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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Betel-leaf for Chinna Ponnu

The camp of Sri Matha was at the Sethupati High School in Madurai. Thousands had gathered for Periyaval's darsan. A little away from the place where Periyaval was giving darsan, a betel-leaf lay on the floor. Periyaval called an attendant and told him to pick it up and keep it carefully. The attendant was puzzled. "Perhaps Periyava said so because betel-leaf is considered auspicious and must not be trampled under the foot", he thought." But why did he also instruct that it be kept carefully?" The attendant could not figure this out.

A young woman was attempting to inch towards Periyaval through the sea of people with great difficulty. She could not push her way through the crowd and reach Periyaval. But she was probably filled with devout earning to see Periyaval at close quarters. Suddenly, when it was least expected, Periyaval attempted to enter into the crowd. People moved and made way for him. When he reached the young lady, Periyaval stopped and gestured to the attendant who addressed her.

"Well, mother! Which town are you from? What is your name?"

"Chinna Ponnu..."

"What is your name?"

"That is my name, Chinna Ponnu...."

Periyaval lifted his hand and blessed the young lady. Then he looked at the attendant as if he were saying something. The attendant took the betel-leaf he had preserved carefully and gave it to the girl. At once, the girl put it into her mouth and began to chew it gratefully. She was a simple girl and unschooled in social niceties, did not know how to express her thankfulness. But all the same, she was deeply moved. Gratefully, with both palms held together in salutation, she watched as Periyaval went back. Why a betel-leaf for that young woman in particular?

Chinna Ponnu was in an advanced state of pregnancy. It was so crowded that it was impossible to breathe freely. She was nauseated, and felt as if she would throw up any time. In whom could she confide in? A single betel-leaf was all that was needed to overcome the discomfort. Who could give her that? Devotees stood holding plates loaded with fruits and balls of threaded flowers. But no one had betel-leaf on the plates. How was the betel-leaf that was not on any of the plates spotted on the floor? Perhaps Chinna Ponnu was Meenakshi to Periyaval's sight! Must be so...

Source: In the Presence of the Divine, Translated by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

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