How Fate Was Outwitted!

(When I was in school in early sixties, I treasured a book of quaint but quite earthy stories: ’Dravida Nattu Kathaigal’ (Stories of Dravida Land), never tiring of reading the stories over and over again. The stories, belonging to another age, were distinctly different though some of them drew inspiration from our rich legacy of myths, legends and history.

Unfortunately the book went out with a borrower and did not return, though the borrower did. To this day I bemoan its loss and my attempts to procure another copy have not been successful. And I cannot recall seeing those stories being retold in any print. May be they have lost their appeal for the young.

What follows here under is based on my recollection of a story that, I thought, was original and ingenius). I think it was titled as Vidhiyai Madhiyal Vellalam (It is possible to overcome one’s Fate with Intellect))

Part 1 – At the Gurukul

The village was on the banks of Cauvery. Vidyadhar was born to the priest of the temple in the village, who also doubled as music teacher. When the boy reached the age of five, the father decided to send him for his education to a gurukul located on the opposite bank of Cauvery. The Guru looked at the boy and saw a rare tejas (luster) on his face; he happily agreed to take him as his sishya (disciple).

The gurukul was a tranquil expanse of tress, bushes and plants; home to birds and animals such as cuckoos, parrots, rabbits, squirrels, peacocks and cows. There were ponds sprouting lotuses and lilies in brilliant pink and white, their large pad-leaves shrouding the water in green. A natural collage of color and sound, the gurukul was.

In the winter, hamsa’s (swans) in spotless white, believed to be migrating from Manasarovar, made it their abode, gliding gracefully in the ponds. How appropriate and portentatious for these birds to visit the gurukul, the center of learning! The hamsa is the vahana (transport) of goddess of learning, Saraswati, Brahma’s (Creator) consort. The bird is said to eat pearls for food and had the unique ability to segregate the milk from water in a pot of mixed liquid – an allegory for telling good from the bad. In an Upanishad a hamsa is said to possess the sacred knowledge of the Brahman. Those who had attained spiritual levels with God were called Paramahamsa. (Both Brahma and Intellect – concepts linked to Hamsa – are key to the narrative to follow)

The Guru and Gurupatni (Guru’s consort) lived in a house walled by densely packed bamboo sticks closed by a thatched roof on top. Near-by, similar but smaller living quarters were set up for the boys who were sent to the gurukul for their education, like Vidhyadhar. They spent years learning, under the Guru’s tutelage, Reading and Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Yoga, Meditation and also from the Chau Sashti Kala’s (the 64 practical skills). There were no class-rooms; the sessions were held in the open, often under a large tree. Their education finished when, in the Guru’s assessment, the sishya had reached the limits of his capability or the Guru felt he had nothing more to impart.

During their stay, the Guru and the Gurupatni took good care of them like their own children. Besides learning, the boys helped in the upkeep of the gurukul by doing chores of washing, cleaning, gardening, etc. The gurukul was self-sufficient for all its needs; grains, vegetables and fruits were grown, cows were kept for milk. The boys did not have a reason to go out of the campus – they lived, learned, ate and slept in the gurukul. Of course the Guru took them out with him from time to time on instructional visits to places.

Young Vidhyadhar took to the Gurupatni like his own mother, helping her in household chores. And she too was quite fond of him.

In course of time she was in the family way. The boy assisted her in all ways he could during this period. The months passed without any incident until one day…

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2 Responses to How Fate Was Outwitted!

  1. Harish Govind says:

    Hi Sir,
    Wonderful stories…had time to read fully the one about Chitragupta and the police station…!
    Wonderful ! Shall get back and savour the rest at home. Thank you very much – will get the family to also read up !
    In a way take me back to one of my favourite authors – R K Narayan…
    Regards,
    HG

    Like

  2. Trisha says:

    just fabulous. you have described the scene of ashrams so beautifully. just loved reading it through.

    thanks for explaining the meaning of paramhansa. i used to utter it just as a word without thinking much about the real meaning.

    Like

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