Mother,when is my birthday?
I ran upon to my mother, crying. I didnt knew then that the query could never fetch an answer from the dark corridors of that ancient ancestral home.
Bithday? What's that? My mother looked at me in bewilderment. The question was incommunicable to her alien ears. 'My birthday, mother,the day I was born'.'
Oh,thank God'! She gave out a loud sigh of relief.
But she didnt have an answer for that and instead she threw me a counter question, 'What makes you think about a birthday now?
'I too need one..a birthday. All my friends, even Manoharan has one.' (Manoharan is the nephew of mr KP Mohan of Asianet.). It was while having Manoharan's birthday feast, that his mother Dakshayani amma asked me, 'Abdu, dont you have a birthday?'
My tender heart was hurt. It pained me a lot. Why is it that I alone don't have a birthday? I sat with my head low, out of shame and grief. The dripping tear drops salted the eats. It's unable to bear this pain that I rushed to my mother to enquire about my date of birth.
My mother who was then drying clothes on the clothes-line drove me away with words of abuse.. 'get lost..go away..', shouted she. 'Was giving birth to new ones every year. In between should I remember birthdays too?', she grumbled in anger and agony. 'Don't show your face again..go away.. 'I cried bitterly rolling on the ground. 'I too need a birthday, very badly', said I in between the sobs. She became calm and composed in a few moments.
'Abdu,why don't you go and ask your uncle? He was in the habit of scribbling down all such trivial, unnecessary details. May be he knows this one too.'
Mother was aiming at her eldest brother. Hopefully, I went to him. Unlike my mother, he held me close to him with compassion and very sorrowfully announced 'Dear one, I'd written down everything systematically, but 't was all on the walls of that room, where the women here gave birth to new ones. When the house was whitewashed before the marriage ceremony of aunt's daughter, every thing got erased off. Not only that of yours Abdu, but of all other people here.
'Here after there are no birthdays for anyone in this household'. This being a great metriarchal family, anytime and everytime there would be a childbirth in the house. May be this prompted him to write on the wall of the room.
I went to my mother and stood before her with tear filled eyes and increasing pain in my heart. Mother said, 'There is another way out.I delivered you on the day of your friend Gafoor's mother Aysha's marriage. I still remember this, as I was not able to attend the function. Just go to Gafoor's father and ask him if he remembers the date'. I rushed to Gafoor's father. But he too expressed his helplessness. 'Listen my boy, a lot of marriages had taken place here. It's very difficult a task to keep all the dates in memory'.
There, a mother who doesn't remember the date of her delivery and here another one who dosen't had forgotten the date of marriage. Whom should I go to again?
I was about to leave with grief building up in my heart when he suggested with a lighted up face, 'if you are lucky enough, you may very soon find out the date of your birth.
It was on the day of Aysha's marriage that the meson cemented the stone-steps to our house and I remember him marking the date on it on that day. I charged to his ancestral home. It is a traditional custom to note down the date on the last step. So I rushed to the household, excited at the thought of getting the date of my birth. There I could only find the foundation with thick undergrowths all around. It lay there grass covered,exposed to rain and heat. Still, with great enthusiasm I cleared all those and looked at the stone steps. Alas! to my despair, shattering all my dreams, I found that the date engraved portion on the step had been fallen off. The begnawing despair and pain weakend my senses. That marked the end of everything. No more birthdays in my life. I cried my heart out, sitting on the pavement of the ancestral home.
Wasn't that the beginning of a journey? A setting out in search of my destiny.
I am born to this world with out a birth date to remember. I was brought up too in the same manner. Again, I grew up, competed for elections,journeyed around and across many places. But only ages after could I realize that birthdays are not ment for people like me but to an elite class. Muslims, Harijans, the tribals like wise there are quite a good majority of them who doesn't have a birthday, horescope or any thing like that . Whatever dates were given in the school during the time of admission later turned out to be the birthdate of eachone. If it's not so, how come, around a three quarter of our school going ones celebrate their birthday in the month of may? Why is it that the real birthdates and those in their certificates are different? While undergoing my admission formalities my mother too might have told, 'sir, scribble a birthdate of your choice'. Thus like many other children here, that made my birthdate'. I found this thought of not having a birthday haunting me like anything. Dogging me to my doorsteps.
I reached Vaitheeswaran on a blazzing noon. It was burning in and out. In front, on a chair was the long-bearded astrologer. ''Thus the time has come for you to be here, in Vaitheeswara'', he said. 'When the right time comes the Vaitheeswaran himself will bring the people here', added he. I reached VaitheeswaranKoil on my way to karaikkal from Kumbhakonam via Swamimalai, sheerkazhi and Thirukkadayoor. I had only intended to see a great temple there . But never have I dreamt of finding a solution for my ever pestering question in this great country side. Vitheeswarankovil is close to Mailadum thurai.
This village is famous for it's Vaidyanath Temple and Naadijyothisham (Neuro-astrology-study of one's astrological details from the nature of pulse beat.) This is one of the Navagraha (the nine heavenly bodies according to astrology-the Sun, the Moon, the Mercury, Venus Mars and Saturn and the invisible planet Rahu and the unfavourable planet, Kethu.) temples. The village is well known for its neuro-astrology from its worshipping of the idol of Shanidev or Ankaraga.It is believed that the horoscopes of all the people, of those who had been born, those living here and of those yet to be born, are there in the village of Vaitheeswaran. They say, the past, present and future of all humans were foreseen and recorded as palm leaf scriptures by great sages like Vasisht, Koushika, Agasthya, Bhrigu, Vyasa, Ghagabhujandar, Vathmiki et.c were found out from here. Most of it is missing or lost now. If we are lucky enough, we may find here the scripture pertaining to our birth. It will encapsulate all the details from birth to death, and the neuro-astrologists there will tell us all about our previous births and those births we are yet to take. If you are suspicious about the reliability of the same, they may even say who you are, your parents'name, your career , about your sibblings education financial and health conditions and a lot more, including concequencs of your past deeds and their solutions too.
I was astonished at this I roamed about in increasing curiocity to learn more about this. There were a lot of astrologers there, a thousands of them. I madeup my mind make a try. Who would be keeping my palmleaf doccument? Finally decided, I found out a well known and reliable astologer and knocked at his doorsteps.
'Can you tell me about my birthdate, lunarday and zodiac sign?', asked I.
'I cannot promise you, but if I can find the scripture pertaining to you here I shall, and if not go and search elsewhere', he replied.
Go to vaitheeswarankoil and simply give your thumb impression and date of birth. It's the right thumb for the men and left thumb for women. The astrologer then will bring the scripture matching your impression from volumes of them archived there. Seating you in front , based on the scriptures they may throw a few questions at you for which you should only answer in 'yes' or 'no'. Never disclose any other details. If all the questions are answered with a 'yes' , your past, present and future will be revealed. But if at any point you answer 'no', the scripture is kept apart as it is not yours. A new one will be chosen again discarding the former. This continues untill the apt scripture is found. It may take upto half an hour or sometimes even more. It's also possible that your scripture is not found. Thousands of travellers, including foreigners and devotees come here every day. Naadijyothisham is the sole right of this village. Those in the other villages are mere imitations of the same.
A word or two to those who intend to go there. The dealings are a bit expensive. The amount may vary from 1600 to 4000 rupees. There are 12 sections to be covered reading and the amount varies according to how many of the chapters you want to be read. Give the compensation only after the read.So decide before hand what to read and howmuch it would cost you.
Giving my thumb impresion, I waited. After a while, I was guided in and seated on a mat in the room inside, with the astrologer in front facing me. Before the read he said, ''we don't know you. Your name, caste creed relegion or birthsat and nor do we want to know those. We will ask you a few questions based on the things written here in the scripture. Just answer in a 'yes' or 'no'.
He started to read out from the document written in a kind of round tamil- malayalam script of ancient times(vattezhuthu). Inbetween he paused to ask a few things and continued with the reading. 'Does your mother's name begin with an 'S'? Are you four children for your parents? Is your father's name a synonym for God? If I answered in the negative he would keep that scripture apart and take a new one because it means the former is not yours. If all the question gets a 'no' from your side, they will let you go and search for your scripture elsewhere.
If there are a few positive replies they will start reading out from another palmleaf.
Every scripture contains 12 sections or chapters. Each one giving a different result. The first chapter says about your previous birth, the second is on education and wealth, the third about siblings, the fourth on mother, property and future, the fifth on kids and pregnancy, the sixth on diseases, death and dealings. The seventh deals with your love life and marriage whereas the eighth with life span and fortune. The nineth says about property, father and spirituality. The tenth is on profession and the eleventh and twelfth on vehicle and business , and next birth respectively. I made him read the chapters that dealt with birth and family. The astrologer said many things like , where my house is, the number of siblings, their names and places etc. and almost all the findings were correct. Then to my shock he asked me, ''You are a ploitical leader, M.P. or an M.L.A? He continued saying, You neither have faith in God nor do you belive in Naadijyothisham. Also you aren't a hindu.
I shuddered once again. 'Anyway we have your palmleaf scripture here. Your birthdate, zodiac sign, lunar day everything are here. I was in an ecstasy. Once again I ran back over the past to become that little boy once again, searching for the lost birthdate on the dumous stone steps of the ancestral home. Whether genuine or not now I too got a birthday. A happy and prosperous end of a wonderful journey.
He went in and came back with my scripture within moments and started to read out.
Born on the 4th day of March.
Then he continued saying about my past, present and future and a lot more. I couldnt listen to any thing. My long cherished dream has come true. Afterall I got a birthday and that was more than enough for me. I got up to get ready for my journey back, excited and content at the heart.
A P Abdullakutty M P
Translation: Jyotsna P Kadayaprath