M.V. Ramanachalam (1921-2003), son of M.S. Venkataraman Iyer, was a boyhood friend of Sri Ramana.
My father Venkataraman was a few years younger to Bhagavan. He and Bhagavan lived in the same house, which was situated close to the Vaigai river, in Madurai. He would join Sri Ramana and his friends in their nocturnal escapades [daring adventures done at night]. After sneaking out in the dead of the night, the boys would go to the river bank and practise ‘chilambam“ (a martial art using long bamboo poles).
Once, when my father returned late at night, my grandfather caught him, tied him to a tree in front of the house and caned him. Sri Ramana was watching this. Later, when my father heard about the young Brahmana Swami dwelling in Virupaksha Cave at Arunachala he paid a visit to him out of curiosity. But the moment he stepped into Bhagavan’s presence he began to shed copious tears. To his amazement he found nothing there of the former Venkataraman, his playmate. When he was about to leave, Brahmana Swami asked him in a subdued tone, “Is that tree still there in front of your house?“
From then on, my father, who was working in the District Board Office, used to rush to Tiruvannamalai whenever he felt like visiting Bhagavan. At times, he would be accompanied by my mother. At Skandashram, Mother Alagammal, who was very fond of my mother, taught her many songs pregnant with deep spiritual meaning. Later when my mother sang them in front of Bhagavan, he would remark, “Oh! Did Mother teach you all these?”
My father considered Bhagavan the Supreme Eternal. Whenever the topic of Bhagavan was raised or Bhagavan’s name was even mentioned, he would simply shed tears. As he was unable to refrain from weeping in Bhagavan’s presence, Bhagavan gave him the name azhugani siddhar – the one who attains siddhi, that is, liberation, by weeping for God.
I remember visiting the Ashram when I was just five. I had high fever and was sleeping near the door of Bhagavan’s hall. I felt delirious. Bhagavan would now and then lift his head from the sofa and tell me to go to sleep.
Once, as a boy, while leaving the Ashram, a deep sorrow suddenly overtook me and I began to cry. I refused to go with my mother, telling her that I wanted to stay with Bhagavan. Bhagavan, who was going that way, stopped and told me gently, “Go with your mother now and come Backwhen you are 21.“
My father died in 1939 when I was just 17. After a few months my mother took us for Bhagavan’s darshan. When she prostrated she began to shed tears. As it was the custom in those days, my mother was not wearing any jewellery. She had her head shaved and covered it with her sari. She was wondering whether Bhagavan would recognize her and asked, “Bhagavan do you recognize me?” He smiled and said, “Why not? Only the makeup has changed (veyshamdhaan maari irukku).”
When 21, as I got posted at a place near Tiruvannamalai, I could go to the Ashram on Sundays and holidays to sit at his feet. Once I took his permission to go to the summit of the hill. There I scraped some Kartikai Deepam [^e^er p. 411] residue of soot from a rock and put it on a leaf. I wanted to present it to Bhagavan. When I came down, the sarvadhikari called and shouted, “Where were you? Bhagavan is waiting for you. Go and join him for lunch.” After lunch, I approached him when attendant Krishnaswami was not there, for he would never allow anyone to approach Bhagavan easily. I took out the Deepam ghee which I had collected from the summit and offered it to him. He pulled my hand closer and took the offered prasad, and with great reverence applied it on his forehead saying, “Are you satisfied now?“
At times my mother used to help Bhagavan in the kitchen. One day she was helping him in grinding. While turning the grinding stone Bhagavan’s head butted against my mother’s head. Immediately Bhagavan rubbed his head and exclaimed, “Ah! Parvatham, is it paining?“
I used to read religious books. Once I read a book which explained Dakshinamurti’s chinmudra. Wonder of wonders, when I entered the hall on the weekend he was explaining chinmudra. The purport of his talk was: “It is just like when you point to God above with your index finger. We then generally point to ourselves using our thumb. Joining of the index finger and thumb is chinmudra, which is symbolically indicative of ‘That thou art'(tatvamsi), the union of jivatma and Paramatma.”
A small book Arunachala Stuti Panchakam had a minor printing mistake. Bhagavan wrote the correct letter on bits of paper and pasted them in each copy of the book.
My mother wrote a letter to Bhagavan complaining that I had refused to consider marriage proposals. When I came to the Ashram next, Bhagavan asked in a serious tone, “Did you see your mother’s letter?” I was stunned by Bhagavan’s disapproving voice and I came away weeping. The sarvadhikari showed me my mother’s letter. Seeing the writing on the wall, not long after that I got married and went to the Ashram with my wife in March 1950. The sarvadhikari permitted us to have Bhagavan’s darshan in the Nirvana Room. As soon as I prostrated, Bhagavan talked to my wife in Malayalam. How he knew that she was from Kerala is still a wonder to me.