Apr 20, 2013

Oppiliappan, the unparalleled one.

 Image courtesy: Divine Brahmanda

Markandeya could not believe what he just heard. "Is he out of his mind?", he wondered.

"It was all my fault. I should not have provided refuge to the old man who was on his way to somewhere. Why did I invite him into my house?", he asked himself.

The old man was seated across Markandeya and was trying to read through his mind. "Have you considered my proposal, Sir?", he asked.

Narayana was the elder brother of Lord Balaji, the mighty, rich and popular ruler of seven hills. At his prime age, he looked like a cupid with broad shoulders and thin waist. His tall appearance made him appear mighty and grand. There was a huge competition from the kings of nearby provinces who wanted to marry off one of their daughters to him.

But he did not like any of the princesses he was introduced to.

"I have decided to undergo a long journey in search of my dream girl", said Narayana. Lord Balaji knew that this day would come. But he did not expect it to come so early.

"But brother, you still have your age. I shall make arrangements for you to visit all the provinces which are under my control and be their guest. Maybe you will find one of their daughters to be your dream girl"

"I so want to believe your words come true. But dear brother, I have lost all my hopes. Moreover, my instinct is warning me against such belief. Something tells me that I'm searching for her at the wrong place."

Lord Balaji knew that his brother had made a decision and would not change his mind for whatever reasons. "At least allow me to make arrangements for some of our men to come with you and help you till you find your special someone", he said.

"That is not possible, Lord Balaji. I do not know how long it would take to find her. If it takes several years, I would be wasting the lives of those men for my own sake! I will not allow that to happen".

The next morning, Narayana left the palace of seven hills. His brother had made arrangements for food and shelter for Narayana till he was within the territory of seven hills. He had passed a word to all the kings from nearby provinces asking them to offer any help he may require, should he ask them.

That was forty years ago! During the passing years, Narayana had walked to all corners of the world and had met plenty of girls, none of whom looked even remotely like the girl he was searching to find. After an arduous journey to all around, he finally reached a small village located nearby Kudanthai, a temple town.

It was while he spent his previous night at Thanjavur that he heard from people about Rishi Markandeya who lives in an ashram near Kudanthai. He decided to pay him a visit.

A sudden surge of happiness beckoned him as he reached near the ashram. He could hear his inner voice saying his long search was about to end. "Markandeya is a Rishi. Through his penance, he has acquired immense knowledge of everything. Maybe he will tell me where to find my dream girl", he thought.

Markandeya welcomed the old man into his hut and offered him a meal. It was when Narayana was having his meal that he noticed her for the first time. He knew at that moment that she was the one he has been searching for all through his life!

"Her name is Bhumi", Markandeya introduced his adopted daughter to Narayana.

"Nice to see you", he said. "I have a feeling that we have met somewhere before", he added. Shyness enveloped her suddenly and so intensely when she heard him talking to her. She let out a smile at him and ran inside.

He felt sad at her sudden disappearance. He could not eat anymore. His breathing became uneven, and all through the while he was having his lunch, his eyes darted in search of her. He finished his meal in a haste, washed his hands and took a seat beside Markandeya.

"May I ask you what brings you here?", Markandeya asked.

"Your daughter", he replied instantly.

"I took a long journey a few decades ago in a quest to find my dream girl and marry her. There was so many princesses waiting for my nod to marry them. But I did not like any of them. My instinct told me that I would find my dream girl only when I take a long journey in search of her".

That was forty years ago! I have been to lots of places, met zillions of people and their daughters who wanted to marry me. But I could not marry them. At one point in my life, I even feared that I may never be able to find my dream girl. But my instinct had guided me all the way until I reached your place.

"It was when I saw Bhumi that I realized she is my dream girl. She is the one I have been searching for all my life. Will you please marry her off to me?"

"Markandeya could not believe what he just heard".

"My Lord, forgive me for saying this. But you are an old man. You may not live for long. How can I marry off my daughter to you? God forbid, what if something happens to you soon? My daughter is very young. No father would want to see her daughter suffering from loneliness for the rest of her life".

"I may be old, but I still have my age. I can still fight and rule from this place for the next hundred years!", he said.

"Let your words come true. But how will I know that she is your dream girl? What if it's your lust and not love that convinces you that she is your dream girl?"

Narayana reflected on that question for a long time. "Could he be true? Is it the lust or love that describes my feelings for her?", he contemplated on his own thoughts.

"Lust is like salt in a meal. I sure have a lust for her, but that does not explain all my feelings to her. Salt is added only for taste. Can anyone really have just salt as their meals?"

"True. But one who has tasted salt in his life will never be able to give it up. Humans would age with time, and so will my daughter. If you like the meal only because of its salty taste, you will soon get bored of her when the quantity of salt decreases with time".

"I certainly agree with you, sage Markandeya. Lust adds a flavor to life, but only love lasts forever. I promise you that I would never expect a meal from Bhumi with salt. This promise will be a symbolic gesture of my true love".

"My blessings to you and my daughter. With such a vow, you have become an unparallel human being. After your marriage, you will be named as Lord Oppiliappan, the unparalleled one".

Apr 18, 2013


"Why do you want to take your raincoat with you today?", my mom asked. "Its certainly not going to rain today".

How I wished it would rain that moment just to prove that my mom was wrong. Not that I so wanted it to rain though! It was only the previous day that my mom had bought me a new raincoat. Like any new items, I fell in love with it at first sight. I certainly did not want to leave it at home!

"Mom, you only told me that raincoats are like umbrellas. So what if it does not rain today? I can still wear it to get some shade from the sun".

"You have gone nuts", she mocked at my reply. "Here, take this. But be very careful", she warned, handing over the newly bought raincoat to me.

"I will mom", I assured her collecting the bag, inside of which contains the new raincoat, neatly folded.

I could not pay attention to any of the classes that day, for my mind was completely preoccupied with the raincoat. I took it out from its bag and placed it in my lunch bag to show off my prized possession to all my friends. "Let them feel envious", I thought.

The day ended with a final bell followed by reciting of our national anthem. As soon as it ended, I rushed out from my class, got into the first train I could catch and run all the way home.

"Why the hurry?", my mom asked when I reached home and gasped for breath.

"I just want to show you that I took very good care of my raincoat", saying so I opened my school bag only to find everything inside but for my new raincoat.

My little world tumbled down like nine pins. "Where did it go?", I asked myself while searching frantically.

I suddenly realized that I took it out and kept it in my lunch bag. In my haste to reach home, I had forgotten to pick it up from my desk!

What should have been the happiest night ever for me turned into a nightmarish sleepless night. "What if someone saw the raincoat and took it? Will they hand it over at the security office? Or will he take home with him saying finders, keepers?". That night was perhaps the only time in my life I had a sleepless night without having a single cup of coffee.

Next morning, I got up from my bed along with the first ray of sun, brushed, bathed, gulped cereal, grabbed my shoes and ran to the station to catch the first possible train. The school gate was opened only a few minutes ago when I reached it. "I left my raincoat in my class yesterday. Did anyone hand it over to the security office?", I asked our school watchman.

"No son. But the sweepers have just arrived and started their work. Perhaps they can tell you if they find or not", he replied.

From the entrance, I could see that the sweepers have not entered my classroom yet. I ran all the way to the classroom to see if I could find it before them.

I felt a huge relief when I saw the red color lunch bag sitting under my desk. When I approached it, I found the lunch box and water bottle inside. "But where is my raincoat?"

There was only one another school bag on the last bench. Perhaps he was early today and playing some games. "Would he have taken it?".

A part of me encouraged me to see in his bag, while the other half warned me against such thought. Conscience beckoned me to open the bag where I found my new raincoat, neatly folded. I felt elated in finding my raincoat again that I did not want to confront my classmate for stealing. After all, it was my mistake!

That evening, I made a conscious effort to pick my lunch bag with my raincoat inside. When I reached home, my mom asked: "Did you find it?".

"Yes! I replied", only to realize that this time I forgot to pick my lunch bag when I got down from the train!

Apr 12, 2013

Biking around Fort Collins

"I see you don't have a bike!", my friend said to me. It was his first visit to my apartment since we moved in to Fort Collins last October.

"My lab is just a ten minutes walk from here. I take a bus for going to other places", I replied to him. After some thought I added, "I had never felt a need for a bike".

The next morning, he came to my apartment with two bikes and said to us, "Take these bikes. You can use these to go to the college or for shopping".

Biking was my primary mode of transport until a year ago while I stayed in IIT Madras campus. Other than some rare occasions when there was a flat tire or my bike was sent for servicing, I had always preferred bike to commute from my hostel to lab, and beyond. The last time I rode a bike was when I moved out of 317cauvery for good. I had never biked since then!

Now that I have a bike, I want to give it a try. I bought a secure lock and took the bike out for the first time since we moved. Nostalgia hits me hard when I placed my right foot on the pedal and pushed it to move forward.

I learnt to ride a bike when I entered into a high school. Back in those days, my family did not own a bike. My brothers and myself would take a bike for rent from a nearby shop on an hourly basis and take turns to practise at a ground (which now houses a multi-storey apartment). I felt in love with biking so much that I asked my parents for a bike after scoring a centum in my tenth standard math exam.

Feeling worn out brought back my memories to present. I realized I was tired and was gasping for breath. I was sweating buckets under my fleece though the outside temperature was only 12 deg C! It was then that a realization dawned on me; biking is not only a great way to know Fort Collins better, but also to keep myself in shape!

Spring Fauna Pictures

Thanks to Jaisri for the last three stunning pictures of a chipmunk and an American Robin.