No one knew where he was from. He landed up in the small town of "Ammainayakanoor" which was more or less a big village, one fine summer morning and stayed there for almost twenty-five years. It was not during his stay there that I happened to encounter him but it was much later in 1989, that I actually met him. Being intrigued by the guy I made an effort to learn about his past and I’m penning here whatever limited information I could glean about him from mutual contacts.
As I mentioned earlier he landed up in Ammainayakanoor on a summer’s morning in 1965 and was found loitering around the small bus stand there. He was about 35 years old and appeared to have a very strong physique. He sat in one corner of the shelter in the bus stand and put up a small hand written note on a dirty piece of card board collected from a used carton.
The board announced that he was a palmist and a fortune teller who could predict the future and suggest remedial measures for those with defective futures. Nobody really knew if this guy had studied palmistry but he seemed to be rather accurate in his predictions and soon people of this small town started flocking to him for sorting out their worldly problems. Very soon he became popular and within a year he had rented a small house adjacent to the bus stand from where he practiced his trade.
For those of you who are not familiar with rural Tamil Nadu, I must explain that Ammainayakanoor is located in the foot hills of the hill range on which the towns of Kodaikanal and Palani are located. Hardly a kilometre north of Ammainayakanoor is a train station called “Kodai Road”, which is the transit point for those proceeding up the hills to the tourist resort of Kodaikanal. Ammainayakanoor is found on the highway between Dindugal and Madurai which are two bigger towns than those mentioned earlier.
Being at the foot hills of the hill ranges, the climate of Ammainayakanoor is rather pleasant and not as hot as the arid plains of northern Tamil Nadu. It’s location at the foot hills has also contributed to the fertile nature of the soil and the town is surrounded by lush green paddy fields, coconut groves as well as vegetable and fruit gardens. Since the town was on a major highway connecting the North and South of Tamil Nadu the town was economically prosperous, until the late 70’s when a bye pass road connecting Tiruchirappali with Madurai was put up circumventing Dindugal and Kodai Road and subsequently the town began to loose its pre-eminence.
Masanam, for that is the name of the fortune teller who set up base at Ammainayakanoor, found the economic prosperity of this small town good for business. It was during this time that Masanam got involved with certain tantric practices which enabled him to give birth to what is commonly known in these parts as “Kutti Chathan” or “Djinn” meaning a ‘small Shaitan’ or little devil.
You must be wondering what I mean when I say that he gave birth to a “Kutti Chathan”. This is just a figurative way of saying that he created a Djinn using certain tantric practices which involved the aborted fetus of a to be first born child, including recitation of certain evil mantras to produce an evil force which is neither the soul of a human being nor a living object of any kind. This“Kutti Chathan” which I shall hence forth refer to as KC had the ability to make itself invisible when need be and could permeate into other worlds to gather information which Masanam found necessary for practicing his trade.
A KC grows just like a human being but without the physical body of a human being. A KC is usually nurtured with recitation of evil mantras as well as sacrifices offered to it. The KC could enter into any human being and cause the human being to obey the commands of Masanam. The KC could also kill a person as well as communicate with other evil spirits and gain secret information from the past or the future as was necessary for Masanam's trade.
Initially Masanam used to feed the KC with small birds and other fowl which he would buy from the market and sacrifice by night to the KC which would enjoy the blood and the flesh of those poor birds. Masanam’s power over the people of Ammainayakanoor knew no bounds. He could destroy people at will and at the same time ensure the prosperity of his clients using his evil powers which were aided by the presence of the Djinn.
If a person came to Masanam saying that his or her wife was having an affair with someone else, Masanam would ensure that the affair was broken up and that the person who indulged in an illicit relationship with the spouse of Masanam’s client was totally destroyed. Similarly if a client came to him stating that he or she coveted somebody who was not responding to his or her overtures, Masanam could cast a spell on the person so coveted so that they would voluntarily come forward to satisfy the lust of Masanam’s client.
There are many such incidents that I can go on narrating. I came to know of one such instance where a wholesale distributor of vegetables and fruits collected from the region became Masanam’s client since his business was not doing well. Masanam used his evil powers and his pet, the KC to destroy five business competitors of this wholesale trader within a short span of three months which left his client, the vegetable and fruit wholesale trader, with a monopoly over his line of business leading to his making huge profits in a short span of time. Moreover when the wholesaler wanted to marry a young girl as his second wife and when the girl’s parents objected to it, it was Masanam who sent his KC to kill the girl’s parents and force her to marry his wholesale trader client. There were many more such stories of the evil perpetrated by Masanam.
As mentioned before, during the early stages Masanam used to feed the KC with birds such as chicken and pigeons. However the KC was soon dissatisfied and wanted bigger offerings from Masanam. Masanam started to buy pigs and goats from the weekly shandies – markets - that were held in the other small towns surrounding Ammainayakanoor. Soon the KC’s appetite grew bigger and it began to demand bigger animals such as buffaloes and oxen. Though Masanam was earning a lot of money by utilizing the KC and could easily buy as many buffaloes or cows as the KC wanted, he was unable to explain to his neighbours the mysterious disappearance of animals that were procured from the weekly markets. The KC soon became unsatiated with these animals too and used to visit the neighboring farms by night to attack, kill and eat the cows and buffaloes in the neighborhood.
Dissatisfied with all these animals the KC soon started to demand human sacrifice. Moreover the KC insisted that only first born male children who had not yet experienced any sexual relationships should be provided to satisfy its hunger and thirst. Masanam found himself in a catch twenty - two kind of situation and found no other alternative than to provide for the wishes of the KC. As time passed the people of the town soon started to wonder about the mysterious disappearances of animals and humans in the neighborhood.
It was around this time that Ammainayakanoor started losing its preeminence due to the construction of a new bypass road connecting Trichy directly with Madurai making it unnecessary for all vehicles to touch Dindugal and proceed to Madurai. Moreover the period witnessed severe drought as never witnessed during the past forty years. The economy of the town was badly hit and the people began to suffer.
It is human nature to find scapegoats for our troubles and very soon the priests of the temple in the small town who were affected by Masanam’s arrival in the town began to spread the word that it was Masanam who was responsible for all their ills and that the Gods were angry with the people of the town for having allowed Masanam to settle down amongst them.
The people of the town gathered together and decided to drive Masanam away from the town. It was during the annual festival of Goddess Mariamman the avatar of the Mother Goddess Shakthi that the priests of the town decided to set their plan in action. They had unwittingly chosen an opportune moment for it was said that during the entire duration of the festival which would last for seven days the town was under the protection of the presiding Goddess and that no evil force could face the wrath of the deity for the entire seven days of the festival once the temple flag was hoisted. Therefore it was not possible for Masanan’s KC to enter the town to protect his Master during those seven days.
Moreover during the annual festival people from far and near used to throng the town and all those who had originally hailed from the town but had migrated to bigger towns and cities in search of livelihood used to return to the town with all their kith and kin and spend the seven days of the festival with great joy and fervour. The priests managed to instigate all the local people as well as the visitors to the town against Masanam and on the fifth day of the festival an angry mob comprising of the people of the town surrounded Masanam’s abode with sticks, sickles and stones.
As the younger children pelted stones on the tiled roof of the house, the elders set fire to the house. The noise and the heat made Masanam rush out of the house only to face the angry mob who started beating him with their sticks and a few of the enterprising youth landed deep slashes on the arms and torso of Masanam with their sickles. The KC who could not do anything to protect its Master during the seven days when the temple flag was hoisted for the festival witnessed the onslaught that rained upon Masanam as he was driven street after street by the chasing mob until he was well outside the boundaries of the town.
Finally when Masanam had managed to flee quite some distance away from the town he rested for the night under a huge banyan tree while the KC attended to Masanam’s injuries. The KC had regained its evil powers once it had crossed the boundaries of the town and used its powers to miraculously heal the cuts and wounds on Masanam’s body. Within minutes it had managed to make Masanam completely alright and there was no trace of any injury on Masanam’s body.
Masanam sat through the night and assessed the situation. He realised that all the property and wealth that he had amassed could not be reclaimed for he dared not set foot in the town ever again. Finding himself suddenly brought to penury he decided to proceed on foot to Madurai which was much bigger than Ammainayakanoor and therefore suitable for him to hide himself and chalk out future plans.
The journey to Madurai was a long walk of sixty kilometers and Masanam managed to sustain himself by obtaining food on the way from the houses of small villages that existed along the highway. Meanwhile, the Djinn managed to find small animals and birds that happened to stray along its path and subsisted on them. Masanam did not plan to stay in the heart of Madurai for he had no money and no means of raising money in the urban environment. He therefore plodded on across Madurai and moved to the southern outskirts of the city where one of the famous temples of Lord Muruga as Lord Karthikeya is known in the South is located in a place called Thiruparankundram.
The temple at Thiruparankundram is known to be one of the six holy abodes or temples of Lord Muruga and is located at the bottom of a small hill which is called Kundru in Tamil, from which the place had derived its name. The temple is so built that it is abutting the hill and any devotee who wishes to go around the temple has to go around the entire hill on a small road built around the hill. On the other side of the hill is a small pond where devotees bathe after tonsuring their heads. Close to the pond is a small cave outside which a Punga tree grows. The cave is supposed to be the place where the great sage and Tamil poet Nakeeran had performed tapas. Tamil epics have portrayed this sage as one who even challenged Lord Shiva for opening his third eye in unwarranted circumstances.
It is to this cave that Masanam and his Djinn proceeded for he knew that the cave would be an ideal place for him to rest during the monsoon and he could also start plying his trade once again outside the cave and under the Punga tree.
It was at this spot that I accidentally met Masanam about a year later.
Madurai happens to be my favorite town in Tamil Nadu for it was here that my entire life was altered and a junkie became a regular guy.
During this period it was my habit to seek out quite places where I could spend time on meditation and prayer. I used to explore the suburbs and villages surrounding Madurai for ideal locations to practice this art. On one such occasion I had taken along with a very elderly friend who was almost seventy years old to do a recce around the hill of Thiruparankundram to find an ideal location for our needs.
I still remember the day very clearly in my mind. Both of us were walking on a bed of rocks near the temple pond found behind the hill when a crow swooped low over the pond, picked up a dark coloured fish about the size of my palm and flew towards a neighbouring tree. Midway in flight the crow could not control the struggling fish in its beak and dropped the fish on the hot bed of rocks hardly ten feet away from me. My aged friend and a few others who were watching this incident from further away were spell bound and motionless as the fish struggled for life on the surface of the hot rock. After a few moments, being unable to endure the struggle of the fish, I rushed towards it, scooped it in my cupped palms and ran to the waters edge where I released it. The fish floated flat on the water as if it were dead for awhile and after a few moments wriggled its tail and plunged deep into the darkness of the pond.
We then proceeded on our search for a quite place and reached a Punga tree under which we noticed an old emaciated man sitting bare bodied except for a saffron dhoti around his waist. The tree was hardly fifty metres away from the spot where the fish had fallen down and this old man had been watching the entire sequence of events. He called me politely and I walked up to him to demand the reason for his calling me. He gave me a plastic bottle filled with water and asked me to wash my hands and then come and sit beside him. Being curious to know what he wanted of me I did as per his bidding and came and sat next to him while the aged friend who had accompanied me looked on curiously.
The man extracted a cloth bag of the kind used to keep betel leaves and took out a neatly folded piece of red silk cloth which he quietly began to unfold. When he had opened the cloth I found that there was a brown, stiff, hair like object lying in the middle. The man extracted the object and asked me to hold it between my right thumb and forefinger. I did as he ordered and to my surprise found that the stiff hair like object began to rotate rapidly like the seconds needle on the dial of a clock while I firmly held one end in my fingers.
The man then told me that the brown wiry hair like object was a piece of the root of the Sanjeevi tree and that it was very difficult to obtain since only birds such as the eagle had the ability to spot the tree and its roots and that such birds used the root to line their nests, which would be located very high up in the mountains. He also told me that since the root had rotated rapidly in my fingers I was one of very few people to whom he could entrust something very valuable. I believed that the old man was taking me for a ride and was trying to con me of a few rupees and therefore laughed at his suggestion. He appeared dead serious and told me not to laugh since he said that certain powers had pointed me out to him through the incident of the fish that fell from the beak of the crow.
I continued laughing and told him that the so-called Sanjeevi root would circle in the same manner as it had done in my fingers even if anybody else were to hold it. The old man then said that he could prove that this was not the case. He therefore asked my old friend who was accompanying me to wash his hands and come and hold the root just as I had done. My friend did so and to my surprise I found that the root remained stationery in his fingers and did not even budge a little bit.
The old man then said that since the powers had pointed me out to him he wanted to hand over something very valuable that he possessed and that I could use that which he wanted to handover to gain undreamt of riches. He also said that he wanted to make amends for his past and that by handing over what he had to me he would be able to wash away his sins. I was in no mood to be burdened with the sins of others for I myself had a lot of dirt that I had to clean up and could not accept the sins of others on my head.
I asked him what it was that he wanted to hand over to me and he told me that it was a small baby that he wanted me to nurture and bring up. I wondered out loud how a bachelor like me – I wasn’t married at that time – could take care of a baby to which the old man replied that it was not a physical baby but an invisible baby that he was referring to.
I was completely perplexed but at the same time curious to know what he was actually talking about. I therefore decided to lead him on until he told me everything about the so called baby. I asked him what it would entail. He told me that it was nothing much and that I would have to recite for forty eight days a mantra which he would secretly teach me and also keep an object which he would give me in a clean and secluded space where I could sit and recite the mantra.
He also explained that at the end of the forty eighth day the object which he proposed to give me would become a baby and I could use the baby to do anything that I wished in this world. He further added that I would only have to feed the baby and that I could easily do that with the kind of wealth and treasures that the baby would lead me to. It all sounded too easy for me and being a suspicious fellow by nature, I felt that there were some strings attached which the man had not yet revealed to me I therefore probed once again as to what the old man expected from me in return for the gift of the baby which he was willing to give me.
The old man looked into my eyes solemnly and said that the only thing that he expected was for me to accept him as my Guru and worship him. On hearing this I was infuriated and told him that I already had found God who was performing wondrous things in my life and that I would never ever accept the old man as my Guru, nor would I worship him. The old man kept trying to convince me that what he wanted me to perform was just a mere token and that I could continue to pray and learn from God while also accepting the old man as my Guru. He added that he was at the verge of death and that it was his duty to pass on his knowledge to someone worthy of it and that his soul would rest in peace only if he did so. I told him to hand it over to any one else but not me. He said that it was not easy to find a person who was suited and that it would be a tough task to search for such a person at his old age. I flatly refused and the old man kept on trying to persuade me until I left the place shortly.
A couple of months later, I managed to find time to visit Madurai once again and as was my wont, I visited my old haunts to spend some time in prayer. On one such occasion I went along with the same aged friend, to the Punga tree where we had met the old man, only to find him missing. I managed to strike up a conversation with one of the locals there who was hunting birds with an air gun and the local told me that the old man who was named Masanam had died a miserable death one night at the very same spot hardly a month ago. He further told me that no one knew how he had died and that when the people of the locality had found his body the next morning it had looked like some strange beast had ripped apart his innards and had eaten his heart. I was shocked at this news.
Much later, I happened to meet some one from Ammainayakanoor who knew about Masanam and his slave the Kutti Chathan and this person told me of the early days of Masanam and how he had been driven out of Ammainayakanoor and taken up residence here under this Punga tree and lived in penury without the means to support himself and his Kutti Chathan. The KC who had all along been used to a rich diet had been unable to accept Masanam’s self imposed seclusion and in a fit of hunger and anger had taken the life of its own Master.