Treasure the hunt

Why did they have to?
I mean, open the secret vaults at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvanandapuram? By doing that, they have killed one of the world’s longest-playing mysteries and one of its best kept secrets.
The Unknown is an amazing fertiliser that can make even barren minds sprout ideas. For years these vaults have provoked and prodded even dull and lazy minds to pole-vault.

Take mine for instance.

While in school, I’ve sat for hours in front of blank answer sheets, wondering if the vaults were torture chambers for those cruel people who set such impossible question papers.

On a bad-client day in advertising, I’ve hoped the vaults would be a treasure-trove of ancient concoctions that delivered kiss-fresh breath, dandruff-free hair, baby-bum complexions, odour-free armpits and never-over youth. Wouldn’t I then in one bath be able to rid the world of FMCG clients?

After a severe Harry Potter hangover (from the film, not the book), I’ve imagined an endless ocean of milk and honey inside those vaults, which when you swim across takes you to a world of magic, miracles and mysteries.

On a more spiritual day, I’ve dreamt of a stairway to heaven inside those closed doors.

Alas, those will never be. Today we know that it’s nothing but a boring collection of Gold, precious stones and elaborate jewellery. A collective worth of One Lakh Crore. That’s Rs.1000000000000/-only.
Now, even if they lured me with an apostrophe, and made it R’s 1000000000000/-, I wouldn’t change my opinion on those vaults.

They should not have been opened. Period. Because no matter how big the revelation, it can never be bigger than people’s imagination.
In fact, revelations kill innocence.
Truth makes our thinking too realistic, practical and hence selfish. From a child-like “Could it be this?” and “Could it be that?” it becomes an adult-like “How can I benefit from it?”

Let us go back to Thiruvanandapuram’s Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple’s Rs. 1000000000000/- (See how the names and figures match in size?)
It has become Kerala’s second biggest obsession. (The first remains alcohol.)
Listen in to what a Mallu recently told me.
“This Onam they are going to divide the wealth found among all the Malayalees of the world.”
My wife made a quick calculation to tell me that our share would be a pea-sized Gem. I made an even quicker calculation to tell her that we’d have to spend many times more to thread that pea in Gold, for her.

Another Mallu said that the wealth is only for the members of the Royal family and those who served them. Since every Malayalee is in some confusing way related to every other Malayalee, my wife in under 2 hours traced her lineage back to a Palace Guard in Raja Marthanda Varma’s kingdom. Yes, that’s one of those two guys who guard the entrance with their spears forming an X at the doorway. The other guy was traced forward to me in no time. How convenient.

And yet, I wish they had left the vaults alone for the generations to come, to dream up fantastical dreams.

This is much like my fascination for magic and magicians. It ended the day I saw ‘Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed’ show on telly.
It’s the same about well-written whodunits, or those two-hour movies where the hero woos the heroine. I have always hated it when they reveal the killer and the books end, or when the hero gets the heroine and the lights come on.

During Treasure Hunts in school picnics, I used to look forward to the hunts more than the treasure. There was so much I had learnt during those hunts.
I learnt that there are lizards under boulders, not just clues. And when caught, the lizard escapes leaving behind a wriggling tail in your hand. Incredible.

I learnt never to look for clues inside a crow’s nest. Especially when the crow is in it.

Never put your hand into burrows and pull out rabbits for applause. You’ll get only screams. For, what you might pull out is a cobra. For applause, you need to pull rabbits out of hats.

Everything that looks like the bark of a tree isn’t the bark of a tree. Some are chameleons.

Never let the fattest boy in class climb the branch that you are sitting on.

Absolute gems. Compare these with the hidden treasure unearthed at the end of the game- a packet of Cadbury’s Gems. My share: A pea-sized Gem.

Similarly, a game of Hide-And-Seek for me was always more about seeking than about finding. It was more exciting to prolong the game by going perilously past bums sticking out of cupboards and give them the shivers than to end the game yelling, “I see you!”
On one such long search, I had gone up to the terrace and caught my college-going cousin standing in a corner and stealthily waving out to a young man on the road.
Much later, when she broke the news at home, the adults got together and wondered how it had happened and when it had happened. I walked nonchalantly into the middle of that huddle, plonked myself on the sofa, crossed my legs and said, “Ah, I knew it two years ago!”
Whack! Whack!! “Why didn’t you tell us then?”
That’s how unreasonable adults can be when faced with the truth. The whack was painful. But the joy of knowing what the adults didn’t know for two full years was priceless. Would this have been possible had I ended the game at the bum in the cupboard?

It’s not just about One Lakh Crore, Cadbury’s Gems or shivering bums, even life’s ultimate truths aren’t more rewarding than the search for them.

Take the case of birds, bees, storks and the truth about how babies are made.

Even in class III, I didn’t buy that story. Of course I knew the real truth. Only English kids came via storks. In India, it’s the vegetables that mothers ate that became babies in their stomachs. Carrots became tall babies, drumsticks became thin guys, potatoes became chubby ones.
I had once asked my mom what she had eaten on the day she felt me as a bulge in her stomach.
“Nuts!” she had laughed. “You are absolutely nuts, Ramesh!” she had laughed hysterically.
Oops, am I then a peanut, I had wondered.

Not for long.
In class V, after watching a rather romantic Tamil film, I got the answer. The next day, I had summoned the boys of the class to reveal what was then called Gupt Gyan.
“Dads and moms come close to each other…” I had started.
“And then? And then?” asked an inquisitive Raghu.
“And then, they bring a sunflower in front of them and shake it until all petals fall off!”
I became their Guru. But only for 15 seconds.
“Stupid!” Kumaresan rose to challenge me. “That happens only in films.” He then went on to explain how it was done in graphic detail. The class went, “Aaah! Really?” Kumareasan became our new Messiah.
That evening I refused to speak to my mom and dad. How could they do it? Even if it was for my sake? How could they actually kiss behind that sunflower? Disgusting.

It was finally in class VI that an over-aged T.K.Dinesh enlightened all of us. That evening I stole my dad’s dictionary to search for the four-letter truth of my birth. In my search for it I learnt so much more. Fuage, Fubbery, Fucales, Fuchsia, Fuchsine. Until I found what I was looking for.

Insipid. It wasn’t half as exciting as our versions of how babies are made.

Any genuine Guru will tell you that spirituality is all about the search and not about the find, about the journey and not the destination. The Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question is nothing more than just a change in punctuation.

Ultimate Question: Who am I?
Ultimate Answer: Who am I!
It is the search between the Q and the A that is enriching, enlightening and enjoyable.

Of course, I’m not generalising this. I know how frustrating it is to search for a misplaced document.
As I say this, I am reminded of a joke.
Why is it that what we search for is always found in the last place that we look?
Because why would we look anywhere else once we find it?

Funny, but therein lies one of the world’s greatest lessons.

Career’s end is when we have nothing new to say, do or know at the workplace.

Marriage’s end is when a couple have nothing more left to be discovered in each other.

Life’s end is when we have nothing new left to learn about this world or ourselves.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by shefali on July 21, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Delightful! Vintage Ramesh, all the way!


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