A good lesson I learnt,
Is that God is omnipresent,
In every being we meet
Be it animal, nature, peasant.
When the Lord closes the door, somewhere He opens a window !We were watching the movie, "Sound of Music" for the nth time with the girls. Last year, we did a "Sound of music" tour in Salsburg, Austria, where the movie was shot.
As Maria, the nun was leaving the Abbey to Captain von Trapp`s house to take care of his 7 children, this is what she says. "When the Lord closes the door, somewhere He opens a window." Truly correct !!
The "story" of Raghu, late Meenu athai`s son will make us understand, this saying.
When I was in India, Raghu came to VDY one day. He lost his job because the company went bankrupt and he has still not being paid any compensation. He has to support his family of wife and 2 children - a daughter and a son.
Jyothi (his wife) and he have started making "thattais, murukkus, neyyappams etc."and do door to door delivery in different areas in Chennai. They also do arrange for "tiffin carriers"(breakfast, lunch or dinner/or all meals) for families. Say, if “Smt” has gone to the USA for her daughter`s delivery, and if “Sri” doesn`t even know to make a cup of coffee (!), “Smt” can ask Raghu`s help for her “Sri” to ensure he does not starve to death!
They also cater to school/office partys and picnics. Recently he has started cooking for "poonals & kalyanams" with his team. Once a month, he comes to 2 "agraharams" in PKD and buys pickles and "chakka varatti" in bulk and sells them in Chennai. For eg, he buys "avakkai" , a bottle for
Rs.53/-- and sells it at a price of Rs.65/-
Sometimes Jyothi complains the kind of a life - standing in front of the “adipu” the whole day, specially with Chennai temp. Raghu is happy as he doesn`t need to run and travel in crowded buses - twice a day. He is the boss and they have flexible timings. Above all, he is always with his dear wife !.
daughter, helps after her college. Their son, who is studying
plus 2, wants to join catering institute in Bangalore.
I have written this earlier to you. It seems VSS Thatha always used to say, “Cooking is an added qualification. Always will come handy”. People never will stop eating ,eh ?!
If there is a will, you will find a way. But, it is will power, determination and total surrender to GOD which helped Raghu family to go on with life, despite the hardships.
Children of SaravanaI wonder where they are & what they are doing now. Wiping the restaurant tables clean with sprinkled water & the “rib” of a plantain leaf. Those little boys looked so "squeezed", that it was unlikely there was any blood left in them!
It was April, 1993. Hot summer. Scorching heat. Thankam Ammai & myself were returning from Chidambaram, after my Bachelor of Education programme of Annamalai University & a spiritually rewarding week in this beautiful temple city.
We alighted the bus from Chidambaram to Coimbatore. (Almost 8 hours journey with an hour & a half stop at Salem.) It was an airconditioned “video” coach. And, we were left with no choice but to watch on the murderous “bollywood” junk.
The bus stopped at Salem and it was a welcome respite.
The conducter announced that those who were hungry could have
lunch in SARAVANA hotel. With that tone of a tactful salesman,
I was convinced the conductor must be on the “SARAVANA payroll”.
He literally herded all of us into the hell-hole!
As we entered, the "owner" of the hotel who was seated in front, greeted us with a “vanakkam” and a cunning jackal smile that exposed his gold-crowned canines. Behind him, like “conscience-keepers” were a row of the picture of Lord MURUGAN, GANAPATH, LAKSHMI, SARASWATI. There were AGARBATHIS smoking & there was jasmine garlands hanging from the pictures. Perhaps, his way of pleasing the Gods!
Our Macho adorned a beige-colour Terlin Shirt and
had the buttons open. A solid gold “minor chain” was
hanging out. Every one of his ugly worn-out finger had of gold
rings with precious stones (like a KOTTU MELAKKARAN). I could
not miss the gold rimmed "Clive Lloyd" like bispectacles.
We hovered to an empty table in the far end of the hall, smelling of people, and food! A young lad came towards us, his smelly dirty shirt soggy with sweat and sweat running down his brow & face. He had his fingers dipped in the water-filled aluminium tumblers he was holding ,which he shoved on the table in front of us, spilling half the water in the splash. Like a remote controlled robot, he started “reeling” the menu - emotionless & with a fixed stare on the dirty wall, behind us.
Thankam ordered for a "Ney Roast" and I felt like having a "Rava Dosa". The server said that as the hotel was crowded, it would take about 10 minutes for the "gourmet" to arrive on the dining table. We were hungry and decided we`d wait. Watching people behaviour, was a favourate pastime of mine & that is what I did for the next 20 minutes. The food had not arrived and so we decided to go the “around the corner"(as the Americans say).
We asked for directions and to my great shock, I was told “NO TOILET” !!!! The server told us that we can use the employees` toilet. He took us all the way through the kitchen, where giant "ARAKKARA MACHINE" was grinding IDLI/DOSA MAAVU.
For me it seemed like I had walked to the END OF
CIVILISATION ? Not yet ! We were led to the rear side where there
was a narrow passage with a gutter covered with "THAKARAM”
(tin sheets). The sewage water was flowing in one side and tears
flowing from my eyes when I saw little boys , sleeping like little
angels, out in the open scorching sun !!! On top of them was a
shelf with rows of small old rusted metal boxes, with probably
their belongings. I do not want to describe the condition of the
toilet, which was just a few feet ahead. I preferred to hold on
We came back to the hall, where the dishes we ordered were waiting. I did not want to spoil Thankam`s appetite, so I asked her to start her meal. I walked up to the cashier cum owner and gave him a “verbal lashing” for keeping these little boys in such INHUMAN CONDITIONS.
He nodded and shaking his head to everything I said
and kept that spooky smile. He was now tapping his fingers on
the desk and moving his thighs in an unmusical rhythm which bothered
me. I said what I had to say. He seemed too thick-headed to accept.
He continued with his fish-out-of-water movements with mouth open
and exposing his gold canines. I gave up and left.
My appetite had vanished. Anger & Sadness were boiling in my blood. Thankam ammai asked me to ignore it and have my food. I couldn`t. I settled the bill and also "tipped" the server boy and got out of that "Gudammmm".
We reached home late that evening & I was so happy to see my little girls under the protected care of their grand parents & great grand ma. That day I thanked God for all he has give my children and prayed hard for those little Angels of Saravana and the hardships millions like them undergo in this world. The scene that still wrenches my heart, makes me angry that I could not do more for them, and brings tears to my eyes when I remember.