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War and Water

A parable by Kamala Harihara Aiyar

“Kadai sollu Attungal Patti, Kadai sollu.”   We all (kids) gather around our beloved grandmother (Patti in Tamil and Muthassi in Malayalam).  This loveable soul, in fact, was my great grandmother and she hailed from Attungal near Trivandrum.  Hence the prefix to her status.  Initially she will make some lame excuses as being tired or wanting to chant her prayers.  But she will relent in the end.

All her stories had a moral to learn.  Life looked charming and peaceful listening to these anecdotes.   Some may have been true.  Others mythical but absorbing and fascinating.  Here is an excellent story laden with wisdom not only for quarrelsome couples but also to siblings who bicker and argue even for trifling matters.

In the bygone days couples were bound to matrimonial vows 'for better or worse.'  They had to give credence to the pledge and work it out.  The question of divorce was unacceptable.  From today's perspective they make look like draconian measures.  Yet these customs had good family values.  All worked hard to prevent families from splintering on trivial issues.  A Lot of effort went in to settle family disputes as much as possible by elders and caring friends.

Long ago there lived a quarrelsome couple.  Their incessant bickering made the man feel undervalued and the woman unappreciated.  This led to more trouble.  Any counselling or advice went down the drain.  The problem got worse each day.

The wife was labelled ‘quarrel-monger’, the husband as ‘henpecked and impotent’.  Should he not control a verbose woman?  Relations and neighbours tried to intervene to kick in some sense and understanding.   No luck.

One day, the sudden arrival of a holy man in town excited the community.  They flocked to his congregation and received benediction.  Many vouchsafed his healing powers with utter conviction.

A well-wisher sought guidance from this holy man for the redemption of the miserable warring couple.

After realising the nature of the couple's marital problem, the holy man went into deep meditation.  He then chanted mantras keeping his hands cupped over a tumbler of water.  A smirky grin was flashing on his kind face on and often.

An hour later he opened his eyes and gave the sanctified water to the intermediary.  “This water will solve the problem.  I have full faith in its healing power”, he said.  “Give this to the woman. (The man escaped censure!)  My instructions are to be followed meticulously.  Results are guaranteed.”

The holy water, with detailed instruction of its use, was delivered to the wife.  She faithfully followed the instructions.  As if by magic, peace and tranquillity returned to the household.  The husband was amazed at his wife's quite demeanour.  “Why isn't she provoking me any more?”, he pondered.  She wondered why he has not been daunting her lately.  Needless to say, the couple began to love each other again.  Everyone attributed this to the competence of the holy Seer!

Little did the twosome, or anybody for that matter, how the holy water worked.  The well-wisher had said, “the Seer wants you to hold a spoonful of this consecrated water in your mouth every morning.  Don't swallow.   Spit out after your husband has gone to work.   In the evening, before his return, the holy water should be in your mouth until dinner time.  Follow this assiduously for a month for positive results."

No research was conducted to prove that the water in the mouth shut one up.  Don't we need two hands to clap and make noise?

My grandmother's above story (or was it yarn) helped me in good stead for a stable married life.  Should I add that for a successful marriage or long-standing relationship give and take policies are of paramount importance? When did ego pay?

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