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Monday, 18 November 2019

NaBloPoMo 2019: Day 18:Pray Together, Stay Together...

After staying in Pali for few years, Appa got transferred to the mines in other locations, and so, we moved to other places like Surla (where I was born), Sirsaim, Tivim, and Ponda (where the youngest daughter Komala was born) and then back to Surla again. 

When we were in Ponda, one day, Amma had gone to the grocery store. She heard two people talking in Tamil and felt moved to talk to them. They (Mr. Vallal and Mrs. Vaidyanathan) talked nicely to her and invited her to join in their bhajan group that met every Saturday evening, in each person’s house, by turns.

The host would set up the prayer altar, spread mats for people to sit, and prepare the prasadam. Everyone would join in singing the bhajans in a set sequence; most parts would be sung in “lead and follow” style; the session usually lasted about 2 hours or so. It would end with an arati and prasadam.

Amma had put the old Salgaocar diaries to good use by diligently writing down all the bhajans and naamaavalis sung at these times.  
Amma learned Marathi after coming to Goa.
Amma was meticulous...note the red circles - they tell how often to repeat that particular line. 

Kannada script - Amma's handwriting
Some of the Tamilians from the bhajan group were young boys in their early twenties, working in Goa and living far from their native land. Many of them worked in MRF Tyres near Ponda.

Amma had picked up the pure version of Tamil from the Tamil maamis who were part of the bhajan group. She was kind and affectionate to these young men, and in her, they found their mother-substitute. Sometimes, they would come over to our house in the evenings. She would serve them coffee with savories. Then she would force them to stay over for dinner, and they’d happily agree. All these boys were exhilarated when bhajan was in Rama Iyengar Maama's (our) house because prasadam would be tasty, and of course, in plenty!

One of the boys was a descendant of the famous musical doyen Muthuswami Dikshitar who is one among the revered musical trinity in Carnatic music (the other two are Tyagaraja and Syama Sastri). This guy took music lessons for my older sisters, teaching them the basics of Carnatic music until we lived in Ponda.

Two of the maamis in the bhajan group also started conducting the Chinmaya Mission’s Bala Vihar classes on Sunday mornings. I remember attending those classes and learning small prayers there. It seems I even won a prize when I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, for singing a bhajan in some competition.

Nothing in this world happens by chance. 

Amma had already sown the seeds of bhakti in us children by telling us stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and from Bhakti Vijaya. Our family outings used to be not to movies or the beach or the zoo, or ‘shopping’ but to pravachans and kirtans. The atmosphere of the bhajans in Ponda served to cement our fledgling faith in God and helped it take root deep within ourselves, and bound us even closer together as a family. Till today, our best moments are ones when we are in a bhajan at Amma’s house.

For us, thank God, it has truly been a case of, “The family that prays together stays together!” 


  1. Remember very well the bhajans at Iyengar's house. The Ponda bhajans were the first bhajans in my life due to which I took interest in devotional songs and carnatic music (Muthuswami Dikshitar descendant was my room mate for some time). We relished bhajans at Iyengar's house knowing what awaited us at the culmination of bhajans and we were never disappointed. The prasadams offered by Amma was almost a dinner for us.

    My association with Kashi's family is one thing I cherish most of my stay/work in Goa.

    1. That's such a huge compliment to my parents, Sundarsekaran! We are equally blessed to have had your association - especially I.
      Thank you so much for your words!

    2. I rememberthe Bhajan so clearly. We used to know would sing which Bhajan best. Raghu used to sing Ramachandra raghuveera, krishmamoorthy would sing Ayyappa songs, Saravana would sing Saravana songs. Venkateshan Mami & vaidyanathan Mami would learn new new naamavali & teach. Ranjani & her sister would sing Guruvayoorappan songs. Appa finale with Anjaneya Shloka. Can't actually remember whether Amma would sing or not. She would always be busy with organising, helping etc.
      Amma taught us to paint on trays & take every day when Appa took us for bhagavat saptah once a year. At the end of that day's pravachan we would light diya in that and do Arti. Sri Abaji Panshikar would infuse so much life into the narration of the bhagavatam.

    3. What a memory, Vatsala! I don't remember much of those sessions except feeling like crying with some emotion for some particular ones - like "Prema mudita man se kaho" or "Radhey shyama, he ghanashyaama" Komala and I missed the Abaji pravachans too!

  2. What a parenting it would have been ..... I am wondering

  3. I used to be absent minded & repeat the line more or less than what was supposed to be done. Amma would never make a mistake.

    1. Did you change the tunes then too? ๐Ÿ˜œ

  4. Vatsala , I can imagine how absentminded you must have been๐Ÿ˜„,
    But your memory is definetely great.... you have vividly described those days...


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