Blog post by Raj Vaidyanathan
While taking my Metrolink train to work as I am accustomed to, once every few months, I turned on my phone and started looking for the playlist that contained Rudram, Sacred Hindu Vedic Chant meant for the appeasement of Siva Peruman. I found myself asking this question, how did it all begin?
The earliest memory I have, is waking up to the chanting of Rudram rendered by my Thatha in the “Poojai Room”, this is early 80s we are talking. I wouldn’t have dared then to fathom that the resonance of my Grandfather’s and Periyappa’s voice would be replaced by an electronic device in quarter of a century. In my opinion, the whole concept of chanting vedas has at least 2 things going for it, the obvious one is to please the intended deity (you know, the angry one) and the second is to create a “sound” environment, when sacred mantras are uttered in harmony by scholars young and old, the entire place transforms into euphoria, one tends to get swept away in that wave, rather submits to it. Without an ounce of doubt, I was thatha’s “pet”, of the 4 grand children, it didn’t hurt that I was the eldest. We lived in a quasi medium-large joint family (9 of us altogether) and he was my de-facto teacher when it came to “Vedas”, among other things. I remember waking up early in the morning and he would start the teachings, he would say the line once and had me repeat it twice and it just worked like clock work. He started with Rudram, I must have been 8, barely and fairly quickly we moved on to “Chamakam” and all the “Sukthas”. He would explain, by chanting Rudram, we make Sivan happy, then we get to make a list of things we need by reciting “Chamakam”, sounds like a lot like quid pro quo now, but I digress. We attended countless “Mahanyasams” where we would recite Rudram not 1 but 11 times at least, interjecting chamakam after every interlude. One of my proudest moment from childhood was when I was allowed to do “siva poojai” at home, it wasn’t a small feat considering you could write my age using 1 digit, you think there are standard operating procedures in Corporate world? this was more complicated, you want to teach someone hand eye coordination, give them “kalpuram or soodam” as my patti put it, and the “Mani” and have them operate both in tandem.
Being thatha’s pet also meant lot of protection from the wrath of appa and amma, and patti was also an ally on my side, no matter how big my mischief or the offence (and I was a huge troublemaker), she would save the day by saying these un-overrideable words “avanai onnum sollade, kozhandai paavam”. There are so many precious moments for which I’d like a do over, not to change a single thing, keep them exactly how they happened, where’s H.G.Wells when you need him with his Time Machine? Then you had the relatives and random visitors who would compare me with thatha “asal avara madiriye irukkan Vaithu”, yeah, that’s how DNA works sir 🙂 My siblings and cousins were relatively younger when my thatha passed away, it is not to say they didn’t get spend time with him but I was clearly the lucky one who enjoyed every bit of, one of the most beautiful relationships, thatha and peran and TamBrahm culture played a huge part in it.