Just a priest!

Just a priest!

Just a priest!

Illustration: Biju Cherayath

‘‘Appa, you are a M.Sc in Agriculture,yet you are JUST a temple priest in our village,why is it so?

I asked my father, as we sipped tender coconuts from his "thenguenathota".

"Nanoo[for Narayan],for five generations the males of our family have been the priests of this Rama temple.I wish to continue that tradition". replied my father, popular as "pojari buddhi", in the village.

"Do  I have to become a priest too?"  "That decision has to be yours,but well into the future.right now ,enjoy your school."  said Appa. Just then I heard the  honk of the bus, which would take me to Mysore, a good 70 Kms from my village. "Get in ,hurry Nanoo , the swamijis will not allow you into the school if you are late even by a few minutes. "smiled bus driver Gopalanna.

He had taken a detour to my home, to pick me up. A small privilege for being the pojari's son!" This year too ,the best proficiency prize is yours isn't it?"asked Gopalanna of my village. I smiled in conformation."Your father was the best student of that school and now you" said Gopalanna with pride, almost as if the achievement was his.

My problem was not about studies at all. I like my parents the way they are when I am at home for holidays. While at school I am rather uncomfortable owning up to them as mine. The school bully has nick named me  "juttu magha" because my father has a tuft. "It is a symbol of my profession, just like the tape around a tailors neck" appa had said long ago, when I had asked him to have hair like other dads.

Most parents, visit their wards in my school, driving into the premises in high end cars,wearing expensive watches, branded sun glasses and shoes. Most mother's show off figures that look elegant in western attire with short hair, carrying exotic leather hand bags. In sharp contrast my parents travel by bus and auto to visit me. They are in plain rubber chappals, washed unironed "panchai and jubbha", nine yard saree, oiled plaited hair, flowers in it , plump and matronly.

Parents are able to donate handsomely for many funds in the school.My father finds it difficult to pay the bare minimum fixed as my tuition and boarding fee by the swamijis.

Now you know the source of my confusion.Much against my wish, during one of his visits to the school , appa suggested that correspondent swamiji could bring the 10 th standards to the temple to receive their hall tickets from Rama.

"I"ll arrange for a picnic in the DEVARA KADDU behind the temple.There is a small stream and lots of shade inside the forest". The offer was readily accepted and all of us tenth standards set off to my village.I was to guide our school bus to the village.
The entire village was there to greet us. The women had helped my mother prepare a grand feast for the visitors.  The men had cleared a path in the "DEVARU KADU" for us to reach the stream in comfort. The temple had been decked up by the youngsters, to welcome the city dwellers.

The school bully had to show off, so he went away from the clearing into the bushes, on our way to the stream. Suddenly a panic stricken voice screamed "ayyo,I have been bitten by a snake". The village elders swung into action mode. Someone identified the snake as a  Krait. Another ran into the forest, to get the correct herb ,to treat the snake bite. A third cleaned stones into a pestle and mortar.

My father came charging with a knife that had been heated to redness in the temple lamp. He tied tourniquets above and below the snake bite on the bully's leg.He widened the wound withe the sterilised knife. He then sucked out as much blood as possible from the wound. The logic being the venom will also be brought out. The herbal juice was poured into the wound as an antidote, a temporary bandage was tied and the bully was packed off in an ambulance to a big hospital in Mysore. The way the entire village and my father handled the emergency made me so proud of them. I may not become a temple priest but I am definitely proud to be the son of one.