CAME THOMAS _ Chapter - 8
A Novel in Thamizh by KA.NAA.SUBRAMANIAN
Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan
Down the Memory lane we can only move back in time, but, in reality we can only move ahead and not backwards.
Brahmins have got some influence in the society – with that they find avenues to earn their daily–bread. There might have been some meaning and principle in the life of Brahmins, once upon a time, long, long ago. But, that principle and meaning are no more, I feel.
Somehow, Brahmanism fails to give me any satisfaction or fulfillment.
It is not because of lofty principles and ideals that this dissatisfaction prevails. It is on account of my father’s falsehood and pretentious living, a life full of lies that Brahmanism fails to prove meaningful or satisfying to me. It is not that there are no Brahmins who go about doing their daily – chores in a befitting manner. But, I can only look at them from a distance and am unable to move closer to them and have them as my model.
One day I asked Valluvan, “Can I convert into a Jain?”
“My Brahmanism is not satisfying to me.”
“Same is the case with me too. My Jainism does not give me satisfaction. What to do?” – asked Valluvan.
“I don’t think that we both are speaking the same thing.”
“You evaluate the Brahmins with discontent, having your father as the model. As for me, there is very much the wish to establish a principle and concept, going beyond the philosophies of Jainism and establishing a new religion and religious principle, one which is common to the whole of Humanity.” Said Valluvan.
“Both cannot be the same. You found your universal religion based on Jainism only – such as non – violence, extinct of the five senses and the like. That Brahmanism tastes bitter to me is for different reason, can’t you see? To lead a good life, especially for me to lead a good life it is insufficient to a Brahmin.”
“I don’t think it proper to go in search of another religion, for this reason. It is you who should change and not your religion.” opined Valluvan.
“I don’t think it is possible to have a change of heart, being a Brahmin.”
“What else can you be, except being a Brahmin? Brahmins believe in Caste and Creed. You are Brahmin by birth. Even if you convert into a Jain, you should be Brahmin only. Isn’t it?.”
“How can that be?”
“It is not only because I am a Jain. But, I don’t think that man is capable of changing the old and the ancient. Even if you change your religion today and change your name, will that erase your past? Only, your attempt to escape will be clearly seen by the world. I don’t think there any other positive results.”
“Ok, I don’t become a Jain. I will go over to that new religion of Jesus of which Ezekial spoke that day. He called it the Path of Love. Then, it must be a good path only, No?” – said I.
After contemplating for a while Valluvan siad: “Come to think of it, all religions preach the path of love only. But, no man is able to experience love in it’s entirety. The common social practices called religions alone cannot bring love. That is possible only by individual efforts. When love comes into being through individual efforts that way and when it brings about an overall change in the Society, only then that which is called the path of love might become possible.”
“Attempts at knowing whether it is possible are good only, no?”
“True, good only. Whatever we hear from whosoever, it is good to examine and analyze it and realize the truth in it and then accept it or react to it. Realizing the path of Love should help in the purification and spreading of our Jainism and Brahmanism. Instead of that it is not correct to think that everything would become alright just by switching over to another religion and that the old would turn invalid and all that.”
I didn’t answer.
Valluvan continued, “It is only me who gave the name of Love to the Path of Jesus. More than that, to claim that to be the underlying principle of Christianity and that the Christ insists that alone, I do not know anything about it with certainty. If we are to believe what Ezekial has said, this path of love seems to have come into existence bringing along with it conflicts and quarrels. Didn’t Ezekial say about fights, quarrels and conflicts between these, of the new Faith and Jews who are the conservatives? I very much like to know fully about the rest of it. Remember, Ezekial said that someone called Apostle Thomas is going to come. Let him come. We will learn about things and thn talk further.”
For this too I didn’t say anything in answer.
Again Valluvan spoke:“Whatever you propose to do, though you don’t give a thought to your father, think of you mother before taking to a course of action. As it is she is not keeping good health and she is down in spirits too. Don’t do anything which would hurt her further. That alone is important.”
“If mother is to be alright, physically and psychologically, I should look for a girl to get married to immediately. Even, it is not correct to put it in this way. For, I should tie the knot to the girl whomsoever they choose to be my wife.”
“Do you believe that even your father and mother would do you harm?”
“In the case of my mother, true, she won’t harm me. But, father would do only things that suit his convenience alone. That has become his second nature. Generally, many of the Brahmins are selfish only, from what I have experienced. If I am wrong it would give satisfaction even to my own self” – said I.
“If there exists a section among men in this place for which selfishness is the very philosophy of Life, it is indeed the Brahmins, I feel”
“Can’t say so with finality. Even to my knowledge there exist some righteous Brahmins–Ramachandra Deekshidhar, Bharathwaja Deekshidhar, Subbarama Iyer”
“So, you have named three person. In thirty, to find the fourth is indeed a difficult task” said I and laughed.
“Even if there are three righteous persons among every thirty in the world, such a ratio can indeed be called as showing a steady progress of the world.”
“Ok, I accept all that you say. But still, I don’t think that it is possible for me to continue to think of me as a Brahmin and move around within the narrow circle.”
“Whatever you do, consult your mother and do with her consent. If possible, take her also with you – only this much I can say. Yesterday or day before yesterday Miriam was talking about your mother.”
“What did she say….Miriam?
“It is indeed very rare to see someone who doesn’t like Miriam. The man who is to marry her is very lucky indeed” – said Valluvan.
“Like my mother and Miriam, I know another gentle woman also” said I, with some pride.
Valluvan knew whom I was referring to. Still, just to hear it from my mouth, he asked. “Who are you referring to?”
“My sister-in-law. Your wife Vasuki” – said I.
“True, I’m lucky in many ways. Don’t know what all good things I did in my previous birth, as a result I have got Vasuki as my wife. As long as there exist some such women, there is no need for us to have any fear of the good–heartedness of the future generations”.
“I too can see that. But, they are not able to influence the course and functioning of the present world in any way.”
“We think so – that they cannot influence. But, who knows – may be they are ruling over the world” – so saying, Valluvan kept silent for a moment. Then, “One of the important riches of all that man can attain, is a good home, one should say. If there is a good wife at home, man needs no other wealth; if there isn’t, whatever wealth and comforts man has, they are of no use. It is as good as not being there.”
“Your mother should also be included in the list of gentle women, no?”
“Yes. There may also be many gentle–women among those who are unknown to us. Not alone in Brahmin community–but also in other societies, there may live good men. For example, Ezekial. He earns wealth through fair and righteous means. Hence, added to wealth he acquires those which are considered ‘access to Heaven.’ Wealth in this life and salvation in the life after Death.” It is the combination of these two wealth that fulfills both the prime principles of
“Even though he has not acquired wealth, your father Bagavan also...”
“I am a good example to the saying that there are some who are born rich. My worry is that I should be worthy of the riches.”
“I do not have any such worry.” - I observed so and laughed.
“You always forget your mother and it is that which is a grave mistake,” said Valluvan harshly.
Indeed true. His reprimand is correct only. Not that I don’t love my mother. But, love alone is not enough. Having love and affection for her in my heart. I can still do things that would cause her sorrow. I decided then and there not to indulge in anything that would cause her sorrow.
“Why is it that life is so difficult?” – I asked Valluvan.
“Life is neither difficult nor easy. It is we who make it difficult. Just because we do not know how to make it smooth, we make it hard. Should learn to live smoothly, without strains.”
“Like my father? It seems that if we cultivate selfishness life becomes easy,”
“That is also difficult only. One can calculate and realize that the benefits one gains through selfishness is less when compared to the loss it incurs in others. We can cultivate many other good ideals, can’t we? Helping others, showing mercy, not uttering bad words at any cost, worshipping truth – so there are many good principles available for men. If we get hold of any one of them, then...”
“Come to think of it, even myself must have done many good things in my previous birth, I feel… Or else, I wouldn’t have acquired a friend like you in this birth!” said I.
“I take pride in it, and I accept it in all humility. I am also lucky to have you as my friend. I’m using the word luck in the meaning of the rich harvest of good deeds in the previous birth. I don’t have much belief in what people call ‘good – luck.’ However intelligently we speak, we should get someone to take it to heart in its totality. And hence, I should feel that which I get, as good –luck only, shouldn’t I?”
“Ok. Let’s accept that both of us had done good deeds in our previous births. But, what we are going to do in this birth is the problem confronting us today, isn’t it so?”
“Don’t fly high. Have your legs firmly placed on the Earth and walk. That alone is connecting. Are you saying that?”
“To make one who wants to fly in the sky, walk on earth, a friend it needed.”
“Seen in that light, it doesn’t appear a good thing to me.”
“Indeed, good thing only. Sometimes I have contemplated on why the dancing girls come dancing, wearing silver anklet. That it produces ’jalak, jalak’ sound is nothing more than a trivial reason. The main reason seems to me to prevent them from flying.’ Its main function is to prevent them from leaving the earth and start flying high, taken aloft, by providing weight to the legs – so it appears to me.”
It was indeed nice to wander about here and there, along the seashore, chit-chatting, completely unaware of the surroundings. In all these years, as far as my memory goes, for the past five or six years, daily twice – morning and evening – in the morning till the sun’s rays pierce the body, if it is evening, till darkness shrouds everything, Valluvan and myself have been doing this.
I am a poor Brahmin. With not even an iota of Brahmanism or faith in it - a Brahmin by birth alone, Valluvan belongs to that caste which the Brahmins keep away from and look down – the Valluvan caste. He is also of a different religion. Through Jains are in large numbers here, they are looked down and are considered as ‘Harijans’ by the high – caste Hindus like me. My father also tells me that I shouldn’t be friendly with him, for, that would spoil me. Still, many–both the Brahmins and the Jains–do believe that in our Vedas and Upanishads many of the ideals and thoughts of Jainism have found a place. In fact, the Jains and the Brahmins do not talk of it much. Though, basically the Brahmins do think that the Faith called Jainism did exist even before the Vedic-period, the Brahmins never accept that there existed a period before that of the Vedas. They somehow cover it up.
I myself do not think of me as a Brahmin at all.
After coming to Mylai, completing my schooling–some punishment for some wrong–deeds – in the initial days some orthodox ritualistic Brahmins used to call me to accompany them as a helping hand or the subbordinate Brahmins, but I had never gone. But, it was not the same in Valluvan’s case. Among the Jains many have accepted him as their Guru; spiritual leader.
I was there when the young seedling of the Pallava Kingdom, Prince Sivakumaresa came in person to see Valluvan and paid his respect and requested him thus: ”When I am to sit on the throne, please be kind enough to write a small handy book consisting of the various thoughts and concepts from the literary works of ancient India which would give me counsel and advice.”
“In your city itself there will be people better qualified than me to do the work,” – said Valluvan but the prince would not listen to it.“You alone are my guru. And, only you should write the book for me,” said he with finality. Not only because it was the order of the Sovereign emperor but also that my friend too was interested in such matters that he agreed to do so. Through listening he had leant not only the scriptures and Sasthras of Jainism but also the other Indian Philosophic strains and Sasthras while being in his early thirties itself. Right from my birth they had taught me the alphabets, educational training – everything. Initially it was me who had taught Valluvan Sanskrit,.some Tamil and the like.
“For me you are my Aadhi, Bagava, – everything. Because He had brought me into this word, my world. My worlds start with Aadhi and Bagavan alone. And, as you have taught the alphabets, I consider you too as an Aadhi Bagavan indeed.”
Only later on I came to know that the concept Aadhi and Bagavan itself was a Jainic concept. From me Valluvan had learnt to read Sanskrit and Tamil. The Brahmin community, no doubt, would hold it wrong on my part to have taught him. That too, of late, the Brahmins are so rudely vigilant in preventing the knowledge of Sanskrit from reaching the low–caste born. Wonder why..
The whole locality knows – that we two, Valluvan and myself are friends. People, mainly the Brahmins believe that I too, like my father, but in a different manner, have gone astray. They are welcome to their conclusion. I have never expected anything for myself from the Brahmins. It is true that Valluvan’s company gives me great solace and peace of mind. It was only Valluvan’s works, firmly based on sound wisdom that helped me who was struggling amidst various water-currents, unable to climb ashore, find some rest and reprieve.
I really feel that knowing Valluvan, his mother Aadhi, wife Vasuki, brother Siddhartha has brought about a new meaning and significance to my life; and that is the fruit of my good–deeds in my previous birth. Without any basis, the Brahmins believe in all arrogance that with the help of performing “Yagas and adhering to rituals, the yield of the previous – birth can be changed from bad to good. I feel that it cannot be changed. So, in this respect I am also a Jain. I should say.
Wondering what would my previous – births especially yield in the coming days, I started walking towards my house. Valluvan’s house was in the opposite direction, on the outskirts of our place. Up above, the sky was crowded with stormy clouds. The atmosphere was airless, suffocating. Though I wiped off the sweat I didn’t feel the suffocation of the atmosphere.
I didn’t know then that the usual storm in the Sea would bring about a storm in my life too. That the storm and the calm afterwards would come to me through Valluvan was also not known to me then. That I would become a nameless Hero of History was also not known to me when I reached home that evening.
The next day, storm raged in the night and died. And, there arose in my life the symptoms of a severe storm.