It was a small village with only one main street that was fairly wide and two smaller lanes as they did not qualify to be termed streets.There was a walled temple at the end of the street that was unusually big for the size of the village and its limited inhabitants.It was possibly built by some king hundreds of years ago when the village was possibly very big with a large population to boast of.Although dilapidated in some places, the temple was maintained well with regular pujas and utsavams.The presiding diety was Sri Kothanda ramar along with Seetha and Lakshmana.The divine consort was Jankavalli thayar.There was a separate sanctum for Anjaneyar just opposite to the main sanctum.
The single priest who looked after the temple was dedicated and devout doing the pujas regularly at the appointed times.Except on festival and special occasions there were not many devotees except a few older people who made it daily both mornings and evenings.Otherwise the temple bore a deserted look most of the times except for the stray cattle grazing in the spacious open areas.
As the priest was decorating Janakavalli thayar in her sannithi, he heard some soft whispers of a prayer in the adjacent main sanctum sanctorum of Sri Kothanarama.It was from an old lady.He couldn’t make out what the prayer was about.The old lady must have been praying for a long time that was more in conversational tone as if she was talking to the God Himself.When he had finished the decorating job, he came to the main sannithi only to find it vacant.The old lady had evidently gone unnoticed by him.
When this happened two days later with his hearing again the soft but intense prayer, he stopped his work and came silently to the main area to find Vaidehi patti standing before SriRama with tears trickling from her closed eyes. She was praying “O Rama, why are You testing me so much? Am I not devoted to You? Am I not reciting Your name all the waking hours? How can You be so insenstive to my condition.I never asked You for a place in Heaven by Your side.My prayer is very small that You can grant in a second if You so wish.I have a feeling that I may not be living long.I want to see my son Raghu once before I close my eyes permanently.Won’t You concede this wish, small for You but big for me?” she was seen mumbling non stop with folded arms.The priest moved away to give her the privacy in her prayers
The priest was moved by this touching sight. As he repeated the old lady’s prayer, he felt it in his heart. He had compassion for this lonely lady and wished that he could also pray for her. That small prayer so earnestly made meant so much to her.He knew Vaidehi patti in her eighties was living alone in the village.She has a son Raghuraman who had gone to US when her husband was alive decades back and settled there.He used to come intially every year that tapered off to once in two or three after he married an American girl.After Vaidehi’s husband had passed away he came for dad’s last rites and wanted his mom to accompany him permanently.She refused citing ostensibly that she cannot part with her Kothanda rama but really apprehensive of staying in a foreign land with an American daughter-in-law.
Raghu was a good son, sent her regular remittances, helped the temple with hefty donations and did come alone once in three years for a week.He used to enquire her welfare from Krishna iyengar the temple trustee.The old lady was able to manage her affairs despite her frequent asthmatic bouts and never approached others for any help.She had a lot of self respect and spoke very little and except visiting temple twice a day she spent her time in chanting lord’s name.Her vision had impaired that she could not read the scriptures she used to earlier.
When the priest did not notice her for two consecutive days at the temple, he enquired and came to know that she had a fall in the bath room and was bed ridden.He went to her house and found her in her bed with a bandage on her leg.He assured her that she would get her food from the temple till such time she recovered.
It was then she spoke “Swami,Let me tell you.The fall is just an excuse for my final departure.I do not think I would ever get up and be able to see my Kothandarama again.I am unable to breathe and there is a choking feeling even while I am resting.There is a heaviness in my heart as if a big rock is placed on it.I have only one small wish before I die.I strongly desire to see my child Raghu once and talk to him.He is so far away.If only he knew that I am bed ridden,he would fly the next moment.Will you tell Krishna Iyengar to convey the message and tell Raghu to come by next flight.I will be grateful to you for this help eternally” she spoke with great difficulty.
It was the second day.The old lady’s condition had deteriorated.The doctor from the adjacent town did not hold out much hope.Krishna iyengar had conveyed the message by email.There was a message from him that he was in Hongkong on some business and that he would rush..The neighbours had gathered in her house inn her last moments.She was murmuring “Raghu, Raghu”.The eyes of all those present were moist.
It was then they heard a car pulling up and saw Raghu rushing in shouting “Amma, I am back.have no fear.I am with you always.” He went near her and placed her head on his lap telling “Amma, Raghu here.Can you see me? Open your eyes and say Raghu” She opened her eyes and saw the dim silhoutte of her dear son.there was a faint smile when she uttered,”Kanna Raghu, I was holding my breath for you.I am so happy that you have come.Kothandaraman had after all opened His eyes even before I closed mine..Give me your hand.I wish to hold it fast”
As Raghu locked her hand with his, the gentle spirit flew away satisfied that Kothanda Rama had atlast answered her prayers and at her good fortune to breathe her last on her son’s lap.