Jag the Ripper

Veeraswamy Krishnaraj

A fifty-year-old man on a Sunday was making Pradakshiṇā (circumambulation). A boy around 16 years of age was a visitor to the temple. He prayed to the deity and offered worship by opposing his palms uttering Mantras sotto voce, followed by eight-limb prostration (Aṣṭāṅka-namaskāram. He took the dust from the steps leading to the sanctum and smeared it on his forehead. The fellow devotees looked at him kindly as if they were impressed to see such devotion in a boy of that age. He joined the queue for Prasādam. He enjoyed eating it. It was a planned event for the boy.

Off he went to join the devotees doing the Pradakshiṇā. It was an evening with cool breeze coming from the nearby sea. Some devotees were too demonstrative of their love of God by their loud chanting of the Mantras. Some were in their Angavastram, panchakaccham, the sacred thread, the sectarian marks loudly displayed on their body, the whole shebang. They came with their spouses wearing fine jewelry, Madisar, the whole nine yards. It was an unforgettable sight. Their modesty breaking through their sophistication was telling in their gait and carriage. A few college students with roving lascivious eyes were 'sighting' (சைட் அடித்தல்) beautiful willowy and luscious women in the crowd. There were office workers in their office wear, while visiting the temples.  They probably had no time to change. There were young couples of all castes going along the circumambulatory path. There were Hare Krishnas too in the melee. The villagers visiting the temples for the first time were easy to pick out from the devout foot traffic. There were a few Muslim devotees in the devout crowd. They were the dual believers in Islam and SriVaishnavism. They tried to be unobtrusive and unnoticeable. They were true devotees. Their physiognomy, carriage and clothing were telling. There were Jains too in the mix.

A woman in full Srivaishnava regalia in a wheelchair was pushed by her husband. She had a sophisticated look, an erudite scholarship written on her face, probably a retired professor of Sanskrit. She was a paraplegic from a car accident.

The crows were flying overhead eyeing for any morsels of Prasadam that failed to reach the mouth of the preschoolers from their tender undexterous hands and fell on the floor. These crows were audacious scavengers. Yes, the crow ate the Prasādam and went to Paramapadam upon its death a few years later for the mere eating of Prasadam, not knowing its worth, not knowing the posthumous destination of its soul and surprised to see the gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya letting it inside for Karavalambam.

Suddenly there was a melee and a mini-stampede. People saw a youth pull the sacred thread off the neck of the fifty-year-old man in his Srivaishnava sartorial getup and splendor. The scalawag, fleet of foot, pushed through the wall of devotees and escaped into the Agrahara street.  He was gone.

The hapless victim went to the security office of the temple and lodged a written complaint. He felt outraged that his sanctity was robbed. The security personnel located the clip showing the face of the alleged grabber in his act. A complaint was filed with the police.

Everybody went about their business, including the police. At another part of the town, a man on a motorbike was stopped when he ran into a wayward cow. The cow mooed. He rolled over with the bike and all. It was a wreck and a mess. He was smeared with cow dung all over his face. His bike was a heap of twisted metal.  Is it possible Bhagavan Krishna dispatched the cow to cause the accident? No, just a thought. The shopkeeper selling religious accouterments like kum kum, turmeric, pictures of deities… poured on the boy’s head and face soda water to remove the cow dung. He accidentally ate the cow dung the least interesting part of Pañchagavyam, as his luck and fate would have it.  No injuries to the cow. That location was the grazing ground for the cow. It just simply walked off the accident site as if nothing happened. The police arrived at the scene of the accident. He was given summons and sent home. The motorbike found its home in the junkyard.

His name, address, occupation, photo, the sacred thread, the photo of the cow…were on the police record. The police station was also in receipt of the tape from the temple. It was reviewed by the police, who found the images of the motorcyclist and the cord-ripper matched. He was rearrested and taken to the court the next day.

In the court, the case was heard from the complainant and the defendant. Of course, the police did locate the wayward cow as the witness and victim of the accident.  The cow was in the court. She was fed fresh-cut grass on the order of the presiding judge. An attendant was at the ready to feed and catch the cow dung just in case...The judge recused himself because he was the brother of the complainant. Another judge was appointed to preside the court. The police produced the ripped sacred thread found in his pocket as evidence. Jag the ripper pleaded guilty. The complainant told the court he was for imposing community service on the youth instead of jail time. The judge agreed and imposed on the cord-ripper community service to clean the temple premises for a six-month period. The temple authorities assigned him to the mainteneance of the Gosalai or the cow shed (கோசாலை) attached to the temple. Jag the Ripper did not like cleaning the cow stall . But he had to do it. It was better than spending time in the clink.

A few days later, the boy developed intense abdominal pain and was admitted into the hospital. The attending surgeon examined him and diagnosed ruptured spleen. His hematocrit had fallen to a dangerously low level. The rupture of the spleen was from the fall when he hit the cow with his motorbike. He needed surgery immediately and a blood transfusion. As the surgeon entered his notes on the chart, he noticed the name was familiar. It was Jag the Ripper. He did not confront the patient. The patient was taken to the operating room and returned to the post-operative ward. The patient did not notice the examining doctor at his hospital encounter because he was writhing in pain and had his eyes closed. When the doctor came back for the post-operative visit, he recognized the doctor from the court appearance.

Jag The Ripper: Doc, I am sorry I ripped your sacred thread. Thank you for your surgery and saving my life.

The doctor: You are welcome. Take care. I hear you are doing a good job at the cow shed.

What the doctor and the patient did not know was the blood transfusion was from the doctor’s wife, who was a regular blood donor in the hospital blood bank.

The patient went home after an uneventful hospital stay but continued his service at the cow shed.

Yes, he met the doctor again in the temple and became his fast friend. The doctor took upon himself to put him in the right path. Since he was a bright student, he encouraged him to apply for medical college admission. Several years later he was a doctor himself, a surgeon and an associate of the plaintiff.