Nostalgia: My childhood days inside a temple

Nostalgia : This story was published in The New Indian Express sometime back : My childhood days inside a temple M G Warrier During my childhood days, or to be more specific, a major portion of my school days from Class V to Class X I stayed within the four walls of a Shiva temple in north Kerala. My father was the temple pujari and he was allowed to stay inside the temple. As our ancestral house was in a remote village, about seven kilometres away from my father’s workplace and there were no schools nearby, my sister and me were accommodated in the temple. We also had a school near the temple. My sister, who was elder to me, completed her schooling five years ahead of me. After that it was my father and me who were the only ones who stayed inside the temple. There was no kitchen in the temple premises, except the thidappalli where naivedyam (offering) for the deities is prepared. But my father, when the need arose, made it a makeshift kitchen for preparing food for us. It was a different matter that most of the time the both of us used to have food from outside. Not from hotels but from wherever we got an invitation or whenever my father was called to help the main chef, who happened to be his friend, in preparing sadyas (feast) in connection with birthdays, weddings and other rituals. The ceremonies started right from the birth of a child to a death in the family and all families, irrespective of their economic condition, celebrated without fail. There was no bedroom or study inside the temple. The storeroom was converted into living-cum-bedroom-cum-study. The only disadvantage being that there were no windows in the narrow room. So, in the morning after finishing all the rituals in the nearby compounds, I used to wait for the first rays of the Sun to start my studies sitting outside the room. As another deity was accommodated in the opposite room, whenever someone came to pray, I was to stand up. This used to be repeated a few times depending on the importance of the day in the calendar. Some of them were kind enough to tell me that it was not necessary for me to stand up, as long as I was reading. I remember one ammayaar (Tamil Brahmin woman) aged around 70 years making daily visits to the temple. By the time she reached, my father would be busy in the thidappalli preparing naivedyam for the deity or food for us. Ammayaar would make her presence felt with a loud question standing just near the thidappalli: Innentha koottan? (What curry you are preparing today?). My dad would immediately come out and explain the recipe, before proceeding to the sanctum sanctorum to give her prasadam. After accepting the prasadam she would come towards me to make enquiries about my studies. She would bless me and complete her pradakshina. The temple was facing east. It was my responsibility to light one or two lamps outside sanctum sanctorum, which would give an impression to passers-by looking from a distance that the temple was open. In the evenings, the temple compound would get converted into a badminton court and youngsters from the locality would come and play. But all of them would leave well before dark and I would be the lone soul giving company to the bhoothaganas of Lord Shiva in the temple when my father returns late after work. Electricity would reach the village fifteen years later.

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