Appanshayal was my paternal great-great grandfather. My father spoke very fondly of his memories of visits to his grandfather’s home in Nagarcoil. It was almost as though he venerated his Grandfather Nilakanta Ayyar and more so his Great Grandfather Appanshayal. When I wrote this book I felt connected very deeply to my ancestors. As I wrote, I couldn’t help feeling they spoke to me, revealing their characters, their innermost thoughts and their lives. My writing style devotes a chapter to each character and I would meditate each morning asking for insight. Then I would go to my computer and write whatever came to mind. Nothing in this book was planned and it’s a miracle it all came together, because I had no idea where my imagination would lead me.
Each one of us has a special spirit guide whose presence we feel often when we avoid a dangerous situation or solve a complex problem. At such time we surprise ourselves and attribute such mini-miracles to destiny, ESP or sheer brilliance. Such solutions spring from the inner spirit and have no reason to become known. This is when we feel the presence of the Divine and attribute it to heavenly intervention. It is said that ancestors and spirit guides communicate to us through such thoughts, notions, feelings and ideas and I have spent a good chunk of my time pondering this, wondering if I had such a guide. Who was this heavenly entity? Would this truth ever be revealed to me? When I meditate, I often ask for my spirit guide to reveal himself and most often the face of Appanshayal pops into my mind. I have no idea if indeed he is my guide or it’s just that I have this deep reverence for him. All I know is that I connect with him. This photograph is of Appanshayal with my grandfather Mahadevan. Look at the strength he emanates and the nobility of his posture.
Little tidbits of information became paragraphs and chapters. For some strange reason I wrote this episode when Appanshayal cures a young boy of a snake bite. I knew he was a yogi and very knowledgeable about Ayurveda but when my mother sent me this photograph of him I had gooseflesh. I was shocked at what I saw. The photograph was old and had some sort of impression next to the old man. It was without doubt an impression of a King Cobra poised to strike.. Miracle or coincidence ? Who knows?
Here is an excerpt from my book ,When the Lotus Blooms…
Kandu ran to the outhouse where his great-grandfather Appanshayal lived, a quaint little house which he loved visiting. The outhouse had two rooms. The back room had plenty of books and on one side was a bedroll where the old man slept, meditated and prayed. One wall was covered with images of different gods and goddesses, under which was the pooja altar with many silver idols. Appanshayal met his patients in the front room. A low platform covered with a thin mattress stood on one side of the room. On the other side were shelves filled with glass jars, each containing a different herb or root. Appanshayal was very interested in herbal remedies, a very important branch of Ayurveda, the ancient system of Vedic medicine, and had trained under a famous teacher for many years.
People had complete faith in Ayurveds and went to them for any and every ailment. Remedies existed for every conceivable disease, from snake and scorpion bites, to constipation and diabetes. Appanshayal got some of the herbs locally but every year, he made a trip to a hillock near Cape Comorin, where plenty of medicinal herbs are found, and spent many days physically collecting the herbs and roots he needed to make his medications.
Appanshayal ran a free clinic in his front room, and every evening for two hours he attended to numerous patients, mainly locals and villagers from nearby villages. He was especially known for his expertise in treating snake and scorpion bites.
When Kandu walked in, he saw his great-grandfather seated on the floor, his brown spectacles hanging on the edge of his nose, as he ground some herbs using a mortar and pestle.
“Hello, Appanshayal Thatha. What are you doing? Can I help you?”
“Who is that? Kandu? Come come. I was waiting for you. Do you want to help me? I find it hard to keep getting up, so maybe you can get me the jars I need.”
For the next few hours Kandu assisted his great-grandfather, helping to make all sorts of potions and powders, some of which were brewed in a pot over a small outside stove. Around lunchtime a man came running in with a small child in his arms. He was out of breath and crying. The inert child’s head lolled backward. Appanshayal knew immediately that it was a snake bite but the father had no idea how it occurred and exactly what type of snake had bitten the child. Very often the offending snake would be non-poisonous but the villagers, thinking they were bitten by a poisonous snake, would get all the symptoms and almost be near death, such was the power of the mind. The young boy was already exhibiting many symptoms. He was warm and in a semi-conscious state. The wound was red and swollen and the fang marks were clearly visible.
“Do you know how long ago it happened?”
“Maybe ten minutes ago. I don’t know. I picked him up and ran all the way. I live down the road, so it could not have been too long.”
“Did you see the snake?” Every bit of information was important for clues to decide on the right treatment.
“I only saw it disappearing into the bushes. It was black and maybe three feet long.”
“Probably a King Cobra,” said Appanshayal, judging by the bite and the father’s description. To Kandu’s horror, he put his mouth against the wound and started sucking the blood and spitting it out. After several minutes of that, he placed the child on the bed, making sure that the boy’s hand hung down at a lower level, so the poison would take longer to travel through the body. The poison was thick and slow moving but ten minutes had passed since the bite. Still Appanshayal knew if he slowed down the flow of blood to the rest of the body, the symptoms would become less severe.
Kandu sat down near the boy. “Is he alive or dead?” he asked, his voice low. He had never seen anyone so sick ever before.
“He is alive but the symptoms have manifested.”
Appanshayal combined his herbs and soon returned with two remedies. He put the one with a thick consistency directly on the wound and then began forcing a liquid potion into the child’s mouth.
After almost an hour, the child’s eyes fluttered open. The father, who had been beating his chest and lamenting the impending loss of his only son, was instead crying afresh at the unbelievable miracle. He fell down on the floor at Appanshayal’s feet, calling him a god, a savior, which embarrassed the old man. He handed the boy’s father the liquid potion and told him to give it to his son along with fresh honey for the next few days.