We didn’t find any concrete roads , in our path , to Shanti’s house. It was three storied building . Her father and mother , stayed in the ground floor. She stayed in first floor, and second floor there were small rooms , which they rented it to Guest, who came at the time of festivals in Tiruvannamalai. The building was close to Mannikular Ganesha temple, and a temple with similar name, was also in Pondicherry, close to the main building of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Shanti looked like a regular South Indian women with a dark skin , a mark of sacred ash in forehead with never failing smile , and peculiar English ascent blending between English and Tamil, thoroughly challenged by the sharp and aristocrat English expression of Lucas, yet always welcoming his curiosity, like a nurturing mother ,without getting affected with the challenges, she was facing all the way in communicating him.
She made us comfortable, in her house, introduced us to her parents, and then showed us our room in the second floor. The rooms were quite small, but had an attached bathroom, so once you close the door, you had your own small world. We were served some unknown south Indian food, which her mother made for dinner. Lucas didn’t take any food and went straight into bed, after taking the painkiller, and a sleeping pill, prescribed by the doctor.
Shanti accompanied me in dinner , in the small verandah, before entering the rooms in second floor. The food was served in small table, and three small chairs, and sitting there you could have a perfect view of Arunachala . Everything around Shanti’s house, was peaceful, and small in size , yet beautiful and elegant. It seemed that Shanti , had extreme fondness towards dwarfness, as the verandah’s were filled with bonsai plant. We had usual conversation regarding Bengali food , Tamil culture , Spirituality , Religion before we completed the dinner .
As I left the table ,she plucked a flower from her lustrous tresses , with gentle smile ,and give to me , and told me in sign language to keep it, while listening to my “Goodnight” message. While returning to my room , I was thinking , Shanti had all those things, which could grip anybody for long conversations, and she could enchant them even with her broken English , by the help of language, she speaks through deep kajoled eyes .
It is the tiredness of the fourteen kilometer walk in a day, encountering storms , rains and accident, made me complete the dinner, as fast as possible in order, to go bed early, and abruptly complete our conversation, while Shanti wanted to speak more .
Unfortunately, my sleep didn’t last long despite of the fact , that I was dead tired .
I waked up , in the middle of the night, hearing the annoying noise of quarrelling between few man. When I opened my door, I found Ganeshan again , this time in civil dress, engaged with Lucas into an fierce argument.
The aggression of Ganeshan eye, was full of greed, of a predator getting his prey after a long wait. His greed wanted more lubricant and determined to get it from Lucas, but he refused to give any more money. Ganeshan also brought another police officer, who can speak better English , and they were both threatening Lucas.
But what I found next , was more frightening than the argument between Lucas and Ganeshan. The lustrous tresses of Shanti , was no longer carrying any flower and the gentle unfailing smile , was replaced by fierce and violent look, with a long bamboo stick in her hand, as same as her height.
As both of them hit Lucas , Shanti started moving the bamboo stick, all across her body . Shanti was moving the stick so fast in the small verandah where we had dinner , in such method and grace , four of us become paralyzed , not able to move an inch. Terrror striked in the face of Ganeshan, and his colleague. However , they resisted but got soon defeated, as they seemed too had never seen Shanti like this. They quickly got down in there Jip. The driver had already started the jip sensing trouble, and fled.
Lucas slowly started taking baby steps to reach his bed, and with a curious look asked Shanti.
– “ What was that , where did you learned this ?”
– “ It was Silambam , an ancient marial art of Tamilnadu which taught by Siddhar Agastya Muni some three thousand ago “. Slowly and gently , Shanti was returning back to her original loving personality, then the fierce form she showed us.
– “Remember we went to Agastya Ashram in Girivalam Road”. I added.
– “I actually use to practice Bharatnatyam , a traditional dance form here . My teacher asked also to practice Silambam for the developing footwork and the fitness of the body for improving the dance. But I loved the Silambam practice so much, that I decided not only to devote my time on this practice, but also to teach other women for self defense. Now , I am able to defend man too.” Shanti laughed while teasing Lucas, after completing her sentence in broken english. Lucas was embarrassed and his face turned red.
– “That’s ultimate feminist statement . You had really done a role reversal.” I cheered up for Shanti. But she seemed to be not impressed on that.
– “I am not a feminist . I don’t support oppression of women by man , and at the same time, I don’t support oppression of man by women or other man too”.
A Video on Silambam: Silambam
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“Stories from Arunachala Diaries” reflects the author’s present recollections of experiences over time. Some names and characteristics have been changed, some events have been compressed, and some dialogue has been recreated to create neccesary literary effect. The reader should not consider this book anything other than a work of literature.