humanity
And kindness…

Let our hearts soar like this gopuram
In reaching to the heights
Of humanity
In looking out for others…
In praying for others…
Talking a lot by being silent…
Doing an act of kindness everyday…
Bringing a smile to one person everyday…
That is rising above the ordinary – just like the gopuram!

This and that from a mother!

I remember the day she started loving paneer…
Its still so fresh in memory, the day she started having milk like other kids, overcoming her allergy to milk…
The day she stopped telling “buuuu” for any color I ask and started telling the colors so clearly without the hint of baby language…yes, I remember…
The day she stopped referring to herself with her self-made name “athroo” and started referring to herself as I / me / myself – very fresh in memory…
The day all the baby talk blabbering stopped…very much remember them…

Now, I wonder when her fav color changed from blue to pink or the other colors which she didn’t prefer before!
I
I wonder when she started preferring geometric designs on her dress!
When did she grow up so much to give psychological lessons to me!!
Or when did she become my mother to scold me for getting a headache..he he!
When did she start disliking her fav potatoes and started liking the fruit salad!

Am just sitting here and knowing about the changes suddenly, without any warning and am like, when did this happen!? I just sit and wonder about them, as they keep going through the changes.

As a birthday keeps approaching, the mommy is going through a lot of thought process…