I saw the Lord, Sriraman, for the first time in an ancient alley in Choolaimedu, playing kittipul with other small boys: no naamam on his forehead.
Yet another time on a footpath in Bombay, he was hawking TV covers with loud cries. Just as I passed by, I heard him swearing in Hindi at a north Indian woman who was haggling persistently,
The third time, at hotel Park Sheraton, I saw him with a well-known Tamil writer, tunelessly singing a fine poem by Charles Bukowski which was never set to music. I didn’t really notice if it was vodka in the glass he held.
The next time, on a long-distance flight Who else but he could have stolen the strawberry ice cream from my tray; perhaps a carry-over from his avatar as Krishna.
On a few other occasions I have seen him at a distance, among those who picked empty Bisleri bottles in the old city of Hyderabad.
There he was, in Bikaner, carrying the handbag of a Mirazi Muslim— a singer of Kabir’s verses.
Why, I’ve seen him too at the Vadavalli Sriram theatre in Coimbatore, there among the jostling queue, on the first day, first show of the movie Ayirathil Oruvan. The wretch was standing there, in a Che Guevara T-shirt and sunglasses— quite the ladies’ man.
Just once when I saw him really close— after a long kiss, in answer to my casual question, he said: “Ayodhya? I have never seen it. In my grandmother’s stories, I remember, it was the birthplace of Sriraman.”