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The Sage's sense of humour

V.J.Chandrasekharan

To introduce myself in brief, I am the third son of late Sri V. Janakirama Iyer, Manager, Urban Bank, Villupuram. He had very close ties with the 'Periava' both before and after his Sanyasam. The incidents I refer to in this article happened in our village, Venkatadri Agaram, where he stayed for over six months in the year 1948. I was very fortunate in that he took a liking to me and he used to take me with him often when he went for long walks, at any odd time of day or night. We were just the two of us.

With childlike innocence he used to ask me to learn the names of all the plants and trees and tell him. He loved talked about stars, taking immense pains to teach me their names, relative positions etc., In short, he could talk on any subject under the sun and it was amazing that he evinced such keen interest even in ordinary, and to what the most must be very mundane, things.

Once during an eclipse, he took a dip in a canal specially dug for him in the sandy river, Pennaar. After the holy dip, he sat down on the sands for japam. The early morning sun was mercilessly scorching. I stood on the bank in such a way that my shadow fell on him in order to shield him from the piercing heat. Just then, one secretary, I think his name was Anjaneyulu, rushed at me to push me away saying 'Apacharam! Apacharam! Your shadow falling on Periava! As Periava was in deep meditation, he could not have seen what was happening. But to the amazement of all he immediately put his hand up, a signal for Sri Anjaneyulu to back away from me. There was not one person present there who was not deeply moved.

On another occasion he sent word for me around 8 p.m. to go for a walk. As always, I just followed him, After what seemed to be a very long walk we reached a village, Vadavambalam where a math was being maintained. It must have been well past 10 p.m. when we reached the math. He bade me to be quiet and on reaching the closed gate he started begging for food just like a beggar. The disciples inside, annoyed at being disturbed at such a late hour, rudely asked the "beggar" to go away. But 'Periava' was persistent, saying that surely they would have some 'Palakarama' left. By this time the persons inside were growing angry indeed and one or two of them came rushing out with a jug of water to throw at the 'beggar'. Imagine their surprise and shock of seeing the Periava there at the gate! They immediately prostrated themselves asking for his forgiveness. He said "Chandru, look at the respect I get!"

So saying he took me inside a room closing the door behind him. He made me partake of some fruit and dry fruits that were there but he himself touched nothing. It was always a matter of great surprise to me that he ate very little.