Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Guy Carries Mom in Basket

HABIB BEARY, BBC - Village womenfolk consider him a saint as he trudges along the national highway leading towards India's technology hub, Bangalore, in the southern state of Karnataka. Some of them prostrate themselves before the saffron-clad 32-year-old, Kailashgiri Brahmachari.

Swami, as he is described, is on an epic mission - he is carrying his aged, blind mother, Kethakdevi, on his shoulders on an all-India pilgrimage. He has already covered more than 6,000km (3,750 miles), beginning the journey in his native village of Piparia, near Jabalpur in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh eight years ago. If all goes well, Kailashgiri's grand plan is to end his spiritual quest at the next Kumbh Mela Hindu festival in the holy city of Varanasi in 2013.

The loving son carries two baskets on his shoulders, balanced by a wooden bar. In one, his mother, in the other his meagre belongings. "It does ache, but I am determined to complete the yatra [pilgrimage] even it takes another 12 years," says Kailashgiri. Villagers liken him to the Hindu mythological figure, Shravana Kumar, who is said to have carried his aged, blind parents on pilgrimages.

"In this modern age, this is very rare. It shows how much he cares for his mother," says Gowaramma, a grandmother from Buvanahalli, a village 25km from Bangalore.

"My message is simple," Kailashgiri says. "Take care of your parents. If you don't, your children will also neglect you."

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