There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 5
The heat was oppressing even as I got out of the car to step on the soil of my ancestors. My birthplace-a little village in the State of Kerala in Southern India.
My grandmother, a tiny woman with nerves of steel, gave me a hug and a broad smile as she enquired about my journey and told the maid behind her to place my bags in my old room.
After chit-chat and general gossip for sometime, she sent me to the ‘kolam’ (a large bathing pool). Dressed in the traditional settu-mundu(a two piece sari), I toweled my hair dry. It was wonderful being back in this house, back to my roots.
My grandmother set out my lunch for me and we settled down to feast on traditional keralite sadya or feast. I commented on how hot it was this year when compared to the last timed I visited. She explained that it had been a year since it had rained. The crops were suffering and drinking water was running out. Even the kulams had less water now, a fact that I had noted as I had my bath. The village panchayat had called a eminent brahmana to perform the rain invoking yagna. Today was the last day and it was supposed to rain at the close of the yagna.
I had my doubts about such things working, being of the general that believed in science and not in tradition as my grandmother put it. I explained that it was not tradition that I was against but superstitions like this yagna which seemed more like money making schemes to me.
I spent the rest of my afternoon meeting my cousins and the myriad aunts and uncles and neighbors in the village.
Apparently the whole village had gathered in the huge temple grounds where the yagna was being performed. I had to appreciate the brahmanas performing the yagna in this blistering heat even if I did not set much store by what they were doing.
Nevertheless, there was something to be said for watching a yagna being performed. Te chants and the smells and sounds added to the flickering flames were hypnotic and created an atmosphere that had to be seen to be believed. I could see the hope on the villager’s faces. Women in traditional sttu mundu with multi-colored blouses, a deep red bindi and sacred chandanam on their foreheads and the men elegant in their dhotis. The little girls played at a distance decked in brightly colored pattu-pavadas.
Splot…I blinked as a drop of water fell on my head…The crowd was murmuring in delight as drop after drop fell on the parched earth…
The rain came down in torrents and the people were dancing with joy as I looked on in disbelief as the yagna fire was completely put out by the rain it summoned.