I and our karanam have more than the usual acquaintance, we are friends. As I passed by his house, it was quite usual for me to hear some bhajana with Rama’ or ‘Krishna’ being sung in chorus. Almost abruptly one day. I heard a song with ‘Amma’ dominating! I was naturally surprised and stepped in to know why that change had happ ened.
‘Hullo Sir, we used to hear ‘Rama, Rama’, from your house till yesterday. Today we hear Amma, Amma. What is the matter? You have found a higher deity than the former, have you?”
*No question of high or low. It is all the same.
“If so, why had you to change at all?’ I asked.
My friend did not like to elaborate. I though that he himself was not quite sure. I continued my observation however. Whether getting up from a leisurely squat on his pial, walking with me to the market, as coming out to answer my call from inside his house, he was keeping on chanting ‘Amma, my great mother!’. One day, I persisted in my querry.
‘You are avoiding me. You must have obser ved in this mother, something which appeared to be higher than what you could in the deity you have been worshipping till yesterday. Please tell what’
He was still munching words but not explai ning at length.
‘Please tell me what impressed you at that place (Jillellamudi). You need not interpret for me. I shall try to guess from your words and interpret her to you.’
‘My dear Ramireddy, I can’t explain. One can know only if one sees’.
‘No, No. You have been there? You can surely tell me what happened if at all, can’t you? Why should I too spend that ten rupees?’
‘No. I can’t explain. You will understand only if you see for yourself’.
‘Well then, tell me when next you go there. I shall also come I decided to learn for myself.
Oneday my karanam friend asked me to get ready to start next morning to Jillellamudi. But that day I couldn’t, for some reason. He told me a second time. Someone had come and borrowed what I had, promissing to return it after changing his larger currency note. I could remember that I inten ded to make a journey the next day, only after parting with my money. Sadly, I had to go to my karanam friend and tell him that my debtor had disappointed me. He smiled at me meaningfully.
‘Why? Don’t you believe me?’
Believe your worl? I certainly do. But I don’t believe that you can reach Mother without her grace helping you to?
Why can’t I? I didn’t criticise her? I didn’t mock at you for going there? I just wanted to know what was particularly characteristic with her. What’s wrong in that? I rejoined; but in the depths of my mind there was a tenacity to evaluate and criticise, to shower my questions on her and see what strength she had at all.
I remembered that my first attempt had to stop for want of money, and my second as I had lent away the money set apart for the journey. I should not fail another time, I decided. I started on a cart to meet one of my friends in a neighbouring village and brought rupees twentyfive!– and we started. When we reached the road to catch a bus, everyone that arrived was full up! “why is this? I asked myself. Formerly, the transport services were run by private companies, and their managers had always some obligation to get from me, I had never paid the fare when I boarded a bus. But after a time, the conductors started saying “No seat sir.” I didn’t like their attitude, I commenced paying my fare, and they always stopped for me. Why this difficulty again now? Three buses ran past us, “Full up”! It was 11.A.M. and no place in any bus! I didn’t give in, “We must go today, even if we have to wait till the evening” I said. It was 4. P. M. No more buses along that route! But we waited till 5. P. M. and a bus was coming. Again the same reply, “Full up”. I felt impatient. But wait, the bus stopped
at a distance of thirty yards, may be the conductor realised his mistake. We hurried, and the door flew open. My karanam friend, who was a few yards ahead of me, got in. The door was banged and the bus started off disregarding my shouts!
Why should it be like this? My teneity increa sed. I sat down by the roadside hoping to catch a lorry or a taxi. I must do the journey. I would wait even till 10. P. M.! By half past seven, a lorry came. I knew where my friend would halt when in Sattenapalli. So I got down at Sattenapalli, but he was not there! Maybe he would have gone ahead to Guntur. I went over to the Guntur bus stand, but no bus was to start at that late hour! An advertise ment playcard for “Lava-Kusha” looked at me, and I saw that cinema and returned home.
Another time, I lent money again to an urgent borrower. I didn’t remember at all my proposal to go to Jillellamudi, the succeeding day. Our karanam came again another day.
“I am sorry. I can’t come. If you could take me, I shall start. If not, can’t.” I said.
“Why? what’s the matter?” my friend inter rogated.
“Start with what you have”
“I have just a rupee and a half only”
“Any thing. Let us start.”
And we started. We reached Jillellamudi, my friend haivng paid my bus fare.
Some devotees were worshipping mother. I sat at a distance in front of her. I had the idea of asking questions, especially why it was difficult for me to reach the place, inspite of my persistent attempts. Several of the visitors, learned men, were asking her questions and she was replying. And they were keeping quiet! What could I ask her, I thought. I didn’t ask her question that day however.
Next day also I was quiet. Staring at her for quite a long time I thought, “She answered them all, and silenced them. What could I ask her at all? And what is my knowledge?”
Mother was looking straight into me. Hullo, Rimi Reddy, how far has your critical examination progressed?” She asked. I was aghast “No, Mother….” I was trying to extricate myself from that difficult situation “Don’t be afraid child, it is not wrong to criticise mother. It can only be an affair between mother and children, isn’t it? Come near.” I put a few steps forward and stood.
“Why? Come along, come here” She pointed to her right on the ground.
I reached her. She touched the back of my head with her left p tlm and with her right hand, put a long kumkum tilakam on my forehead! She called for some prasadam and put it in my mouth. It was very sweet. The idea of asking questions dis appeared from my mind.
Translated from the telugu record of Bala.