Many many years ago, when Darshini had just started school while Sindhu went to nursery ,we were living in a little flat of 4 rooms totaling 400 sq ft. on Upper Bazaar Street, right in the centre of Ooty town. One day we had two visitors. They had been given our address by my sister Karthy who was working in Trivandrum. One was her house owner and the other, his friend. They’d come to look around Ooty. Their easy assumption that they would be staying with us, took my breath away and with it my words and the objections that rose in my mind.
Two memories have stayed with me.
I had a collection of 20-30 pots on the tiny balcony of which I was rather proud. My idea of gardening then was to buy pots from the market, fill them with mud from the side of the road, get some small cuttings from friends ; plonk the pots on the balcony and water them assiduously. There was green enough for me to think it was all working well. Till this gentleman from green Kerala pronounced ‘not one healthy plant among them’. Since my plants are still not winning prizes, I can’t say I really learnt a big lesson from this..
The other was that the visitors wanted to go to the Narayana Gurukulam. I had never heard of the place in the Ooty chukker of Boat-house-garden-Doddabetta. Well, being enterprising people they found their way there without any assistance from me. I was intrigued that people from so far away knew something about Ooty that I hadn’t heard of.
But, it was a couple of years later that I got to visit the Narayana Gurukulam after I acquired a Keralite friend. Narayana Guru was a saint, sage, social reformer who did much to transform the caste ridden society of Kerala. He established several temples and educational institutions. His disciple, Natarja Guru established the Narayana Gurukulam at Ooty. His successor, Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yeti stayed here for long periods. People talk of him as larger than life and a man of great intelligence and zest for life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to interact with him.
The Gurukulam is a place which seems to have bridged the gap between the spiritual and practical, with an air of peace and acceptance. Small buildings are scattered over the campus; there is a beautiful shrine to the gurus filled with light and silence; a Zen maze where one walks to find solutions to problems (you walk through the maze all the while focusing on your problem and you should come out with the answer or the beginnings of one in your mind), the house where Guru Chaitanya Yeti used to live, a hall for programs and housing for the monks and guests.
After a long gap, last week I was at the Gurukulam for its annual function to celebrate the birthday of Narayana Guru . Prayers and talks are followed by ‘annadhanam’ and then a program of dance and music. This time, a friend of ours was the speaker. Mr. B.J.Krishnan, a lawyer and keen advocate for the environment and conservation spoke on his pet subjects. It was a bright sunny day and the function, held among the trees and graceful buildings, was so peaceful. The audience listened in absolute silence to the speakers.
Lunch followed – served on long benches set out under the trees. Without the usual hustle and pushing; it was so good. People had to wait for empty plates – each one had to wash his own – and there was no sign of anxiety or hurry.
In a flight of fancy, I wished that Sindhu’s wedding could be conducted in similar style, without excessive formalities or tension and people relaxing and enjoying just being there.