Devikulam, my home town is a sleepy hamlet in the foothills of Munnar, in Kerala. The name was evolved from two words Devi, meaning goddess and Kulam meaning lake. Folklore says Sita Devi visited this settlement and bathed in the lake, hence known as Sita Devi lake. The villagers believe that the water of this lake has healing powers. Traditional medicine practitioners made Devikulam their home and set up clinics.
I have never been here. The reason for this absenteeism was ironically, my medical condition, called congenital infantile uterus. In my ancestral home, it had a simpler name, the curse. Delayed puberty was a serious disorder here. I hadn’t yet become a “big girl”, I had completed only my twelfth birthday!
My medical condition fell into Paattis ears. Doctors had mixed prognosis, from easily curable to medical miracle. To Paatti, it was because of the curse.
Paatti ordered Amma to bring me to Devikulam to perform the long overdue Shayana Pradakshinam in Sita Devi temple followed by a visit to Guruji’s clinic. Guruji was top notch healer of Devikulam, the local Hippocrates.
I was wet, shivering and numb to the core after the cold morning Shayana Pradakshinam. After one more dip in the cold waters of the lake, I was ushered into Guruji’s chamber draped around in freezing wet half- sari.
My woes continued through another round of Pujas in Guruji’s chamber. At the end of it, they forced a thick syrup of shatavarighritmahayograj guggul pushpdhanwaras, (I had written it down just for records), down my throat, after which I passed out promptly.
Back in the comfort of the cosy room in Paattis house, I was being attended by Rakki, the domestic help. She said that Guruji had advised day long fasting for the “dam” to open (his words! not mine).
I roamed around the wooden floored rooms, rummaging through dusty cupboards when my eyes rested on a carton full of old books. That was how I stumbled upon Amma’s old personal diary.
Snuggled in a wooden recliner with Amma’s diary, I snooped on her untold stories. As I shuffled the pages, out popped a neatly folded letter and fell on my lap. Written in Tamil language, the translation read as
It hurts to see you grieve this way. You are too young and fragile to endure this suffering. I won’t allow the curse to fall upon you. I have a plan. With Sita Devi’s blessings, we will succeed. Please come to the slope garden behind the dam.
I hope you be able to trek all the way up there in this condition. Tomorrow is the day of Neelakurinji’s blooming. Nature will hold answers to our plight. I will be waiting.
The letter struck a chord, as if it was addressed to me. It was eerie, yet intriguing.
Amma had mentioned that Neelakurinji is expected to blossom tomorrow, promptly, on the first day of Avani month as it had been so always in the past. Despite my fatigue, I was too shaken to sleep the whole night. At 5 AM, I decided to break the curfew. I silently tip-toed out of the window landing barefoot on the cold, soft moss bedded soil.
I unleashed Zimba, my only friend in this home, who seemed to fancy me from the day we met on this visit. Zimba was a Rajapalayam breed, usually are wary of strangers and their large size can intimidate almost any intruders. But somehow, we bonded like siblings. The morning walk with Zimba in tow was a perfect alibi, in case someone saw me breaking the curfew.
Mist hung heavily as I trekked my way up the hill. Breathless, I reached the entrance of the slope garden and my eager eyes scanned for appearance of Jana of the letter. I still tried to reason that the letter was written to me. I couldn’t imagine any other way. Barring few foreigners and bird watchers, not a single face under woollen hoods cared even to glimpse at us.
The lethargic clearing of mist was welcomed with gasps of excitement from the sparse tourists, as the canvas over the turf was being lifted.
And then I felt it. The jarring pain that started from the sides radiating to the lower back and an excruciating yell that failed to come out of my throat as I doubled up. Clutching my abdomen, I lowered myself on the damp rock as the villagers scrambled past us to witness the early spectre of nature.
I saw fear in Zimba’s eyes as he looked at the wild grass turning red. I extended a hand seeking his help. I felt a familiar clasp on my palm, a touch that I never missed when needed as Amma sat beside me and straddled my head into her bosom as cardamom laced breeze comforted us.
And then it bloomed. As I watched in utmost awe, the Neelakurinji plietesials were blooming, ending a 12-year period of hiatus and blossoming gregariously on nature’s canvas, as a sea of violet that cleansed us from a curse that weighed us down for twelve prejudiced years.
Doctor uncle was fending off the villagers’ attempt to lay siege of the hospital. Uncle and Janaki sister locked me inside the ward. My illicit pregnancy would bring curse to the village. Sita Devi would be very angry. Famine, epidemic and major disaster is in store, the usually affable Iyer Mama growled.
Here, I lie in shame, disgust and solitude as they brought in Janardhanan’s body for the post mortem, fished out from the Aylampuzha river in the downstream of Mattupety dam. I begged to see him, one last time. Janaki sister forbid it. It was too dangerous. Even Thambi had come brandishing a sickle. Devikulam’s honour was important than Akka and her baby in the first trimester. The curse had to be banished, forever.
- Paatti- Grandmother
- Shayana Pradakshinam- Shayana Pradakshinam is done by prostration in a lying posture. It starts with a Sashtanga Namaskara in front of the sanctum sanctorum. In this pose, the devotees circumambulate on the Pradakshina path. The relatives and friends of the devotees help them to roll around.
- Neelakurinji-, a flower which blooms once in twelve years can be seen on the hill ranges of Munnar
- Avani- Tamil calendar Month: From Mid-August to Mid-September
- Rajapalayam breed- The Rajapalayam, also known as a Poligar hound, is an Indian Sighthound. It was the companion of the royalty and aristocracy in Southern India, particularly in its namesake town of Rajapalayam in the Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu.
- Akka- Elder Sister
- Thambi- Younger Brother