Srirangam Tamil Nadu, time unknown:
Mangalam Pati is an orthodox lady I heard, oval faced, lean, always in a 9 yards saree and wearing gold frame spectacles. She has sharp eyes, is disciplined and is everything an orthodox tyranical pati should be. She wears a small gold chain around herself and a larger beaded gold rudraksha around her neck. She rules the family, her laws are orthodox but not to everyone, its only to the deserving. For mangalam pati teaches only the deserving, the essential meaning of life. Learning is a tough game, with a million "thopakarnams" thrown in along with innumerable "kuttus" should you make a mistake, but its only now when we are old that we realize how much that training helped.
An old pati in an age old agraharam. Mangalam pati does not come downstairs at all. She doesnt talk to all, well not to anyone at the first meet. When one goes to meet her, they wash their hands and feet and preferable have a shining jadagam against their name. Mangalam pati loves jadagams.
She has a soft corner for one of her grandsons, and what a soft corner it was. He was made to learn the laws of orthodoxy, the laws of karma, the laws in the dharma shastra, the laws of the agamas...lets say the laws of good living in short, of course with his fair share of "thopakarnams" and "kuttus". Mangalam pati taught him to face the world, the world of karma, giving lessons on defence strategies of parigarams. Mangalam pati taught all she knew to the grandson she loved the most.
It was another silent evening, the sun had just set. Mangalam pati lit the oil lamp and sat silently in her room. A sacred room I would say. The children ran around the house proclaiming to all not to go upstairs for Mangalam pati was talking to Lord Ganesha! No one dared to disturb her, except her most favourite grandson. He took the guts to walk up to her room.
In the silent room sat Mangalam pati, the oil lamp light glittering in her gold spectacle frame. Not a sound, not a movement in the air. Her rudraksha gently formed a stream of gold to the floor.
And on the floor lay a yellow line ever growing.
A simple sight, a profound moment. Witnessed by her only favourite grandchild. Never again questioned and hushed away, the yellow line had more than a line to say.
Grantham, the ancient language of the Gods has strange ways of sending the message across. In a matter of hours the day was gone, the world moved on and Mangalam pati sat silent, enlightened. What a life! Mangalam pati was indeed a very dynamic woman.
One fine day, her grandson went for his dance performance. He insisted she come to see it and in a gentle voice she said "You go ahead, I will come". That was the last he saw of her. Mangalam pati died that night, but she had done well for herself. The Lord took her with Him, to his Abode, Kailasa.
I sat listening to this story on Mangalam Pati, I believed I had never met Mangalam pati and yet I knew her so well. Mangalam pati was my only connect, to the strange new world I live in now. Strange it is, blessed I am, to have once been her grandchild.
Mangalam pati, mangalam mangalam.
Terms: (Gio, this is for you!)
Pati - grandmother,
Kuttu - a knock on the head when you dont do something right. Hurts most often.
Thopakarnam - to hold ones ears and descend to the floor, squat and rise all the way up. Typically based on a count, which gets tougher as the count increases. It is a punishment to children when they do not listen, still practised in old indian households.