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With my appa, to see Iyyappa

Author: Krishna Kumar Subramanian
Publication:  Facebook.com
Date: April 22, 2017
URL:    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156218028964762&id=749614761
With my appa, to see Iyyappa

Hi All,

This is Rishi stealing my appa's FB account to blog my experience :)

I'm here to share my achievement in my own words. It may be a long one but do take time to read it.

I have grown up 7 years watching my appa head to the hills year after year (sabarimala). He leaves me behind and goes off for 3-4 days and I have to keep waiting.  Maybe that got me curious to know where he was going/what he was doing.. but i never told anyone that I had the curiosity. Amma had been telling appa that he should  take me along with me atleast one and as always appa will say "time will come and he will get the higher calling".

 In jan this year, appa asked amma if he can take me to sabarimala in April and I was overjoyed. Finally, the higher calling has come ! within a day, tickets were done for a group of 11-12 members and I got excited. from that day, amma & appa started preparing me for the journey. Appa was trained by amma on how to handle me (!) and  as usual appa got irritated with amma's small small orders on how to handle me :) . I was enjoying all of this.

 Slowly, as the days progressed and when it came close to starting the vridhams/austerities for sabarimala , appa announced it to our relatives. There was mixed  response - eye brows raised, questions asked from all corners-can he? he is so young, will you be able to manage?, what will he eat?, will be be able to walk? what if  he asks you to carry him? what if he cries for amma? maybe after few more years? ..the questions list is endless.. I noticed appa from the corner of my eye and he will
 only smile and say "yes, he can". not once did I hear it otherwise. Appa encouraged me and said "you can do it. beleive in god and believe in yourself, you can do it"

I did not say anything because i do not know what it meant :) . those were big words for a small boy !

 And so we started our vridham with strict diet and I longingly looked at the onions which I avoided and had bath twice a day (that I love to) and prostrated in front of Iyyappa praying for a smooth journey. I have seen appa do this before and this time I did it along with him. a different feeling..

 We observed the fasting for over 3 weeks, actually it should have been 41 days but appa travelled somewhere.. so, he relaxed the duration to 3 weeks. It was good fun  and I was proud amidst school friends who realized that I'm onto something exicting. I heard my school teachers ask me questions on "Rishi, are you going to  sabarimala.. are u going to walk, are you going to enjoy".. It increased the curisoity in me and made more determined that I will do it and I will prove that I can do it !! :)

 A week before the journey, amma started preparing me with a small bundle filled with 2 -3 coconuts and placed the bundle on my head and made me walk in the hall, bed  room and trained me for the hills ! and she did create that environment - bean bag converted as boulders, chairs as rocks, sofa as cliff and I was given practice to  walk bare feet.. i did all of that because I have to pass the test only then I can go on train/van/bus and off to the hills !

 Every night, either amma or appa used to tell me the story of iyyappa and I listen to that till 11pm and then they both go off to sleep !! I was not sure whether they  were telling me stories for me to sleep or for them to fall asleep..

 I liked the attention from relatives and friends who were happy about my journey but again same questions..will he/can he/how will he? .. again same answer from appa "HE will" .. that got sinked in to me and i decided I will do it successfully for my appa.

 No trip or journey starts without shopping.. amma & appa took me to a large shop that glittered with gold & silver.. they were seeing for a beaded chain for me.. but I  was interested in the play area inside that shop and the lift !! HAHAAHA.. after careful selection, appa took one thulasi bead chain and called me .. he marked that to  fit my neck and also bought another big thulasi bead chain for himself.. so, we were matching-matching !! they took me to the usual iyyappa temple and I saw appa giving the both the chains to be kept near iyyappa himself.. he murmured some prayer and was suddenly all bright & smiling.. I dont understand all of that, I like that  temple because its big and nobody cares if I run around :)

 We got back home and one day morning, appa woke me up early (I dont like that) and bathed me and took me to the pooja room .. amma came along and she adorned the  thulasai bead chain on my neck and then on, everyone started calling me Iyyappa !! I didnt know that my name will change if they put a chain on my neck (but i liked  it). I was proud to wear that and play with it. and then something happened.. my appa prostrated before me , lying down flat on my feet.. that made me tingle.. why is
 this man who is my appa is falling at my feet? appa explained that all are treated as iyyappa and equal to iyyappa.. oh ok ! i didnt know that but i felt good.. the  previous day, i heard appa telling amma that she alone should not fall at my feet as the mother is the supreme - above ALL ! .. too much gyan from appa.. I dont know  how amma takes this gyan all the time !!

 Two days before the journey, appa made a list of things that I will need (actually a big list of things that he will need in order to take care of me) and started  packing all of those. I like packing bags for journeys and I get excited on seeing my clothes being packed as that reassures me of my travel. I love all kinds of  travel- air, train, bus, car, auto...

 A day before the journey, appa disappeared in the morning only to return late in the evening .. i got scared if he has already started to sabarimala leaving me  behind.. but i heard amma speak to him on phone and I heard him say that he is doing all the preparations.. i felt relieved.

 On the day of starting, appa pleaded to me to wake up early .. My mind heard what he says but heart says go to sleep.. finally, the mind won and i woke up to appa's  smile. we bathed and went to a group member's house for what they called as irumudi kaettu.. oh, its the same bundle that amma practiced me all these days ! yippee, so  the day has arrived..

 They said it was my first time to sabarimala, so I was special to iyyappan and called as Kanni Iyyappan. Ok, a new name and I like that too.. I was made to sit first  to tie the irumudi bundle by myself. I poured the ghee into a coconut and sealed the coconut and many other things into a bag and tied it into a bundle.. from the  corner of my eye, I noticed appa and amma getting emotional.. oh come on , I can do it !

 Then one by one all 11 members of our group tied the irumudi bundle and placed it in front of iyyappa. we sang songs , lit camphor and had a tasty meal ..slurrrp..

 Amma was very brave.. it was the first time in 7 years that she is going to be away from me for 3 days and it was first time for me to be away from her for 3 days..  but appa was there , so its ok, i can manage.. Amma had lot of confidence in appa and said that she is not scared at all.. as always, appa only smiles and does not say  anything..

 We all started to go down as a single pack to get into van parked outside.. I was given a seperate seat and appa sat next to me.. wow, the journey begins..I did not  see amma come and say bye but appa told me that we have to only think of god and nothing else.. again, big words for a small boy like me .. we stopped at temples  nearby and went straight to train station.. yessss... there was this loooong red train that I have been dreaming all these days.. my eyes gleamed with joy and I  thanked appa that this is really happening.. the train journey was exciting and i had a berth for myself.. felt special and grown up ! Appa closed the window shades  but i sneaked through those holes in window shades to see the lights/stations/people.. i was so excited that i woke up at 2am and started peeping thro the window.. i
 dunno how appa woke up on my slightest stir and there he was looking into me eye to eye .. i smiled and thanked him again.. he was barely able to stand and feeling  sleepy.. and we both were watching stations/people/TTE/passengers till 6am in the morning !! appa kept saying that we have to trek 7-8kms and that I have to sleep..

 so, i dozed off at 6am..we got down in one big station and boarded a big van.. we got down at one place and appa took me to have bath.. something told me that the  water is going to be cold.. i dont like cold water bath.. appa took me along and did all his gimmicks to hide the cold water (but i knew it was cold).. 1,2,3..4 and  then he poured cold water on himself and appeared to be brave , i burst out laughing.. before I could laugh it out, the cold water was on me.. before I could scream,
 he toweled me and got me out !! we boarded the big van again and drove for a lonnnng distance..

 The drive was beautiful.. tall trees, hills, mist , greenery.. i watched all of these in awe..Appa pulled out socks and cap and dressed me up like an englishman ! he  made me get down after the long drive .. what i saw in front of me was lotss of water (much much bigger than the swimming pool that i go to).. Appa told me that was  Pampa river.. I have never bathed in a river before.. it was so hot that our group members could not walk on bare feet.. now, I know why appa put a socks on my legs..

 we went to a big shed and took rest for sometime. appa took me around and told me many things at pampa.. again , big words for a small boy like me .. ufff...

 I was longing to jump into that big swimming pool (pampa) ..finally, at around 3Pm, appa undressed me and i was all set to jump and play with the pampa waters.. appa  took the first dip and took me along.. our group members were already enjoying and i joined the pack ! splashing, shouting, screaming .. it was good fun until appa  pulled me out all of a sudden.. it was very very hot sun and i immediately dried up.. it was so hot that we could not walk back to the shed.. after we all got ready
 for the holy trek , appa took two big cloth (knee cap) that looked like socks and covered his knees..i gave him a strange look and he explained that his knees are  getting weak for trekking.. i said to myself "come on appa, you can do it !" . while the entire pack was worrying how to trek in this hot sun, a miracle happened.. the  climate changed all of a sudden and it got very dark with heavy clouds. i loved it.. there was heavvy rain for 20mins that brought the heat down and it suddenly became  so cool that appa got worried that he didnt bring a muffler for me.. and it got so cold that I did not need the cap or the socks for the trek !! after all, I'm one among the pack and do not need cap or socks..

 We all started together with the irumudi bundle on our head ..appa kept it on my head and then carried that for me. amidst chants, prayers we all started together. I  held on to appa's hands and we started together.. there were a biggg staircase where we paused for a prayer and then started climbing it.. appa was noticing me climb  with enthusiasm and I heard him say "I'm proud of you Rishi. good going..keep going" .. we saw my favourite pillayar at one place and stopped for all other group  members to assemble.. all eyes were on me.. no one spoke.. everyone watching me with suspense.. one voice saying "come on rishi.. you can do it" and that was my appa !

 with a smile , we started climbing together.. hand in hand, eye to eye, timely 'high fives' and we set on to our trek.. we stopped at one place where there were two  paths..one was very steep and the other looked ok.. appa paused and took me along the lesser steep path.. we walked & walked & walked.. it looked like eternity.. i  have never walked so much in my 7 years.But i was brave, did not utter a word, held my appa's hand, I will make him proud, I will do it ! there were many bends, many  steep climb, many rocks and we crossed each one of them..my group members were walking fast but they waited for me in every place and again all eyes were on me !  suspense.. not even once, did i ask my appa to carry me.. i'm grown up and i want to do it myself.. i want to get back to tell all my people that I did it.. walk,  walk, walk.. appa spoke to me a lot about forest and how big the trees are and what animals live there.. i was watching the forest and the big trees in awe as I have  never seen anything like that before.. chirping birds, gushing wind, cool breeze, hills, steep climb, mist ..it was heaven !

 On the way , appa bought a yummy water melon juice and it was the best one that I have ever had.. he let me have one half of it and he gulped the other half  himself..ok, we are one team and he can have half of it. forgiven.. Start action.. walk- climb-jump-slopes-bends.. even my school teacher cannot count how many steps I  would have taken... we reached a particular place and appa told me "rishi , you have crossed the half way mark.. good going.. keep going.. you can do it" .. i was busy  watching wild pigs, wild boars, monkeys and tall trees.. suddenly people shouted "snake, snake" and started running.. appa held me my hand and lifted me but did not  run.. he said that nothing will happen in this holy trek as long as we do not hurt the animals.. after what seemed like many hours, appa finally smiled and said "Rishi  you did it".. we reached the summit ..appa opened his bag and gave me some dry fruits which tasted the yummiest in this world ! i gave him a proud smile and together  we again held hand in hand walked towards the holy eighteen steps.. appa told me that there are 8 forts to cross to see iyyappa and that the 18 steps is the last fort  to cross to meet iyyappa eye to eye. the steps gleamed in gold. we counted 1,2,3,4,5,6....15,16,17,18.. too many people pushing each other and climbing it. Appa took  me to the corner of the steps and told me the policeman not to lift me and that i can climb by myself.. i did not know until then that my appa can speak few words in  malayalam.. but he spoke something in malayalam !! And in one deep shout "iyyappa" he told me to climb the eighteen steps wth the irumudi bundle on my head. again,  1,2,3,4,5... people pushing.. 6,7,8,9.. loud shouts/screams.. 10,11,12,13 again pushing.. 14,15,16 some relief from crowd.. 17....18 !! yes, i did it !! at the summit,  at the sannidhanam.. face to face, meeting eye to eye Iyyappa with my appa !!

 My group members gathered and waited for me on top of the 18 steps and as soon as I came up they all hugged me , lifted me and kissed me for achieving it. I felt like  an olympic champion. No tiredness, no complaints, no pain, no fuss... now, i know why appa comes here often.. I have seen Jungle book movie where I heard "Strength of  the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack" .. yes, so true.. the strength of our group was myself and i got all the strength from them.. Appa and I  went around the golden temple and he said "now, you are going to see iyyappa very very close.. say your prayer" .. he spoke something to policeman and lifted me and  kept the irumudi bundle on my head ... few more steps and I was in front of iyyappa.. golden idol ...bright lamps ..loud chants..simple yet majestic ..blissful  smile..young and graceful.. small & beautiful.. liked him in first sight.. appa asked me in my ears "Iyyappan yenge?" i pointed to the idol and showed where he is.. we  moved around and were given a very special close up darshan.. we went very close to Iyyappa and i peeped in to see him again.. same golden idol, blissful smile, bright lamps..

 We came out and dined at the smallest of dhabas ..i love eating in those 'no frills' dhabas.. dosas, idlies seemed like the yummiest/tastiest foods after the hard  climb and I dont know how many i ate.. we came back to the room and all of us lied down on the floor.. all of them watched me in awe when i made no fuss in lying down  on the floor and adjusting with the pack ! I have been trained for it :) I did not sleep , i smiled at appa who saw eye to eye and smiled back.. we understood what  each other's smiles meant.. pride, satisfaction, fulfilment, dream come true ! I heard the same song "Harivarasanam" being played in the speaker.. i sat up !! thats the same song amma plays for me to go to sleep every night.. how did she come here? appa then told me that I'm hearing harivarasanam LIVE at sabarimala and that  Iyyappa goes to sleep on hearing this.. so did I !!

 I heard lot of sounds in the morning and appa once again pleaded for me to wake up.. this time, I woke up in one call !! I went in to have bath fearing the cold water  ..I hate cold water on me as soon as I wake up.. appa smiled and asked me to put my hand and test the water.. i reluctantly did that and surprise !!it was warm water  .. where did he get warm water in this place?? little did I know that appa went and negotiated with the nearby tea shop to heat water and fill up the bucket ... oh it was heaven to have warm water on my body in this cold climate.. i was all enthu to see iyyappa again. when we went back to temple, there were lots and lots of people in queue .. appa took me through some other route and spoke to someone and took me up to the temple.. and there we saw our group members waiting in the queue as though they were waiting for us to join them. Amidst 1000s of people waiting in queue for hours, we saw Iyyappa in less than 5minutes !! this time, iyyappa was bathed in ghee all over. that is when I understood why I filled ghee in a coconut and brought that all the way from home carrying it in my head ..

 I do not know if appa clearly saw iyyappa at all. all the time, he was watching me and asking me if I saw iyyappa.. ofcourse i did , i liked him. we got back to our room and packed for the trek down the hill. On the way back, we stopped at many small pavement shops to buy toys.. HEEHEE.. we went on a holy trek and came back with lot of toys .. we took our own sweet time to climb down and this time it was a steep route..not the same one as we climbed up.. i energised myself with watermelon for
 every 1km of walk and i motivated myself to keep going.. if the climb up seemed long, the climbing down seemed like eternity.. winding paths, steep descent, rocks, steps.. we walked and walked and walked to reach a biggg tender coconut shop.. i thought it was a coconut mountain as it had sooo many coconuts stacked up like a hill.. i always love tender coconut and gulped few ounces through the most smallest straw that hardly touched the bottom of the coconut..

 We came down a few more steps and appa stopped at the same place where he stood yest praying that we both trek the hills comfortably.. today. he stood there as if  thanking for the smooth trek. few minutes of prayer and we started nearing my favorite swimming pool (pampa river).. appa held my hand so tight because he knew i was  ready to jump into the river for a refreshing bath.. my eyes were fixed on the river and gestured towards pampa but the man (appa) had no such intentions..from
 somewhere, our big van that dropped us yest came again and I took my window seat :) .. with one last look at the hills, we bid goodbye to pampa river and also the hills.. after about 1hour, the van stopped and appa asked me to get down.. i got down half-hearted ..appa smiled and said 'surprise'.. he carried me to a place which had a bigggg river (pampa valley) and then he told me "i did not want to disappoint you.. go and enjoy" .. I could hardly control myself.. appa and I splashed on the  waters.. surrounded by hills, birds chirping, tall trees, greenery & rivers.. wow.. i dont think i will go to hotel swimming pools again..

 We all came back to the same station where we got down the day before and I knew that the trip was going to end.. sob..sob.. i dont like getting back home so soon.. but i want to see amma.. i want to tell her all my achievements, all my adventures, i want to hear appa tell amma that i was the best .. i want to tell my school friends that i did it all by myself ..

 As we were nearing our home sweet home, appa told me to break one more coconut (i'm always scared of that) and my amma, athai, paati, kollu paati were all standing at  the entrance to welcome me back.. they were in the best of their smiles.. amma brought a plate full of red water (appa told me it was aarathi) and moved the plate of  red water around my face thrice and was gleaming with joy.. appa took me straight to the pooja room and thanked iyyappa.. he said another prayer and then amma removed
 the thulasi bead chain from my neck and it went straight to the iyyappa photo in the pooja room.. the thulasi mala came from there and it went back to the same place  where it belonged.. and then i started all over amma.. told her in my own words on what all i did, how many ppl i saw, how i treked, the olympian welcome on top of 18  steps, the wild pigs, snakes, dhabas, rivers, forests, trees .. the list is endless..I did it and I can do lot more !!

  Thank you iyyappa,I had 3 great days with my appa to see iyyappa .. And like how any Disney story ends, "we all lived happily ever after.". :)
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