My cousin, Devanand (my dad’s sister son) passed away on 19th January, 2011, and was cremated the next day, which happened to be Thaipusam day. His mother, crying her heart out, mentioned that his birthdate was number 1 (first of January) and he died on the same month, on a day numerologically totalled one as well, and he was born on Wednesday and died on the same day. That was not all the coincidences.
As sad I was, considering that he was close to us brothers and practically grew up together at some point, my best fond memories of him happened to be something to do with Thaipusam, the day he was cremated. I have long wanted to write about that incident, but I guess his own demise pushed me to do this. I shall do this now.
It was 1996; I was one year working in
And so there we were, me after work, sitting and having dinner with my cousin. He was known as Deva to his friends, and Anand to me and his relatives. Conversation would get pretty confusing when one friend keep asking who the frickin' hell Anand was, and before he gets violent (alcoholic beverages are cheaper in Singapore), another friend has to assure that Deva and Anand are one and the same person, considering his actual name was Devanand. Oh, recently I found out that his employer, The Butcher, refers to him as Dave. Enough confusion let me get to the story.
So, there we were, Anand and his three hometown buddies, Murugaiah, Jegan and Puruso(taman), plus a few others from
Not so to Puruso. Not the close buddy of Anand who had second bottle of beer in him. Shankar excused himself to the toilet, and Puruso followed him. For some reason or other, I thought I should follow the latter, knowing well that he was not quite himself. Okay, that’s an understatement if you read on. In the loo, Shankar was doing his business, half drunk, so he was having trouble aiming at the urinal. Why I tell this is? Because Puruso walked right onto him, and this is a violation in Male Code of Conduct in toilet where you try your best to stay as far away from the guy in the next urinal.
Puruso started verbally assaulting him with words that I can post here for a simple reason that they were in Tamizh. Let say they involved variations of words defining pubic hair and private regions. I thought I better drag Puruso out of the loo before Shankar decides to realign his aim. While doing that, I had to calm him down and at times it works and at times it does not. And this won’t be the end.
The flat is about 20 metres away, but get him there I felt I was halfway the
…our friend, beloved Puruso, who was all the time bitching about Shankar, slowly started to lose his tongue, like I don’t know what he was rambling about. Definitely not Malayalam, his mother tongue, which happens to be what I speak at home. Swahili? Maybe, but alternating it with hisses? Weird sounds coming from throat. And him looking like Bruce Banner halfway becoming Hulk only with no extra muscle. Or shredded trousers. Something was wrong.
The flat they were sharing was a studio flat. No, it’s not meant for the Picassos or the Van Gogh’s. It was for piss poor Singaporeans, or alternatively, blue collar Malaysians working there. This one housed about six or seven of them, I can’t remember. There were only two rooms, and they were the kitchen and the bathroom. The rest was hall, and there was Anand, looking quite relaxed despite the Anger/Milo incident. He gave me the “what’s wrong with him?” look. I shrugged. He helped to bring Puruso in and seated him on a mattress already spread on floor.
Actually, not seated, because since he wanted to keep standing up, we have to push him down to make him lie down. The hissing and croaking sound continued…yes, I was definitely reminded of The Exorcist. If he was ever to do a 360 degrees with his head, I am ready to faint. I was still a superstition believing, Lord Shiva worshipping youth with secret desire to become a temple priest then. Trust me, freaky is not the exact word I was experiencing.
More and more housemates started to arrive and they were intrigued. At first. Freaked out would be the subsequent reaction. Soon, there were four of us attempting to push Puruso down. The hissing, croaking, and occasional howling continued. I remembered what they do during the festivals were folks would get into trance listening to pulsating percussions. To calm them down, their trance buddies or priests would whisper god’s name or something and they would step out of the spell and become normal again. I tried doing the same. Pressing the “third eye”, I chanted “Ohm Nama Shivaya” repeatedly.
Success! Yesss, it worked. He calmed down. If you think I should break out a champagne bottle, or beer bottle considering our financial situation, think again. Puruso was back and this time, remember Jegan, the other friend? Yeah, something weird happened to him, and suddenly he started to widen his eyes and stick his tongue out…far out…like it was touching his chest. Okay, I am exaggerating, but that’s how it looked like. He started to lift one leg, and having been to many religious festival, especially Thaipusam, I knew exactly what pose that was! Goddess Kali. And the other friend, Murugaiyah? He was crying.
Why? Well, sudden appearance of Kali is one, but my own cousin brother, Anand, was suddenly on his four, moving slowly around, and slowly lifting one arm up like Hitler with arthritis. What the hell was that? The tearful Murugaiah mumbled something about Lord Ganesha was inside him. Great. And now what?
To be continued….