Travels / April 17, 2016


The drums called me. I had just gotten home from a delicious lunch. It was much different from the one last week that got me sick. Last Monday, I spent an evening purging from top and bottom. Most unpleasant. This is especially true when both are happening at the same time. Nevertheless, the most vivid memory of that day was the constant care that was given to me by the doctors, the house man, the driver, the cook across the street and her two beautiful daughters. So much kindness. It is the kindness that I can never forget. Dr. Shamna brought me medicines and made me tea. Dr. Prabhavt came to make sure that I was comfortable. Prashan, the driver brought me coconut water. The houseman made sure that the cook prepared my rice porridge. And her daughters delivered it hot and ready to eat.

But back to the drums. I had to find out where they were coming from so I walked around the apartment and found a street. The street was not even as wide as my arms’ width. In India this is a three lane highway. There in the middle of the field stood a temple. On the left was a special canopy for donations. But the main event was directly across from this. There was a man painted turmeric gold wearing a head-dress made of marigolds and silver cobras. He represented Sri Muthappan.

Sree Muthappan is a deity unique to Kerala. The legend says that there was a wealthy man and his wife. They were unable to have children. One day, after many prayers, they found a baby near a river rock. They raised the child as their own. The boy, however, hunted and played with children in a lower caste. Both of these actions were unacceptable for a boy of his high caste. His parents scolded him. He, however, continued to give the animals that he killed to the poor. Finally, his parents decided to punish him by locking him in a room. After several days, they opened the door only to discover Lord Shiva. The child, Sree Muthappan was an incarnation of the Divine God.

That evening in the fields, Sree Muthappan listened to the questions of the villagers and granted them blessings. One of the ladies in my group and I stood outside of the ceremony watching. Finally, the villagers realized that we came in peace and were not leaving. Later I found out that Sree Muthappan in unique because he is one of the only gods that anyone from any caste can worship in his temples. The children swarmed around us and fired question after question in perfect English. “What is your name? ” “What is your native place?” “What is your mother’s name?” “What is your father’s name?” They would ask a question. We would answer and they would run away until they returned with another question.

Then the men talked to us. They proudly introduced their children. They told us that they love Obama and that he is a good man. After our introduction to many of the villagers we received a banana leaf filled with roasted peas and slices of coconut. Finally, we were invited into the tent to receive our blessings. Sree Muthappan took our hands, put his fingers in our palm and chanted a blessing for well-being and health. Drums, rhythmic and energizing. The villagers, warm and inviting. A blessing from Sree Muthappan…priceless. Happy Thanksgiving!


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