Author: Dr.D.Sundararaman - that son of Doraiswamy Iyer
Part - 11
Presently I am retracting to the year from 1956to 1960 – to the periods of vacation.
On one occasion I took leave of Periaval staying in Chinna Kancheepuram, went to my house and put on newly washed shirt and dhoti. I was about to leave for the Railway Station. I remembered that I have not taken leave of my father. I hurried to the Mutt, removed my shirts, held it on my left hand, saw my father working in the backyard and took leave of him. My father said, “Periaval is sitting near the well, all along, go and do namaskarams and then leave”. I told my father that I had already taken leave of Periaval.
My father said, “Nothing will be lost if you do your namaskarams to him once more”. Reluctantly, I went near the well. Periaval was sitting with legs stretched out and eyes half-closed. It looked to me as though he was about to sleep. There was a pool of muddy water where I was standing. I had to do my namaskarams. I carefully put my shirt on a high raised stone (meant for washing clothes), carefully bent myself with the toes of my legs and fingers of my hands touching the clean parts of the ground. I did this exercise four times. I was about to leave, without making any noise. Suddenly Periaval laughed and asked me what I did just then. I replied that I did my namaskarams to Periaval. “Really, I thought you did your namaskarams to your clean and white veshti (Dhoti)”, said Periaval.
I knew I was caught red handed? He continued somewhat angrily, “why this hypocrisy? Did I ever ask you to do namaskarams to me?” I rolled over the slushy and muddy pool of drainage water several times, with a feeling of doing ‘anga pradhakshanam’ (As devotees do, in the holy prakaram in the temple of Lord Venkateswara in Tirupati.) “Stop, stop, it is enough. You have completely ruined your clean and white veshti; I hope you have an alternate veshti for changing; go home, take a bath, dress up and run to the station to catch your train”, Periaval said. I did not utter a word; I felt as though my tongue was pierced through a big needle. I thought just then, “I was completely exposed and severely whipped publicly”. Earlier my father said without knowing what was in store for me? “Nothing will be lost if you do your namaskarams to him once more”. But I came out of the Mutt with a feeling as though I lost all my hypocrisy.
It is well known to people who have had associations with Periaval that Periaval found time, amidst his busy schedule of activities, to learn about what was going on in the world at large. Devotees were one source of information, and daily newspapers in Tamil and English another. In regard to judgment of these, he made his own analysis and judgment. One day, after biksha, he was reading the Tamil daily Swadesamitran.
There was a report about the devastating effects of radiation on people living in Japan. The report detailed the effects on those unfortunate people, even 15 years after the nuclear attacks on the two cities. The report started in the first page with a bold heading and was continued in a particular column, in a particular page.
But the report was not continued in the column of the page mentioned, perhaps it was a printer’s devil. Periaval asked us to find out where exactly the report had been continued. My friends spent about five minutes each and told Periaval that they could not locate the page. They were just looking for the heading. When my turn came, I read the report from its very beginning and looked for its logical continuation in other pages. I found the continuation in the last but one page. With a sense of discovery, I told Periaval, that I had found it. “It is in that particular page and in that particular column, is it not?” Periaval said, shattering my feeling of discovery, that he had already read the full report. To assuage my feelings he began to call me ‘Discoverer of Atom Bomb’, for the duration of the visit. The main point in this particular experience is the concern he expressed, in a chain of questions, which imprinted on my mind. “What is an atom bomb? Why scientists hail this as one of the greatest inventions of modern science? What was the world-context when this terrible invention was made? What sort of problems can one imagine that would arise if these mass-killer weapons proliferate?”
“What is the use of Science without moral consideration?” After each question, he paused and finally after the last question, he went into a long silence. With some scientific background, I could understand the depth of these questions. By the way, contrary to what some might think, Periaval was (at least the Periaval I know of those years) all for scientific research and development, especially in the context of India. But on the nuclear issue, he had very definite views. He was for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World.