Unprecedented deluge in Karnataka and Andhrapradesh. And just the other day, the lament was about Drought. As they say in vernacular : "Athivrishti - Anaavrishti".
The usual post crisis finger pointings are going on , full steam. "Avoidable tragedy" is the unanimous verdict. We do have Disaster Prevention and Management committees. Also, pertinently, Disaster Relief Funds......Even marmosets learn, at least by pavlovian reflex. We never learn.
It was quite eerie to see images of the Tunga flooding the shrine in Mantralayam. Never have i seen the river there being anything more than a thin, sluggish stream, coursing well away from the bank . One always had to cross expanses of hot rocks to get the mandatory holy sprinkle.
.....Now I think of a little girl - is she safe ? Sadly, "Hungry and shelterless" may not be a new situation for her.....
All pilgrims to the Saint's Brindavana in Mantralaya are expected to visit the cave where he meditated for 12 years and which is now a shrine to Panchamukha Anjaneya. But somehow i had never got around to doing that suffix . Only on the last trip, about 3 years ago, we extended our plans to include this place.
Mantralaya is in Andhra Pradesh and Panchamukhi Anjaneya shrine is in Karnataka. The road makes the distinction is very apparent . As soon as the car enters Karnataka territory, it goes into Belly Dance Mode.
Stretches of road , full of pot holes. Stretches of pot holes with no roads. Eroded banking. Corroded sign boards.
Miraculously, we arrived in one piece after a 40 minute journey which could have been done in 25 mins. if only...........forget it.
The temple, in Ganadhala , is actually only a cave with a slanting rockface embossed with the form of the five faced Hanuman. Said to be Swayambu. The cave is fronted with a virulently coloured doorway, bright orange steps and a gopuram. At front is the Flag Mast on which leans a Mace, also orange in colour. Orange coloured oil paint, masquerading as Sindhoor, is found smeared liberally here there and everywhere.There are subsidiary shrines to the Guardian goddess of the village, Yarkalamma, and to the Paduka , ie Footwear. A pair of huge, well worn, artistically made, leather sandals . Said to be worn by Hanuman on his nightly visits to the cave ; the worn out pair is replaced with new, once in five years.
Whats with Five Faces ? An interesting myth is recounted by the priest. Hanuman, in the course of his Demon- bashing career , crosses path with Mahiravan, a Knight of Dark Arts and finds to his astonishment that packing off this goon is mission impossible. The wily fellow has repackaged his life into five lamps and set them in five different corners . Only when all 5 are extinguished together will his account close fully. Which was,presumably, never. But he hadn't reckoned with a divine shapeshifting opponent. Once the secret was known, with some deftly managed interdepartmental co-operation, Hanuman got the Five Faces ( Hayagriva, Garuda, Narasimha,Varaha,Hanuman), and in one "blow" extinguished the evil one. Moral : Wickedness never pays, however clever you are.
This cave temple is set in a very strange and wonderful landscape. Rocks of all shapes and sizes stand in odd , precariously balanced stacks. Very picturesque. One is even afraid to sneeze , lest they all come tumbling down. But they have stood thus for centuries.
Among the stacks, two enjoy extra respect. They are close to the main cave and are consecrated with holy markings in white and orange. One is called Vimana or aircraft. The other is The Bed. Both reportedly used by Hanuman on his nightly visits. I couldn't see a flying vehicle in the gestalt of the former stack, but the latter does very much resemble a comfortable futon on an equally comfortable cushion mattress. And there are nice natural striations too , like candystripe prints on a bedsheet.
Thats where i saw the girl. Not more than 6 . Dressed in shapeless ,oversized clothing ,hair all unkempt, she looked a bit wild and was almost chubby with residual baby fat. She was part of the nomad family selling beads, faux rudrakshas, plastic combs, pictures and such other trinkets. With bright eager eyes and a wide , gap -toothed grin, she latched on to me, pestering me to buy her ware, none of which was of any use to me. To ward her off, i told her i'd see the god first and think of shopping later.
After doing the rounds, when returning to the car, i got caught again. She turned up promptly and re- started her sing-song . I found it difficult to handle a wheedling child, but definitely dint want to be emotionally blackmailed into buying stuff that will instantly vanish into the bottomless pit of the bottom drawer. To add to my discomfiture, my companions who had gone off to photograph the attractive rocks seemed to take an eternity over it.
In order to divert the child's attention, i started a little conversation.
Where did she live ? She pointed towards the right.
All i could see was a plot of drying crops and some rocks. God, did they sleep under the stars ?!
What was her name ? Vijayashanthi.
Unable to give her decent basics ( food-clothing-shelter-schooling) her parents had given her the best they could : a glamorous name. A film Star's.
I couldn't fathom in the crystal ball of her large shiny eyes what the future held for her. A life like her mother's ? With no permanent address, no BPL card, no proof of citizenship, or even legal life , in any record anywhere. A being with only two functions in life : to search for food, to procreate.
A new vehicle appeared on the pathway and the girl ran to it in the hope of a sale. My companions returned and we boarded. As soon as the engine started, the little Vijayashanthi called out to me "Akka....tata... tata!" and with the biggest and most beautiful gaptoothed smile waved me bye. And i hadn't bought a single bead from her !
That night, before retiring to bed, i could not think of the Saint. I could not think of God. I thought of that little child.
I thought of her again now, when The Tunga is flooding on the TV screen.