V. Ratna
Magazine : Mother of All
Language : English
Volume Number : 7
Month : January
Issue Number : 1
Year : 2008


It was a hot day… usual in summertime and…Jillellamudi, in spite of the fields and the Drain – (It is a canal and heaven knows why it is called DRAIN) that flows down from west to east. The big building on the south side of the village Jillellamudi, and its enclosure was bustling and busy with the preparations that were going on, to celebrate Mother’s upcoming Golden Jubilee Birthday….. For in few more days,…on the great day, there was going to be a feast and they were intending to feed 1 lakh people on the premises and surrounding fields…..Lorries bearing provisions and goods have been coming in regularly and shedding load…rice, pulses, oils, mirchi, spices etc.

It all started rather casually….Everybody knew Mother’s fifty first birthday was coming up and as usual everybody had his or her own plans on how to celebrate the happy occasion…Somebody thought of conducting a ‘Kavi Sammelanam’….Another thought of releasing a special souvenir… Someone proposed ordering a diamond-studded crown….Someone else talked about inviting great saints to convene a ‘Vedantha Sabha…..Jillellamudi was not one of your methodical, well-knit, tightly run kind of establishment one sees as in the case of some other institutions….Nor was it a moneyed one either… Funds perennially flowed low… To say honestly…it was like a big family…A big middle class family with all its accompanying delights, faults, advantages, worries, ego-clashes, and splendid rallying in-time of-needs….And it ran just like that…A family function…Somebody plans, somebody chips in with timely help, somebody executes, somebody finds faults….. Nobody quite knows how funds would come in or go out…They just do… In the end everything gets completed in time just right and nothing ever gets stalled…either for want of money or men…

When all these ideas were put before Mother for her approval, she reacted in an unexpected (?) way…..These were all good plans, she said… (Of course, she never hurts anybody). But if it was all the same to them, she would rather spend the money on feeding her children…In fact, she said, it was a long cherished desire of hers to see one lakh people eating at one place…. All those children gathering round Mother, bearing their little gifts realized once again what she really wants….and that was how all these preparations have come about and going on now…..

It was nearing dusk when a brother was called upstairs, into Mother’s penthouse on the third story, with urgent summons….A problem cropped up and needed his assistance…. Vistharaakulu, (the leaf plates) we generally use for eating have to be procured urgently….As estimates go, 1 lakh people were expected to dine…that means at least two lakh plates…as usually two are used. placed one on top of the other…And of course you cannot bring home just what the figures say without leaving a wider margin…… You might need some for covering the items, some for reserves…Anyway, Jillellamudi was a constantly busy place with ‘Nithya Anna Prasadam (Mother never liked the word Annadanam) people coming and going all the time…So. a few extra would not go in vain….They have inquired with wholesale merchants at Vijayawada, Guntur and drew a blank…Nobody was ready with that kind of supplies with them and at such a short notice…… That left only one place to head for… Madras…

He was given few instructions…where to go in Madras, and few details about the transaction…He had to reach there in the morning at the earliest, finish the transaction and try to return the same day if possible… It took another few more hours before they could actually make some arrangements and he touched the feet, had kumkum and took leave of Mother…

So, it thus came about, the man sat huddled in corner bench on the desolate Bapatla station (the nearest railway station, seven miles from Jillellamudi) platform at eleven or so in the night,… waiting and praying for a train to halt there….A group of devotees heading for Guntur dropped him at the railway station as per Mother’s instruction and drove off… He wished they had taken him with them till Guntur or at least till Tenali….They are busier stations and may be he could catch a train from there….For Bapatla, 197 miles from Madras, though situated on the busy Vijayawada-Madras line, is small station and no express train worth its name ever halted there in those days…..Nearly 30 years back….On that particular night even the friendly, ponderous Dakshin passed on before he could enter the station…

Time passed and the station clock chimed twelve…He sat there, fanning the desultory mosquito away…twiddling his thumbs, and wondering why mother made him wait there, and how on earth he could ever reach Madras this way…Early morning?…looked like he would not be there even by mid-day!

At about twelve, the station master went round the platforms checking and making sure his station remained free of unruly elements…He caught sight of the brother and enquired what train he was waiting for, and they fell talking……When the brother said he had to go to Madras, the S.M. nodded his head and said he heard of the Golden Jubilee plans, laughed outright at the prospect of his boarding a train for the night saying only the Circar Express next morning would be his option, and went off with a cryptic “maybe you could go in sputnik”…The brother felt rather foolish and tried to settle further on the bench more comfortably….

The time went past twelve- thirty…. The station quietened down and was silent now…A small goods train rattled by on the loop lines and creaked to halt somewhere on the outer area of the station…A figure sped up from the stationmaster’s cabin and ran in…”come on…Board the Sputnik..”..The Station Master hurried him on… The brother was in confusion and hastened alongside the S.M…. Sputnik was the name given to the goods train that carries livestock from Calcutta to Madras…Because, on account of its precious cargo, it was a common practice to give it a green signal all the way, at all stations and it completes its run in record time….

The brother boarded an open topped compartment full of grazing, mooing, bleating, cuddling, cattle, and goats and reached Madras before the sun was up…..

(I have written this as had been told to me by my late uncle Sri. V.V.S. Prakasarao, generally known as Bandar Suri in Jillellamudi circles….Unfortunately I forgot the name of this brother who went to Madras for these vistharaku…… Recent enquiries I made with Gopal annayya and Vasundhrakkayya to obtain info on this did not yield results… I wish whoever he is, would come forward and recount the episode in his own words…

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