It was sometime in December, 1971. I had just returned to Madras, after attending on my father, recovering after an emergency operation performed at Tanjore Medical College and Hospital. The last six months had been a period of anxiety and suspense. My father, aged eighty three years then, was shuttling between doctors and hospitals at Madras and Vellore for a correct diagnosis of his urological malady. One false lead after another led to an emergency operation to give him relief. The post operation days left us all in a nightmare, as my father was waging a fierce battle for his life. Never once stricken with illness in his life time, it was a shattering experience for all of us in the family to watch helplessly his condition drifting alternately between life and death for a full period of three weeks. By Grace of Maha Periyawal, answering our fervent prayers, my father staged a miraculous recovery. The condition was ultimately diagnosed as terminal in nature, requiring further treatment at Madras.
Before I took leave for arranging further treatment at Madras, my father entrusted me with a holy mission. A printed copy of the book in Tamil on money and banking authored by him had just come from the press. My father, an ardent devotee of His Holiness and a reputed banker had earlier written a monograph on the same subject in English. His Holiness had blessed the effort when my father submitted in person the manuscript in English. Now it was the wish of my father that I should take the Tamil Version, place it at the holy feet of Maha Periyawal and seek His Blessings.
I used to accompany my father who as advisor of the Mutt on legal matters was called upon to undertake periodical trips to meet Maha Periyawal at His various camps in Tamilnadu. This was the first time I was going alone to meet the pontiff. His Holiness was then camping in a remote village in Andhra Pradesh. As I slowly walked the long distance from the nearest bus stop to the camp site, memories of the battle my father waged for survival and the harrowing experience at the hospital dogged me and over-shadowed my thoughts. I vaguely felt I was carrying a last wish of my father to his chosen Guru but knew not how I was going to put it.
My father was my Guru and mentor. Even after I was married and became a parent myself, moved over to Madras in 1965 from Kumbakonam he used to pay visits to Madras often to help me manage my family of six children. My first son’s upanayanam was celebrated at a week’s notice to me and conducted at Kumbakonam when the boy was hardly seven years old! Such was his all-powering affection that like birds roosting on a big banyan tree, his five sons and grandsons thronged around him, looking to him for support and protection, basking in the sunshine of his overwhelming love, I, the last child in a joint family was yet to grow to the full responsibilities of my age. Now for the first time in a care free life, the prospect of an uncertain future was facing me, with no support to look to and fall back upon. Whether my father would survive the ordeal was uppermost in my mind, as I trekked slowly to the camp site with an overcast mind, and a forlorn appearance.
It was past noon. I was led into the presence of Maha Swamigal. The Sage was sitting alone. There were no other visitors. Even before I could mutter a few words, by way of introduction, His Holiness intervened to ask “Where is Mallikarjunan now?” I was startled by this unconventional opening. For the reference was to my father’s younger brother who had passed away years earlier. When I mumbled a reply, His Holiness started enquiring about the members of the deceased’s family. I was at a loss at this turn of the conversation. I did not know how to broach the purpose of my visit, having been jolted by a foreboding reference to an ancestor who was no more. This was something unusual, for His Holiness always used to first enquire about my father, whenever any of our family members paid a visit. Sensing my predicament as it were, His Holiness stood up walked a few steps and again sat down. I was standing with folded and trembling hands, a few yards away, holding a bag in my hand with the book my father had given me.
Facing me directly, Maha Periyawal broke the silence. “Your father informed me months back that a book in Tamil he is going to publish is under print and sought my blessings, Is it ready?”
Speechless and relieved, I take out the copy from my bag and placed it reverentially at the holy feet of His Holiness. Words fail me. I could not find words to express anything about my father’s terminal condition, or convey his wishes, much less vent my nagging fears of a bleak future. Most graciously, His Holiness placed both His palms on the book placed before Him as a gesture of benediction. He closes His eyes for a passing second which looks like eternity and in a soft tone adds “Your father was very eager to get the publication ready. That too has been completed. “Adhuvum Ayiduthu!” There was a momentary pause before He resumes. “Tell him that I have bestowed my blessings.” No other word is spoken for a few seconds. With a paternal tone of overflowing affection, His Holiness bids me to leave with the words “Have you come all alone all the way?” Tears of gratitude well up in my eyes and His Holiness beckons me take the book back and depart.
As I retraced my steps, a great burden was off my mind, a new light had entered my heart and I walked briskly back to the bus stand. I duly conveyed to my father a gist of the meeting by letter that His Holiness had blessed his endeavour. After my father passed away in March, 1972, at his residence at Kumbakonam, his last wish fulfilled and carrying with him the parting benedictions of his cherished Guru. Months passed before I had to meet the Pontiff a second time, that too at the bidding of my father. My father had made an endowment in his will in favour of the Mutt for meeting expenses in arranging discourses during Sankara Jayanthi. The meeting with His Holiness then gradually paved the way for me to come under the direct benign spell of Maha Periyawal and His Holiness Pudu Periyawal.
The subsequent events, as I look back after nearly thirty years, vouchsafe to the full significance of that first meeting and the import of His Holiness parting words to me. It occurs to me now that my father had sent me to meet his guru, so that His Vision, grace and beatitude may fall on me and guide me, as a father would guide, in the years to come. The soothing words that His Holiness spoke to dispel the creeping feelings of loneliness I was tormented by, left a deep impress in my heart to work on my psyche as years rolled on. One thing, I never, once after that meet, felt alone, for Maha Periyaval was there to guide me as I gradually grew to the responsibilities of independently managing a big family and also take to spiritual pursuits. What greater legacy can one be heir to than entrustment to the paternal care of THE UNIVERSAL PARENT AND JAGAT GURU?