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August 08, 2021 Sunday 09:34:25 AM IST

Blessed By Shree 'PA'paya Bhagavathy

Life Inspirations

Seven years after I finished my school studies in 1978 at Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, I was travelling in a bus and being the shortest of the standing passengers, I was face to face with the brushlike armpit hairs of the toddy-sweating farmers who clutched the upper support bar with both the hands. A dozen of such steaming armpits would have choked one to instant death. Suddenly, Chandrasekhara Warrier Sir, who was my Malayalam teacher at Carmel School in Chalakudy, appeared from nowhere and hissed into my years, "Idiot, aren't you ashamed to write to me?" I froze in guilt. For the next 15 minutes, silence lurked between me, the teacher and my co-passengers. 

When the teacher got down from the bus, I also followed suit. Then I admitted to the wrong doing as on a sudden impulse Warrier Sir was chosen to be one of the 21 prospective recipients of the handwritten postcards detailing the blessings to be showered by the hitherto unknown Sree Pappaya Bhagavathy, if the recipients in their turn sent cards to 21 others and be cursed if they break the blessing-chain!

Years later, my classmate who, forced by circumstances, had written thousands of such postcards on dozens of such Bhagavathees across India during his years of long unemployment ,analysed that it must have been a deft marketing strategy of the Post and Telegraph Department. 

I wondered how Chandrasekhara Warrier Sir found out I had sent the card to him! Four years later, when I revisited him at his home, he let out the secret.  “I knew it from your ‘PA’. No one could have drawn just a line for ‘PA’ without that curve and the short line sticking up on the right."
None of the students can forget our Malayalam teacher with all his 'ambalavasi' trappings on his lean body. I owe to him for my love for Malayalam language, deeply. I also remember after offering my namaskaar at his feet on his Shathaabhishekam (100th Birthday) at Ashtamichira village in Thrissur, Warrier Sir looked down on me menacingly, by default, with his betel smile.  He was an avowed Gandhian who never took fee for his language classes, left us gracefully two years ago while nudging 100. 

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Sajjive Balakrishnan

Sajjive Balakrishnan

Vice Chairman of Kerala Cartoon Academy, fastest caricaturist (LIMCA Book of Records 2012) and Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax Department.

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