CHAPTER – 21
FROM THE MOUTH OF BABIES
Six years later, my brother was blessed with a daughter. In her third month, her mother fell seriously ill. My wives then took up the responsibility of rearing the child. We ourselves had been bringing her up ever since. This little girl who had come to meet the need of a child in our house was named Gnanambikai. She was quite precocious.
A pleasing little incident in her tenth year illustrates this.
The mothering instinct in my wives too was sublimated by the opportunity they had to bring up Gnanambikai. All their pent-up longing found an outlet in caring for this child, who is the only offspring the family has been blessed with.
We sent her to school at the proper age. When she was about ten, she asked my friend, Mr. A. Chokkalingam, to tell her a story. With great affection and tenderness, he narrated the story of Valluvar. He followed the traditional way and said that the Poet Saint married Vasuki because she was able to cook a quantity of sand and serve it as normal boiled rice for food!
Gnanambikai, who had been quite attentive till then, now interrupted him: “What you say, sir, cannot be true. How
could one ever cook sand and make it food? It is impossible. Why do you foist on me this cock and bull story?” Not one of the explanations my friend furnished proved satisfying. I happened to step in at that moment. My friend said to me; “I told Gnanam the story of Valluvar. She refuses to accept as true the incident of Vasuki cooking sand into food. It is up to you to convince her.” I seated myself by their side. “Dear child”, I said, “thy incident is doubtless true. The central idea, however, is covert half hidden: it is a secret”. Then I explained that idea to her in the way she could understand. She was fully satisfied. My friend also appeared convinced. The following sonnets roughly enshrine this incident and my version of the story of Thiruvalluvar and Vasuki
(1) “SAND CANNOT CHANGE INTO FOOD!” My child, called Gnanam, who is aged ten, Asked for a story, My friend said:- Through the land Great Valluvar did range, a bag in hand, Saying “That maiden, in the presence of men, Shall marry me who takes this bag and then Cooks it and serves me food.” It was just sand That filled that bag! Vasuki did him grand! “You lie!”, cried Gnanam again and yet again.
Between these two I had to intervene, “The Poet wished to see who would be keen”, I said, “on having him as a husband. One look Sufficed to tell her he was great. She took that sand, it’s true; but the food she did cook, Was only with rice, she knew what he did mean.”
(2) “THE DRY LIGHT OF REASON”
“This sounds just right. Then, why did people make That out to be a miracle?” “Well read Our people are, “I told my friend, “Good bread, Its molecules are different. None can take Liberties with Nature. Out of our head, We make up tales. Else fancy would be dead, Imagination, starved. This tale’s fake”.
“Yes, Yes,” my friend rejoined. “It would not do To neglect fancy. Happy am I, this child Is wise beyond her years. We elders too could profit by her outlook. Her sanity Today I’m thankful for. No more should we be gullible and swallow concoctions wild”.
We note a subtle point in this story. Valluvar planned to choose a maiden who would be both highly intelligent, and willing to accept him wholeheartedly as her husband. he filled a bag with sand and went from place to place. “I am in search of a good woman who would take this sand from me”, he announced, “and cook food and serve it to me”.
Others failed to catch the point. Vasuki grasped it because she had brains. I shall cook and serve you food”, she said, received the sand in her winnower, put it aside took up good rice, cooked food and treated him to it. This was a pointer. She admitted this way, her willingness to marry him. It was an eloquent gesture. What Valluvar used was a ruse. stratagem, just to discover that willingness and resourcefulness. These two qualities he looked for. Vasuki demonstrated she had them both. So he married her and settled down as a householder. This should be the moral of the episode. Both Gnanam and my friend were convinced. I printed and published these verses. Readers liked them immensely.