: ➤ Life History

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Swami could not tolerate the accusation that was hastily and wrongly directed against him by the teacher

When Swami was discussing the matter with the principal, there was a teacher present, who without knowing the full extent of Swami's plea jumped to the conclusion that Swami was involved with and supported the strike. The teacher wasted no time accusing Swami thus in front of the principal. Swami could not tolerate the accusation that was hastily and wrongly directed against him by the teacher. His anger surfaced and in a rush of emotion, he hit the teacher with the first thing he could lay his hands on, a blackboard duster. The principal was appalled and warned Swami against such violent behavior. Swami of course, felt sorry and apologized, but news of this incident spread like wildfire. A couple of times, the principal had to send warning messages to Swami's parents complaining about what he perceived as arrogant and rude behavior. Soon his parents got wind of the incident and the repeated letters of complaint made them clamp down on their son with extremely strict disciplinary rules.

In spite of his quick temper, Swami was loved by one and all for his genuine concern, compassion for others' problems and the way he would go out of his way to render help.

Yet another interesting incident from Swami's school days was related by him at one of his birthday celebrations. In his childhood, Swami had had a hobby for composing poems and writing short stories. He used to be fond of acting in dramas, and had played several roles in dramas that were held as part of school festivities.

On one occasion, Swami was to act as a snake charmer in the school's annual function. A couple of days before the function, Swami and his friends approacned a professional snake charmer to ask him for a real non-poisonous snake. The snake charmer agreed and showed Swami the one basket that was located at a particular place. Later in the day, the snake charmer's wife, being unaware of this arrangement accidentally re-arranged the baskets. On the day of the function, Swami picked up the basket from the pre-determined location, not knowing what lay in store!

Swami, snake charmer costume and all, walked onto the open stage with the basket containing a lethal snake. No sooner did he start playing the makudi that the snake jumped out of the basket and reared upright, hood flared, ready to strike. Swami realized at once that this snake was far from harmless, in fact a lethal venomous snake, capable of taking his life. For a few moments he was terrified and grew pale. He then mustered all his courage, said his prayer to the Almighty and picked up the snake and threw it onto an unoccupied area of the ground. The snake slinked away, and the audience applauded him. Swami rushed to the snake charmer's house and narrated the day's events. The snake charmer was extremely sorry and apologized for his wife's inadvertent but serious mistake. When Swami returned to school, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had been awarded the first prize for his dramatic act. Everybody offered congratulations. Little did they know that his was no mere act, but actually a feat of great courage in adversity. At the end of the day, Swami was anything if not greatly relieved. Only a handful of his close friends knew his little secret!

Thus, as a young boy, Swami at various instances demonstrated unwavering courage, quicksilver presence of mind and boldness that comes only from very strong convictions and rock solid values. These qualities meant that he could brook misbehaviour and hypocrisy from nobody, age being no bar. His caring nature meant that he would go out of his way time and again in rendering help to one and all that approached him in need.

After his schooling, Swami chose to pursue his diploma in pharmacy in Madurai, a well-known city in the state of Tamilnadu.

However, after completing eighteen months, there was an incident that jolted his self-respect to such a degree that he chose to opt out of the course and returned home.

Swami had picked up car driving and typing skills over the school holidays. These skills enabled him to secure a job at the Oriental Insurance company.

It was a hot summer day in the month of May, 1967. A physical training inspector Mr. Menon who worked at the local college approached Swami requesting help to get to Alleppey (a town in the south-west coast state of Kerala), since he wanted to attend his father's funeral. He needed Swami to drive him there in a rented car. Without wasting any time, Swami approached one of his friends for a car and then immediately rushed Mr. Menon to Alleppey. In this scramble, Swami completely forgot to inform his parents about his leaving for Alleppey.

On his way back after having reached Mr. Menon for the funeral, there was a heavy downpour. It was late in the night, and everything was pitch-black. Swami lost his way. He saw a truck with a Tamilnadu registration number parked by the side of the road. Swami approached the driver who was changing his truck tire, and asked for directions. The truck driver cautioned Swami about the dangers of this particular place where he had stopped. He added that the place was known as Chothannikkara and that none dared wander in this place after dark because of the belief that the ghosts and evil spirits that wandered the locales would cast their evil spells on them. The driver asked Swami to waste no time in leaving this place. He said that there was a fuel station 1 kilometer away to which he would guide Swami. Then, he asked Swami to sit in his car while he finished changing his truck tire.

Swami waited in his car patiently for a while, but soon became restless. He got out of his car in search of somebody else that could help him. In the meantime, he saw a temple at a distance and started walking towards it. It was now pouring rain to such an extent that Swami could hardly see anything. It was dark all around.

Swami tumbled and fell down the steps leading into the temple, and lay sprawled on the muddy, wet ground, his fist gripping the temple mud. Immediately, he went into a trance-like state.

A mysterious event then occurred a woman clad in a mundu, a typical kerala style attire, appeared in front of Swami and started walking towards him. when Swami looked at the woman carefully, he noticed that her face was very familiar. The face was that of an old lady named Sivakami who was an ardent devotee of the goddess Raja Rajeshwari. Swami knew this woman very well ever since he was a child and liked her very much. Surprised to see her dressed in kerala style, an astonished Swami asked her the reason for her being in this remote place at this hour.

The lady started speaking in a mixed language of Tamil and Malayalam. She said "I know who you are and also your parents. I even knew your grandmother. Let me reveal to you facts of which you are not aware. Your grandmother was an ardent devotee of goddess Chothannikkara Bagavathi, the presiding deity of this very temple. She used to regularly conduct Devi poojais and was constantly meditating on Devi. Being of Namboodhiri lineage, she had acquired devotion and spiritualism. She spent her entire life in complete devotion of the Goddess blissfully unaware of mundane concerns of family and relatives.

By grace of the goddess, she could cure sick people by giving them mere sand as medicine. The village folk had such unwavering faith in her prayers that they recovered from even terminal afflictions by merely consuming the sacred sand (it is this very sand that Swami hands out today as the sacred sandal paste). Over time, she came to be considered as a living legend, a personification of the goddess. As she neared her life's end, she was sad and concerned since she felt that there was no one in her family who would continue the Devi araadhanai (unwavering devotion and worship of the goddess). Her son, being in military service, had very little inclination towards the worship of God and leading a life of spirituality.

Thus deeply perturbed and worried, she started praying to Devi for a solution. One day, Devi appeared before her. After blessing her, the goddess comforted her saying that her grandchild would revive and continue the Devi araadhanai in the family. Swami's grandmother then asked for another boon she asked for Devi's grace that her son be present at the time of her death in order to perform the last rites. Devi laughed at this request. She said that while all her life, Swami's grandmother had not a thought for herself or her family, yet at the time of her impending death, attachment towards kin had sneaked into her thoughts. She stated that she (Devi) could not reside in her anymore, but that years later, she would merge with her grandson (Swami) as requested. Then, Swami's grandmother witnessed Divya Darshan and then breathed her last." thus was the narration by the lady in the mundu to Swami (none other than the Goddess herself!). She then disappeared.

All this while, Swami was listening to Devi in a trance-like state, scared, confused and anxious, unconscious to the physical world, for all practical purposes. Just then, the truck driver approached Swami and woke him up. It took some time for Swami to get his bearings. The truck driver then started explaining the temple deity's legend. He said that the Devi was well-known in Kerala for removing the evil effects of ghosts and demons, and curses of people with psychic and mental problems. She (Devi) cures all, showering her blessings and grace on all devotees that pray sincerely to her (readers, please note that a detailed treatise on the history and legend of the Goddess Chothanikkara Devi is included in the third chapter of this book).

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