Friday, March 19, 2010

A Married Man in Thiruvannamalai

I heard this story from the district collector of Thiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu whom we met on a visit to the town. The collector is the highest administrative post in a district. Anyone visiting Thiruvannamalai is sure to hear stories about the powers of lord Arunachala, and about the imposing hill there that dominates the town and is attributed mystical powers, and about the foreign devotees who throng to the place. I am narrating the following as I heard it from the district collector, without embellishment.

After living in the district for nearly a year, and hearing so much about Arunachala hill, the collector decided that he'd walk up the hill himself. One day, he hired a local young man to be his guide and porter and they walked up, with the young man carrying the collector's bag.

They reached the top, looked around and started descending. The collector was happy that he'd done the hike. He was also very impressed with the polite young man. The collector was paying him Rs 50 for his services, but he wanted to do more for this helpful porter.

The district collector had the discretion to offer low level janitorial jobs as sweepers to women in need. Hoping that he could help out this man, the collector asked, "Are you married?"
"Yes sir, I am."
"Would your wife like a job?"
"She has a job, sir."
The collector was curious.
"What does your wife do?"
"Sir, she is a doctor. She is an M.D. in America."

The collector was taken aback at this. How could this young local porter have a wife in the US? So, while they continued walking down the hill he asked for the full story. Here's what the local porter told the collector:

In the same Arunachala hill that they had ascended, there lived an ascetic, a swamiji. He didn’t speak much and tried to avoid people. But lots of devotees believed that he had spiritual powers and sought him out, including numerous foreign devotees. The ascetic didn’t care for any followers and would in fact hurl stones hoping to deter them. But the more he shunned his followers, the more followers he had. However, the ascetic liked this porter.

One day, there was a white lady who was following the ascetic.
"Swamiji, whatever you tell me to do, I will," the lady told the ascetic.
The ascetic decided to test her. "You have to marry whomever I tell you to," he told her. She agreed without hesitation.
Then the ascetic turned to the young porter who happened to be around. "Hey boy, how would you like to marry this lady?" he asked.
The porter looked at the while woman and said he would be happy to.
And so the ascetic instructed the white lady to marry the porter. She agreed and went ahead and married him.

It turned out that she was an M.D in the USA, and a staunch follower of lord Arunachala of Thiruvannamalai. The porter and the lady had a child, whom she was bringing up in the US.

Every year, for 3-4 months, she came to Thiruvannamalai and stayed with her husband, the porter. The rest of the time, she practiced medicine in America and brought up their child.

When the wife was in the US, the young man earned his living by working as a porter and guide for those who wanted to go up Arunachala hill. That's how the collector had met him.


  1. The story isn't as amazing as it sounds as the porter (who is known to us) is an educated, resourceful, attractive young man who is currently making a VERY good business charging pilgrims and visitors wanting to climb the Hill, visit the caves or walk the Arunachala inner pathway.

    Also his rate is no longer Rs.50 more like Rs.200-300 per head -- so a big group is VERY expensive.

  2. Thanks for the note, Anonymous.

    I posted this mainly for the sheer variety that is present in India.

    I am very happy for the young man if he is resourceful and successful in this business. if he is able to charge more and get it legally, then more power to him -- that's capitalism at work.

  3. Is it possible to climb uphill? Walk inner pathway??? Plz provide more details - I want to utilize this service...