Friday, September 5, 2008

Chapter 44

The new year (2008) started for me with yet another visit to Nemili. There were a few wedding related events coming up on the 2nd and 3rd of January and I drew strength from the members of Nemili Peetam.

The actual wedding day dawned. The first message on my cell phone was from Babaji.
It read (translated from Tamil):

Not only on this day, for this function, but for all the events in your family, Bala and her Family will be with you!

Sri Ezhilmani and his guests from Nemili, including members of the Bala Parayanam group were expected to arrive at the wedding hall around 9.30 a.m. I had made arrangements for everything to be in place to receive my honoured guests with respect.

However, just as my husband and I went out to stand at the entrance of the wedding hall, the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. This was no slight drizzle, but a deafening downpour. People standing near me commented with amazement “ Who has ever heard of rain during the month of Margazhi? It’s just not the time of year for rains!”

As if blessed by a divine downpour, the convoy of cars from Nemili soon arrived.
It was also truly a miracle that the rain ceased completely the minute that this blessed family walked in!

My husband and I garlanded Sri Ezhilmani and his wife as they stepped off the car. An arathi was done and we welcomed all the members of his family inside the wedding hall and took them in for breakfast.

As he walked inside Sri Ezhilmani commented, “Bala has certainly made sure that this wedding will be different. She sent her blessings by causing that sharp, downpour.
“See”, he gestured outside, “It has completely stopped raining”.

I must have been in a state of nervous excitement that day, because at that time, I didn’t comprehend the full import of his sayings.
Writing about all these happenings today, nearly six months later, I realize only now the magnitude of the task accomplished by Bala to see this wedding through!

The wedding day would have been completely ruined if it had rained incessantly that morning.

Meanwhile, the pre- muhurtham functions had started. The bride and groom were now seated on a flower bedecked swing and customary rituals were being carried out.
Soon the members of Sri Bala Peetam congregated in the wedding hall and started the Parayanam.
It was a moment of true happiness. It was as if my dream had actually come true. Many were the nights I had prayed to Bala that the only music I should hear at the wedding must be Her songs. And this request had been granted.

While the parayanam was in progress, I remained on the dais along with the bride, groom and my husband as there were a few more rites to be performed. When the parayanam ended, we requested Sri Ezhilmani and his wife to come up on the stage. A large poster with a beautiful image of Bala was held up and Sri Ezhilmani himself did the Arathi , while all of us sang in chorus :
Ulagathai Kaakkum Oru Baala,
Nemili Nagar Aalum Arul Baala”

( Hail to Bala who protects the world and rules at Nemili).

Following this, Sri Ezhilmani and his wife blessed the “thirumangalyam” and the wedding saree. Both bride and groom did a Namaskaram to this revered couple, and my daughter then walked into the adjoining room to change into the traditional nine-yards saree.

Now, according to the planned schedule, my assumption, as well as the intention of Sri Ezhilmani , was that he and his wife would bless the couple after the “thali” was tied.

Somehow, that morning, the unseen force (Bala) guided the events. The “parayanam” had started off a bit later than planned. Sri Ezhilmani made a short introductory speech on the stage. The arathi ceremony was conducted and presents were handed over by him to the couple. Then, Sri Ezhilmani and his wife blessed both the “thaali” , wedding saree , and the couple “before” the actual muhurtham or tying of “the knot”.

I tried not to glance at our family priest. I realized that the little happening on the stage had caused a bit of delay in the proceedings and the Muhurtham time that had been fixed at “just past 12 p.m.” had already passed. I could see that the priest was a bit nervous and kept looking at his watch. However, things could not be hurried. It was Bala who had the last say that morning.

It was past 12.15 p.m. by the time my daughter emerged in her nine- yards saree. Some more time elapsed while the groom performed a few essential rites. It was a full half-hour later than the prescribed time that the groom finally married my daughter by tying the “thaali” that had been blessed by Bala and her family.

As I stood on the stage looking down at the assembled crowd, I noted with happiness that every single member of Sri Ezhilmani’s extended family had come down to attend this function. Right from Great Grandma (Baby Amma’s mother), down to the tiniest babe in arms were present. Baby Amma informed me that their house in Nemili was fully locked up, with not a single person left behind!

As far as I was concerned, this was Bala’s day. Every single incident that had preceded the wedding and those that had occurred during the wedding had been fully known to her and blessed by her. Events had been turned around; help and support had been extended from unexpected quarters and most importantly, the actual marriage ceremony had proceeded smoothly with no undue obstacles.

I stayed by Sri Ezhilmani’s side as the family sat down for the luncheon feast. It was only after the entire family had been shown due respect , given Tamboolam, and had departed, that I left to attend other duties.

Looking at the happy faces of my daughter and son-in-law, I thanked Bala sincerely from the bottom of my heart.
I recollected a line from one of Babaji’s songs :

“Naan Ninaikindren, nee muddikkindrai
Naan azhuginren, nee sirrikinrai
Vazhve nee thaan
Ninaithidum nigazchikal
Nighaznthidum vazhvile”


I think (of events) You bring them(thoughts) to fruition,
I cry, (while) you smile,
(my) Life consists of only You,
Actions (I) dream of,
Are accomplished (by You) in (my) Life.

The event Bala had planned and executed was over and shortly thereafter, my daughter and her husband departed back to the U.S. My husband left for London and I stayed on in Chennai.

For quite some time before the wedding, I had been thinking of doing another painting of Bala. However, I needed a divine command before I could proceed, and this had occurred on my visit to the Peetam on New Year’s day, just before the wedding.
I was to draw a large portrait of this young child- goddess seated on a lotus, similar to the painting I had given to the temple at Rochester. This was the persistent thought in my mind on New Year’s day at the Peetam. I was being commanded to paint a large image of a seated child- Goddess.

It was my intention to finish this portrait in time for Sri Ezhilmani’s 70th birthday on February 3rd, 2008.

Soon after my guests had departed, around the 8th of January, I bought all the painting materials and drawing paper. However, though I tried as hard as I could for two days, I could not draw a single line. I prostrated at the feet of Sri Ezhilmani and asked him for his blessings. He said in his usual casual manner: “I’m sure you will draw a beautiful portrait of Bala. She is always with you”.
I went back home that day and called a few members of the Bala Parayanam group who had supported me immensely during the wedding. This time, I requested them to pray that I could successfully complete this new task.
Then I set to work.

As I normally do, while drawing portraits, I listened to Bala’s songs on the numerous CDs as well as to Babaji’s speeches and the Golden words of Wisdom he had compiled.
The days sped by quickly and very soon, the pencil drawing was finished. Bala’s eyes proved to be the most difficult to draw and I beseeched her constantly to allow me to represent her in all her glory. Almost , at the very moment I had finally finished penciling in her eyes, the phone rang and one of my friends from the peetam asked me if I had just finished the drawing. She called me at that very moment, since she had received repeated mental messages from Bala telling her the picture was done.

I took this as a cue not to alter anything in the drawing and started to paint the image.
Within a week’s time, I had finished this painting. Next, I had to decorate Bala with diamonds, rubies and emeralds!
I did this enjoyable work with love and gratitude in my heart, paying great care and attention. When I had finished this entire work, I carefully lifted the cardboard on which it was done and propped it up against the wall, so that I could step back and get a good look.

To my utmost astonishment, it appeared as if Bala looked “angry”. The expression in her eyes were stern and not at all the peaceful look I thought I had projected!

There was nothing I could do to alter the eyes at this late stage. For a few moments, I just sat down and meditated on Bala “Please help me” was all I could manage to say!

I decided to visit a few nearby temples and get out of the house for a while. “Perhaps”, I thought to myself, “I’ve been sitting with the painting for so many days, I have lost my sense of judgment”.

I went out for a couple of hours that evening, leaving the finished painting lying on the large dining table.

I came back, feeling more at peace with myself. I hastened to the dining table to look at my painting again.
What I perceived was extraordinary. Gone was that look of anger in Bala’s eyes. Instead, here was a young child, smiling calmly at me, with a twinkle in her eyes!

I stared at the portrait again . There was absolutely no trace of fierceness or anger in Bala’s eyes! I could not understand what happened . Surely, I hadn’t been mistaken before?

In any case, there appeared to be no explanations and I went to bed that night, puzzled yet relieved that the painting had come out well in the end.

The painting was ready to be framed. However, during the next few days, I had the opportunity to make an interesting pilgrimage to visit the Nava ( nine) Narasimhars at Ahobilam in Andhra Pradesh.

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