Flashback by Raj

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.

rudram

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.
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15 thoughts on “Flashback by Raj

  1. You are definitely entitled to your opinion. My question is, why indeed would you have an opinion? It is your opinion, which means you formulated it, based on whatever you have learnt (cumulative knowledge) and your interactions with the society. This opinion, sir, is not without bias, because you haven’t looked at a thing in entirety. If you had, you will note that a collection of opinions forma a whole, and yours is but one addition to it, small but significant nevertheless. But, looking at the fact that there are multiple opinions, interepretations, if you will, what then is the point of having an opinion, if it is not all-encompassing? By forming opinions based on your knowledge, you are furthering the divide that exists between men. The ‘you’ here is generic, again.

    I’m clearly not knowledgeable, because knowledge is an accumulation of the past and we can safely assume that every moment in the present is different from whatever we’ve experienced in the past. (Because otherwise we’d be stuck in a loop, which I’m not a fan of) Hence, knowledge does nothing to better your life. It is a badge on your chest, you can say. Knowledge is again highly influenced by external and internal factors and so, to gain it independent of any sort of bias is near impossible (not completely impossible). And beyond a point, knowledge plays no role in your life, only your instinct. I hope you arrive at that conclusion yourself.

    As for the past, I refer you to my previous comment. You are holding on to images of the past, not the complete past itself. That is why you remember it in a certain way, like you remember the smell of rain, or the sight of sunrise and so on. The point is, if you truly love someone (again the ‘you’ is generic), you wouldn’t have an image of them, nor would you remember them in a certain way. A differentiation exists between the self and the memory of the person the self because we made it that way. Try to be whole in that aspect, in your memories, and you’ll notice that you don’t need to revive your memories because they’re already incorporated into your being. (Sorry for delving into the metaphysical here, couldn’t help it)

    An inherent bias is visible and while I don’t blame you for it, I only ask that you edit it out of your vision and look at any new thing with passionate curiosity, and without thought (thought is detrimental, for reasons stated above) That way, you won’t have to look at anything in a certain way, and you can fully and truly enjoy what is in front of you.

    I assume this satisfies your queries. It is not personal that I chose to comment in such a fashion on your post. It is only because this post is more sensible that the others on this blog. Doesn’t matter if you take offense in any way. Can’t help it either.

    Oh, and I don’t have wisdom to share (again, for reasons stated above)

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  2. @Aquafina Water : Let me reiterate, the point of the post wasn’t to understand or indoctrinate the meaning of universe, I purposefully chose to prefix one sentence in the entire post with “In my opinion”, which I am fully entitled to, no one needs to subscribe to it. I did that because I foresaw some vidwan reading it and nitpick the hell out of it, and tell everyone how to interpret something that is unquantifiable. You, clearly are very knowledgeable and yet instead of imparting your wisdom that would’ve been welcomed, chose the route of condescension. Lastly, reviving memories of loved ones and sharing with others who may empathize with it, is neither stupid nor clinging to the past, but that’s your opinion and I’ll respect that.

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  3. Firstly an awesome article by Raj, many here can definitely relate to the beautiful Thatha and Peran relationship.

    Secondly, “Yaaravudu inda Aquafina bottle aa tuki toora pudunga pa!!! 😛 ” (Somebody please get rid of this Aquafina bottle)

    Sorry Mr. Aquafina, I hope you can take this humor in good stead. (Just being sarcastic)

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    1. sirippE ungaLin siRappa?? 😛 no offense taken. Aquafina avvaLavu mOsam aayiduththa? (I again refer you, like the others, to my previous comments)

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  4. Thank you, appreciate all feedback from everyone, the sole intent of the post was to highlight the time with my thatha and how TamBrahm culture helped us connect in a way like no other. I can’t however, say the happiness from chanting is temporary, I will let you know when it stops. @ Shreeraman S, good to hear you are able to relate 🙂

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  5. @ Aquafina Water.. You have a point that we have to understand whatever we recite/chant.. But with all due respect, I believe there was a reason why ‘Ratnakara’ transformed to “Valimiki Maharishi” with the chanting of divine ‘Mara’..

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    1. Please have a look at my comments above! Your belief is simply a story designed to get people on the right path! It is not the only means to salvation!!

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  6. @ Vaithu mama.. I might just be half your age (read it anna) 😛 .. Cannot agree more on whatever you told.. Shivapoojai, Karpooraharathi and Mani (Bell) all that takes me back to my childhood as well.. Truely divine days.. 🙂 🙂

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  7. If you really think that the true purpose of all these chants is to appease and praise Lord Shiva, you, sir, are sorely mistaken. You have been completely misled, just like your forefathers, and while the chanting may provide you some temporary happiness, it does nothing at all to better your life if you don’t understand it. In short, you are completely unworthy of even seeing all those shlokas. The sound environment is total crap, by the way.

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    1. Let peace be with you @Aquafina water?!! The beauty of shlokas is that it let’s you decide what you think you want it to do to you. The meaning is a guidance and not an end in itself.

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      1. My intention is not to criticize the shlokas! I’m not an atheist! The meaning is a guidance? Seriously? Have you ever truly questioned every action and realized the intrinsic beauty of existence? No! That is why you rely on God / whatever fanciful being that you generate for your short-lived happiness! If you completely understood the chants, you wouldn’t talk about their beauty because there is really nothing to talk about! There is no physical distinction between your brain and the shlokas that you recite. You have created an image of all things and it is against this image that you validate your beliefs. That is utter nonsense. You have failed to understand / comprehend the whole point of these sacred texts. You create a completely absurd system and then promote it. Which is the fundamental thing I’m rebelling against. And you have to come upon this epiphany by yourself. Otherwise, you’ll just keep writing stupid blog posts like these. Oh yes, and I sincerely advocate peace. That is the reason I made this particular comment.

        Nostalgia is just the past. And if you cling to the past, well….

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    2. When someone shares their precious childhood memories of their grandfather, you don’t spew negativity at them. I understand that you may have strong feelings about this subject, but the least you could do is phrase your criticism in a more positive way.

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      1. I refer you to my reply above. This isn’t negativity. And I don’t spew. This is simply your definition of negativity. Anything absolute doesn’t exist. It is just a collection of knowledge over time.

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