Nagamanathhu Tamburan

“People cannot pass through that temple road,” my friend Krishnakumar vented his anger. I asked what exactly happened. “A new person has been appointed as temple priest”. So what! I exclaimed. Krishnakumar took the newspaper from my living room. In the fourth page he showed news about Nagamana, an ancestral house of a noted Brahman landlord, very interesting news to archaeologists. Krishnakumar continued, news about this house appear in the newspaper often. Whenever such news appears, the newly appointed temple priest will call upon all who pass via the temple road and brag about his forefathers’ greatness. People had become sick of his bluffing. Krishnakumar was one such who got bored by Raman Namboodiri’s interminable narration. Having made me understood of his account on Raman Namboodiri, Krishnakumar left for the nearside river on the way to my home.

After Krishnakumar leaving the scene, I developed a great desire to meet the newly appointed temple priest. From the beginning, I had been an admirer of Brahmanism. Moreover, I just wanted to know the veracity of the newspaper contents by personally interviewing him. Being an introvert, I could not muster up enough courage to introduce myself and begin a small talk so that I could dig out more. I expected Krishnakumar would help me in this regard but to guy proved to be too elusive for this cause.

After this incident, I met Krishnakumar frequently. Although he reported more on the priest’s boastings that burst me into laughter, little he did to introduce him. As days passed, my focus turned to latest political upheavals which became hot news. One day, I was sitting on the roadside to read a left wing newspaper. At that time, my attention was drawn to a stranger short in stature coming out from a nearby kiosk. He was clad in dhoti sans shirt with lines of ashes on his forehead and sacred thread round his body. As I observed his movements, he approached me and introduced him, “I am Raman Namboodiri, the new temple priest.” I could not hide my glee as I stumbled upon what I was searching for. Cleverly hiding sarcasm, I told, I had heard about him through my friends and newspapers reports. I complimented him, “you are the talk of village now.” This impressed him to be in his good books.

My eagerness to listen to him developed good natured friendliness. In fact, few listened to him due to his self boasting. He started visiting my house and we discussed on topics pertaining to casteism, religion et al. Whenever he visited my house, he would ask for a grass mat which I duly provided. Whatever he talked, I listened with great interest. He told, “our forefathers had 5000 acres of land. This land was given by Lord Parasuram, one of the avatars of Vishnu”. Due to land reforms, they lost their lands. Poverty made his father to sell the mana (ancestral home of Brahmans) to government. Now they live in rented house. I sympathized with him when he narrated his pathetic story. Even the sitting MLA of the nearby town was their lessee. There was seething anger in his words against the present democratic set up.

Although both of us liked each other, I noticed one thing. Most community people literally hated him especially the elite class Nairs for his lack of respect to their community. As I believed his words that it was due to jealousy that the locals hated him, I wanted to clarify that with my childhood friend Krishnakumar. One day I asked Krishnakumar about this. Krishnakumar revealed me, “Namboodiri is a man of oddities with explicit character flaws”. To my utter shock Krishnakumar told me the priest had the habit of eating beef from roadside eateries. He added that Namboodiri often comes to temple without taking bath. “Although this was brought to his attention several times, he showed only callous disregard”, continued Krishnakumar. This is a cardinal sin, I interrupted, “a Namboodiri should be on a high moral ground, he should neither consume beef, nor should he skip bath”. I asked for proof for this. On those days, there were no cell phones with cameras. Therefore taking snap of his mischief as proof was not possible. “You have to believe the hearsay, without fire smoke won’t billow”, quipped Krishnakumar as he rode away his bicycle.

As I was brooding over this matter, I felt myself on the horns of dilemma, how to dislike and avoid my friend. On those days he used to frequent my house for small talk. In my presence, he behaved like a gentleman. I consoled myself, “perhaps, all these were falsely fabricated stories, or time will prove who is right”.

A month had passed after this. For days together, I began to miss my friend Raman Namboodiri. As usual, Krishnakumar was riding the bicycle to the river for his evening bath. I called aloud and brought his attention. He turned and rode straight to me. Without me asking, he said, “Raman Namboodiri has been transferred for misconduct.” Wondered, I entreated Krishnakumar to reveal more. “While offering flowers to women, he put a love letter in flowers in the hands of a good looking girl who showed immediately the letter to her parents. In no time, the parents brought the matter to the Dewaswom board.” Therefore this transfer, narrated Krishnakumar.

As Krishnakumar hurried to the river, I cautioned myself, character flaws ruin career, Nagamanathu Tamburan’s example is a pointer to this.