Srimate ramanujaya nama:
Priya arangan adiyar,
Click here for the previous parts of "A Stranger"
After laboring over the drawing of kutti payyan for some time, I finished it and looked out for him. He wasn't sitting with me when I drew him. He had other urgent matters to attend to like aiding a few boys who were beautifully dressing up a perumal and correcting a boy who seemed to be coming back to the same pasuram like a circular reference error. After the advice and corrections offered to others, he diverted his attention to me and the sheet I held in my hand.
The drawing filled him with absolute amazement! Though the drawing had the least resemblance to him except for the tiruman on the forehead, the veshti and a little of the hair, he seemed to consider it the work of a connoisseur and went about exhibiting it to everyone. All the children were very happy thinking I drew them since there wasn’t much in it that distinguished kutti payyam from them. But since he held the drawing in his hand and due to the implied rights that possession gave, they admitted it to be his and disclaimed their stake in it.
Other classes happened in rapid succession. Math, science, agamam and time came for the dinner which I was awaiting with renewed eagerness. The children seemed to never lose energy even after so much of knowledge accumulation. They drew out their plates, washed them and placed them in parallel rows. One banana leaf was spread out in their between for me. But this time, it was comparatively smaller to the morning spread. I sat down. Kutti payyan was the last to come and sat beside me like in the morning. By the time of his arrival, we had started eating. He examined what I ate minutely (which was rice and curd), got up and disappeared into kitchen. He fetched some fruits and bakshanams which surprised one and all there.
The children reported that those bakshanams were prepared a few days before for a function which took place at the Gurukulam. All the children were given lot of bakshanams on that day. But they had all eaten them on that day itself. But kutti payyan seemed to have saved some for the days ahead. And I was presently fed those with great care by him. He deposited everything he had in his hand onto my banana leaf even before I could protest. So, there I was, eating the sweets, savories and other tasty bakshanams soaked curd rice. The child had grown to care so much for me and it touched me like a mild electric shock. He had come to care for me just in some hours of acquaintance. He saw to that I carefully wrapped up the four corners of banana leaf after dinner and eyed me till I carried it to the dustbin. He would have felt unpleasant and a little embarrassed before others had I spilled the contents on the floor while taking it to the dustbin. Fortunately and to my relief, I didn't. He was ready with a tumbler of water for me. Handing it to me he disappeared with other children for the last session of learning for the day.
I sat outside the gurukulam on the stone slab and enjoyed the breeze that had suddenly decided to embrace me. I watched people walk past me. Men and women escorted their children and chatted over the inconsequential programmes that appeared in the televisions. A group of college student swarmed past me offloading a variety of subjects onto my ears like who would win the elections this year and who would bag the super singer title. How different were these children of the Gurukulam from those outside. The black gate alone did not make the difference. Lot of wisdom had been fed into the children of the gurukulam. Their world revolved around Perumal. Their talks were on Perumal. Their jokes were on Him. Their joy was Him and their sorrow Him. They learnt about Him and I felt, from my little observation that their thirst for His knowledge was unquenchable. My own child was mostly glued to the television. Well, how would he not be when his idol/father was an ardent devotee of the TV that encapsulated many a curses in sugar coated channels? I needed to introspect before judging my child.