It is not the 100s of years of history or the fact that this place hosted the world famous boat race that made this abode or lord Krishna very special for her. It was more about memories, memories of walking on the graveled temple courtyard holding her father’s hand, of running around with her brother, of happy laughter as her father held her up so that she could ring the temple bell. She had been here since the time she had nothing to pray for. She had come here praying for ice-cream, she had been here praying for distinction in SSLC exam and then for an engineering seat. On her wedding day she prayed for a loving husband and promised a thulabharam with coconut when her baby girl Indu was born. Even with time and increasing prosperity there was something timeless about the temple. Very much like ever present old sanyasi’s sitting at the temples large stone paved mandap, chanting from prayer books or reading the Gita or mahabarath or just praying with their eyes shut, often leaning on the beautifully engraved stone pillers.
Among the never ending sound of chanting, prayers and temple bells, the soothing aroma of sandal wood paste, incense sticks and burning camphor. At the evening pujas, among the dancing lights of hundreds of lamps she felt there were moments when time stood still or even reversed. Here she could forget that she had a teleconference to attend late night that day. Although on vacation she had to be available on call as the project release dead line was just a couple of weeks ahead. Indu’s vidyarambham had brought her home this time.
The ceremony was better than expected. Indu was in awe of the proceedings at the temple. She was happy about seeing her favorite animal, elephant inside the temple premises, all decorated and majestically being part of the celebration. Indu was excited as the priest held her hand and helped her write her first letters in a Malayalam, her mother tongue that her mother could hardly write. Indu was enjoying her day out. But we were in hurry. Three or four days of vacation never gives you any time to relax, there were many relative to visit, many a thing to do.
As her mother in law and husband went to make offering to the temple deity and collect prasada, She lugged Indu along to get coupons for her favorite milk payasam. One has to stay late till noon to collect the payasam. But as they were in a hurry they would give away the coupons to sanyasi’s meditating and praying at the temple. As they were walking back Indu shook off her hand and ran to a very old sanyasi standing at a corner and offered him the coupon. He was short, fair, bald and thick white beard almost covered his face. Visible part of his face was wrinkled and he looked above 80 years old. Dressed in saffron he looked lovingly at Indu and put his hand on her head blessing her.
He raised his head and looked at me. His eyes were bright and he had a soothing smile.
“ I am god. A big storm is coming. I choose you to build the ark that will save this world”
She was shocked. She bit her lips to stop laughing out loud. Poor old man should be out of his mind. She took out a 10 rupee note and put it on floor next to him.
“Dear daughter, this storm shall not bring fast winds or raging water. It shall bring greed, distrust and cruelty that too in my name. It shall not shake your concrete building but shall shake humans being living inside first. It will shake their morals, shake their goodness and blow away love”
Now she was getting frightened and too shocked to react. Hundred thoughts ran through her mind. Should I run away? Or shout for help? What does he want? Will he attack if turn back and start running?
He continued “Human mind shall be the wood you would build the ark with. The ark shall be held together by good thoughts, love and compassion. You should start building the ark by guiding the youngest uncorrupted minds. Like a fisherman spread your net of goodness in mighty oceans of human mind, and I promise you guidance. Take this coin, when in doubt toss this coin and if it falls with my abode facing up, take is as yes”
Saying this he pushed the coin in to her hand. The coin fell down as she pulled back her hand frightened. Now she was panicking. she was feeling slightly dizzy. Her face was all red, and she was starting to sweat profusely. There was a few seconds of uneasy silence that seemed like years. The old man was holding her mind such that she could not even run or was it her fear paralyzing her? Suddenly his face grew a bit sad.
“You can give me your ring, I shall duplicate it to prove who I am” he offered
Oh god he is some fraud she realized and took a step back and hid her hand away from him. He now smiled knowingly.
“What if I disappear? Would that help you believe?”
Oh god. Please make him disappear, She though as the shock slowly started waning. She stood in silence trying to guess his next move.
Suddenly she heard Indu cry behind her … “Ammaaa…” she had stumbled and fallen. She ran, picked her up and held her up tight trying to pacify her. She caringly inspected Indu, she was fine and was just frightened.
“Come let us go and find your daddy.” she said as Indu clung on to her. In all the action she completely forgot about the old man. She suddenly turned back to look and he was not there. She quickly looked around, he was nowhere to be seen. She walked to the spot where they stood talking a minute back. The coin was lying on the ground. She picked it up.
“Amma water …” Indu should be thirsty and hungry by now, she worried. Water bottle was with her husband. She hurried to her husband as she tucked the coin into her purse. As they hurried back to their car, feeding and handling Indu completely occupied her mind. Hectic travel and Indu together tied her thought so much that she did not even mention it to her husband till they were on bed that night and Indu was fast asleep.
Her husband could not hold back his laughter as he heard her story.
“Stop laughing you will wake up Indu … baby is too tired” she scolded playfully.
“Anyway good that you did not give the gold ring or he would have done the Houdini act with it” he was still laughing.
“Could he be god? When he said I should start by guiding the youngest uncorrupted minds, could he be referring to teaching job? Just yesterday we were discussing about me resigning from this stupid IT job and take up teaching so that Indu could get a bit more of my time. Could facebook, internet etc be the mighty oceans of human mind he was referring to?” She wondered aloud.
“Why don’t you use the coin god gave you? Was it not supposed to guide you?” husband replied oozing with sarcasm.
She fished inside her purse and brought out the coin.
Her husband was more fascinated by the five rupee coin than her story.
“Oh this is a special one. I will keep this one safe for sure. This was released by RBI in 2010 to commemorate 1000 years of Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur” he added.
“So the first question is, should I take up teaching job? Please toss” she egged him on
Her husband tossed the coin. It fell with temple facing up. They looked at each other and laughed.
“And the next question is should we switch off the light and sleep?” He continued with a more sarcasm.
Both of them laughed. He tossed the coin and it fell with temple facing up. They obeyed for once, switched off the light and slept. Next day life went on as usual.
PS: I come back to blog in name of god :). It is a short story on our beliefs. Noted the first few lines a month back. But completed it now. And special thanks to my proof reader cum reviewer. The temple in the picture is not the one in story but is one of my favorite in Pathanamthitta.