Dienstag, 16. September 2008

2.1 In Madurai

Ramana's home in Madurai

In February 1892 Sundaram Iyer unexpectedly died, he was in his mid-forties. He left behind him his wife Alagammal, their three sons, Nagaswami aged fourteen, Ramana aged twelve and Nagasundaram aged six and their daughter Alamelu aged four. When Ramana returned from his school at Dindigul to Tiruchuli, to see his dead father for the last time, he reflected thoughtfully, “When Father is lying here, why do they say that he has gone?” One of the elders answered him, “If this were your father, would he not receive you with love? So you see, he has gone.”

The sudden death of the head of the family was a dramatic event which resulted in the family being split up. Alagammal moved to Manamadurai with the younger children Nagasundaram and Alamelu to live with her younger brother-in-law Nelliappa Iyer, who was also working as a pleader. The two older children moved into the house of Subba Iyer, another uncle on the father’s side, who lived at number 11 Chokkappa Naicken Street near the famous Meenakshi temple.

Ramana was sent to Scott’s Middle School and later to the American Mission High School. He was an average scholar who learned easily, but was not much interested in his lessons. He would often go unprepared to class. If others recited the day’s lesson he would remember enough to enable him to keep up.

Later he told his devotees the following story with regard to his schooldays, “While the school lessons were being taught, lest I should fall asleep I used to tie a thread to the nail on the wall, and tie my hair to it. When the head nods, the thread is pulled tight and that used to wake me up. Otherwise, the teacher used to twist my ears and wake me up.”3

Wrestling, boxing, running and other sports were much more appealing to Ramana. He was stronger than most boys of his age and his strength and ability even impressed the older boys. He also liked to play football with his friends. People noticed that his team always won. This and other similar occurrences earned him the nickname ‘Thangakai’ (Golden Hand). It is a title given in Tamil Nadu to people who are always successful in their undertakings.

In his uncle’s house there was a room on the upper floor that was largely unused. Here Ramana used to play ‘throw-ball’ with his friends, with the young Ramana himself as the ‘ball’. He would curl himself up into a ball and the other playmates would throw him from one to another. Sometimes they failed to catch him and he landed on the floor, but he was never hurt by this rough play. This room in which he played is the same room in which he later had his death experience.

Sometimes Ramana and his brother would sneak out of the house at night to roam about with their playmates near the Vaigai river or the Pillaiyarpaliam tank in the outskirts of Madurai. “Every night, when the whole house was silent in sleep, Nagaswami and Ramana whose beds were in a remote corner of the house, would appropriately adjust their pillows and cover them up with their bed sheets so that it would create the impression of their presence in their beds. It was the duty of little Venkataraman [a younger friend of the same name] to bolt the door of the house when the brothers went out at about 11 p.m., and to admit them on their return at about 4 a.m.”4

Ramana did not study Sanskrit or the sacred traditions of Hinduism such as the Vedas or the Upanishads. In both the schools he attended he was taught Christianity, but Hindu boys generally showed little interest in such bible classes – and Ramana was no exception in this respect.

Although he was very much like any other boy, he did have one peculiar trait. His sleep used to be exceptionally deep. When a relative later visited him at the Ashram Ramana recalled the following incident which happened in Dindigul, “Your uncle Periappa Seshaiyar was living there then. There was some function in the house and all went to it and then in the night went to the temple. I was left alone in the house. I was sitting reading in the front room, but after a while I locked the front door and fastened the windows and went to sleep. When they returned from the temple no amount of shouting or banging at the door or window could wake me. At last they managed to open the door with a key from the opposite house and then they tried to wake me up by beating me. All the boys beat me to their heart’s content, and your uncle did too, but without effect. I knew nothing about it till they told me next morning. … The same sort of thing happened to me in Madurai too. The boys didn’t dare to touch me when I was awake, but if they had any grudge against me they would come when I was asleep and carry me wherever they liked and beat me as much as they liked and then put me back to bed, and I would know nothing about it until they told me in the morning.”5
3 Nagamma: Letters, p. 175
4 Krishnamurti Aiyer: Sri Ramana’s Boyhood in Madurai. In: Ramana Smrti, p. [58]
5 Mudaliar: Day by Day, p. 209

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