The years 1957-59 were a golden time in the history of Chennai metro during this half century. Those were the sacred months when the avatAra mUrti who blesses even our fleshy eyes with his darshan during this kaliyugam -- the sage of kAnchi -- whom this world celebrates as mahAperiyavar the tavashrEShTha--the most splendid ascetic, with a halt-and-takeover-compassion, was camping in Chennai. Staying primarily at the Sanskrit College, MylApUr, Chennai, with the then ascetic prince shrI Jayendra, the Compassionate set his sacred feet in many areas of the city such as Triplicane, NungambAkkam, ToNDaiyArpet and MAmbalam, and gave his anugraha--spiritual favour, for the crop of dharma to grow lush again in Chennai where once it flourished.
One early morning from the ShivA-ViShNu temple at MAmbalam, he set out on a pAdayAtra--travel by foot, to the temple at TiruvAnmiyUr, where Shiva as maruntIshvara--the healing god, rose in blessing with his consort shrI Tripurasundari. This aDiyEn--devotee, was among those blessed to be with the traveling group. I think that the Chief Minister then was shrI Baktavatsalam. Two or three policemen accompanied the entourage.
After some distance was covered, a man from the opposite direction confronted shrI Periyavar. His look teemed with ego; feet did not remove the sandals; his appearance and manners betrayed carelessness and disrespect.
Devotees who ruahsed to prevent any sparsham--touch on the munipungava--ascetic guru, built a wall around him with their hands. The policmen too came forward. But then the karuNAmUrti--image of compassion, asked them to move away and asked the man, "You want anything?"
"I don't need anything", he said. "People talk about a SankarAchArya, a great man. Is that you?"
"Let it remain. What's your name? Where are you going at this early morning hour?" -- The merficul inquiry from the charaNAgata vatsala--one who expresses paternal love for those who seek him.
He told his name and said, as if he shot an arrow, "Don't I have a job to do? I am going for my work". A ray of mockery that 'You people who are pontiff are lazy people, doing nothing useful' seemed to echo his words.
"Where is your job?" -- the dayAnidhi--treasure of mercy, continued his inquiry.
"At Guindy" he replied and said, "Let me ask something. Whoever established this Hindu religion?" The question had no vinayam--humbleness or passion to seek knowledge, even to the extent of a grain of mustard.
Perhaps the reply "I have no idea, my dear" from Periyavar, the jnAna-meru--the Meru mountain of Knowledge, gave him the pride of winning an argument.
"You say you don't know it", he shot another arrow. "But then you also say that the shAstras--scriptures put it this way or that, so pour down milk over a stone image, pour down ghee in the sacrificial fire. How do I believe that these are all for good?"
Without a wave of chalanam--disturbance, the dayApara--man of supreme mercy asked him in a cooling voice, "Let it remain. You said you have to go to Guindy. Will the place be reached if you go through this road?"
"Which is why I am going". The reply had the tone of indifference that the question was unnecessary.
"Alright. Whoever laid this road?" The munipungava decided to play the VINA strings of the pAmara's--rustic's heart.
"This one, the road, exists since the times of my grandfather, his great-grandfather, and theirs. Why bother who laid the road? It goes to Guindy. Isn't all that needed?"
"You say with certainty that this road leads to Guindy."
"Why should there be any doubt, sir? I take this road to work daily. Moreover look up. There is a signboard that the Government has set up, indicating which road leads to what place."
The deer was caught in the net of love. But then this is not one of capture, but redemption!
"I am like you, dear. Without bothering about or worrying over who laid the road, I go through this road of Hindu religion, just as you go with belief, based on the signboard. You beleive the signboard. Even that might change direction in the wind, or fall down in rain. I believe in the books of veda and shAstras. Things that are in existence over thousands and thousands of years, far before the times of my great grandfathers who were much superior to me (and believed in them). So I believe in them and tell people to believe in them." Finishing, the dayAnidhi said in a soothing tone, "Alright, unlike me, you have work. So you get along. Take care." The sage raised his abhaya hastam--hand of blessing.
The next second, the man kicked away his sandals and prostrated before the sage, falling flat on the ground.
"Please forgive me", he said, his toungue quivering. Tears drenched his cheeks.
'Those who came to scoff remained to pray', the poetic lines of Oliver Goldsmith in The Village Preacher came to my mind.
Thereafter, due to the rasavAda pariNAmam--transformation into gold, he became a parama bhakta and visited the sage's camps.