A pilgrimage

Hyderabad is one of my favourite cities. Recently I made a four day trip. It evoked lot of fond memories, of times with friends and time  around with family. I had done most of my wedding shopping here. I had spent a very nice year just before marriage. But the main draw of the place is the Chilkur Balaji temple. 

I am not a very devout person. I believe God does stuff and He will do the needful. We need not coax Him, bargain with Him or bribe Him. But I had some desperate times in my first firm. I was unhappy on a lot of fronts and needed a change. That's when my close friend S told me about Chilkur Balaji. For people who are not familiar the deity is also called Visa Balaji for devotees get their visas approved upon visit to the temple! The concept of the temple is very simple. One needs to do 11 circumabulations of the temple when asking for a wish to be granted. Once the desire is fulfilled one needs to do 108 circumambulations (pradakshina). I am not a believer in such stuff. Once I tried to fast on a Shiv Ratri because there was an important cricket match and could not do it beyond 1300. One horror-scope errr horroscope dude had asked me to leave non vegetarian food on Sunday for some  problem and I was like go take a hike. So when my friend told me about the Chilkur temple I half heartedly gave it a 'shot'. Kinda like ' yeah bhi try kiya jaye'

When I entered the temple I could feel the positive vibes. I think that is the most important part of visiting a temple....to get a good positive feeling. People were going around the temple and chanting  Govinda which gave  goose bumps.  I did the 11 pradakshina and within a few days my desire for a change was fulfilled . Coincidence? Maybe. But I was a convert. 

The priests at the temple keep extolling that there is no special puja or darshan. All that is expected is chanting of Vishnu 's name and concentrating on Him. I feel it is a very rational expectation. If we feel God gave us something all we need to do is concentrate on Him and fill ourselves with good thoughts for the 2-3 hours that it takes to do the circumambulations. For the health oriented ones, it's good cardio ;) 

I had prayed to the God during some tough times. I don't even remember how many times I had prayed to Him. Per my estimate it was four. Since I am in India this was a chance to visit. My school friend Sam was also around which made it a double whammy. The first day we just went to just visit. Since there was no crowd I decided to do 108 pradakshina s. Chiyaa also did a few with me. She was skipping, running, jumping and doing all sorts of antics. She made the whole ritual so much more pleasant. The darshan was spectacular! We saw the deity from such close quarters. I have been to the temple many times but never seen Him from such close proximity. We had plans to visit the next day but because of a bit of mis-planning we were not able to make it. I visited the next two days and completed three out of four. The visits were splendid! There was no crowd and we viewed the deity from such proximity! The children were ultimately well behaved and though I had some doubts as to how they would be, He took care of them. 

I also noticed the popularity of the deity. There was a sardarji doing pradakshina. I heard Odia, Bengali and Gujrati in the crowd. There were people on wheelchairs and babies in prams. The feel, the vibe, the aura was surreal. And in typical Indian style the driver who ferried us everyday was a guy called Shaik! Talk about  secularism :) Indians live it.

A fantastic four days filled with piety and of course some shopping ;) My mother and shopping gp hand in hand! ;) I have a few more prayers..... Here is hoping I get to visit Him soon!

Arm chair thoughts

I have a lot of time to chew the cud and just observe and think about a lot of things. So here is a log of my totally random thoughts.

One aspect I notice is just how busy my father is. He is retired but is a visiting professor. He is also the editor of a science magazine and is involved in authoring curriculum books. He is also the chairman of the association we live in and is actively involved in activities such as coordinating with municipal authorities for improving civic facilities, organising cultural events, publication of the local newsletter. Along with it he does his regular household tasks of putting the washing machine, keeping the drinking water from the purifier, the weekly cleaning of the car, bike and bathrooms and the like. He does not relinquish those activities because he is not satisfied if anyone else does it.  To be honest, my mother has always been busy with with housework, stitching, gardening etc after retirement. I was concerned how my father would pass his time. But seeing him so occupied makes me feel very happy.

A day before I was to get married, a neighbour whom I fondly called didi told me, you might be getting married but you will always keep coming back here. Truer words have not been said. I keep coming back to my maika for emotional succour,honest advice, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. They inspire and urge to be a better person and a professional - even today when I think I have done enough they push me by example. I would be nothing without them.

I love to see the desire to improve and excel. One of our neighbours has a watchman. He generally sits for 8 hours. I saw a crude patch of land with banana, pumpkin, drumstick, curry leaf plants. The watchman to uses his time to add some greenery and grow some vegetables. Such motivation!

When I was younger I never fully understood the importance of the famous Rath Yatra. The coverage of the journey was viewed by my parents but I used to take it as something running in the living room. I was never around ever since we moved to Bhubaneswar to grasp the importance of the festival. I was always in a cosmopolitan environment where some specifics of my state were not explicit. This has been good in that I accept different cultures very easily. This time I am at home during the Rath festival. And I appreciate how important the event is to the Odia ethos!I am a Krishna bhaqt but  I can feel how strong is the bond and the association with Lord Jagannath. 

 I am in India for a long time after a long time. Long enough for the 'special' status to fade and I am not treated as a royalty. I love the feel of family. And as I see the changes I love the way the country is moving. I have had this thought numerous times but now I feel more strongly that to what end am I in a far away place? Away  from where my heart is? Truth be told UK is a very expensive country (among the top 10 in the world), so money is not the reason. For that matter my peers in India earn the same or more than me with the perks of being in India (I know they may not think of it as a perk). Yes I enjoy first world infrastructure  with no class system and of course without the unsolicited interference of acquaintances. But is that reason enough? I have been talking about this quandary with my friend A and my mother a lot. They both say 'stay there'. They must know better. But this time more than ever I am divided in half and will be giving the return a serious thought before the kids are big enough to have a say.

There are exactly 6 more weeks to  go... 3 here and 3 in Chennai. I have no idea how I will fare with mummy not being there. Even a simple task like going to the toilet will need planning with a toddler. I have done it before but I have been pampered by my mother over the past few months. I will be taking the change head on. Added will be Chiyaa 's School (which is still undecided) and maybe something drastic on my employment front. Plus we won't have the lovely sunshine that can cheer you up. I know it won't be an easy transition. 

Well... Life will go on.. Let me live it now.

Time

There is less than a month left. For this idyllic vacation to end. It seemed like a project when it was conceptualised. A month in Bhubaneswar  and a month in Chennai. K's work timelines ended up making it two months in Bhubaneswar and a month in Chennai. From afar it seemed enough. In fact I was naive enough to think what were we going to do for do long. I was searching play schools and swimming classes to keep Chiyaa occupied. How silly was I to underestimate the time needed to bask in the love of grandparents. To be pampered by granny and grandpa. To soak up in love where time is not a slave to routine.

But relativity kicks in. Time seems to zoom when the experience is as pleasant as this. And already the majority of our stay here is over. It seems two months is not such a long duration after all. 

Chiyaa is counting days to see daddy. She can't wait for it to be August. I was so scared of missing K. I even shed a few years bidding him goodbye in UK. I am eager to see him. But I will miss my parents. I will miss this time. I will be heartbroken to think what my parents will undergo. They who carry each child in their arms nearly every waking moment. How will they cope with a clean house smelling of children? How will they cope with no shouts of joy, no cries of anger, no squeals of delight? How will they cope with the emptiness? 

Time again will step in as the best healer. I hope it does a good work. 

Parents

I think about a lot of things. I have the time , but more than that I have an empty head. Which is amazing. I don't have to keep ruminating about a 101 infrastructural issues, lunch time, dinner time menus, my to dos , even my toilet timings. All of these need precise planning when I am on my own. But with my parents around, things just flow. I have to handover the little one to Papa or Mummy and I can go sit on the swing and chat with a friend. This would be unthinkable in my 'real' life. 

One thing I have noticed being at home is all the stuff that is around. My sister and I  have left the nest, but we have left behind quite a lot. There are clothes, books, shoes, stationary. So much so,  Chiyaa is playing with our Barbie dolls, which are a good 20 years old. That my parents have kept  them across the numerous transfers, change of cities and houses is truly commendable. In this 'instant everything' life, those are the true keepsakes. 

I must have confessed many times that I am morbidly afraid of lizards. Bhubaneswar has no dearth of them. The other day, there was a lizard in the bathroom. My mother spent half an hour trying to shoo it. When it went to a corner which she could not see, she asked my father to have a look. My father came in with a torch to have a look. He did make his teasing remark that lizards had caused a few human casualties ;) . But still he was persistent in finding the lizard. Doing this for a 10 year old is fine, but the time and effort they were putting for a  middle aged daughter ! I told mummy later, that I really appreciated their effort and she said, for one's children nothing is an effort. Honestly I hope I am half as good a parent as my parents are. 

As children, my sister and I were never denied anything. We had a very comfortable childhood by God's grace. But we were never spoilt. I remember a story Papa once told us about some scientist (whose name I have forgotten). There were people at his house to collect money for charity. They heard the scientist scolding his help for wasting a match stick. The folks for the donation had least expectation from the scientist who seemed to be pretty tight about money. None the less, they approached him, and he gave the most generous donation. One of the charity workers couldn't help but remark, how could he give so much money when even the wastage of a match stick irked him. The scientist said, it's not about the thing, but it's utility. He was cross at the wastage of anything, be it even a match stick. Because by wasting that thing was lost for ever, never to be used again. This thought has stayed on with me somehow. I give a lot of thought before I buy anything, be it even a small tit bit. If it's not going to be used to its fullest, I rather not buy it. I see so much of it in my house still. We have tattered bed sheets used to mop the house and all sorts of waste containers used as pots for plants. It is not about being a miser, it is about using everything to their fullest potential. 

There are so many other tit bits that is entirely the teaching of my parents. And one of the most important one is children are a very important commitment. Mummy always says, children imbibe a lot from observing and not just when they are young, but throughout. Even small things like how parents treat each other , their relatives, their jobs have an impact. We were taught to be respectful to others and diligent in our jobs because we saw our parents do the same. 

 Growing  up we were always at the centre of everything our parents did. I remember in the cold December temperatures of four degrees in Rourkela at 5 in the morning, Papa used to drive 13 Kms to drop me at a tuition. He would drive all the way back, get my sister ready , drop her for school and drive again to pick me up (mummy was working in a different city since she had a transferable job). All these runs before 10 in the morning after which he had a full day at work.  This was just one of the things. There were numerous runs for special classes, debate, essay competitions, picnics and birthday parties and what not. Mummy used to take loss of pay leaves to be with us around all important examinations. Just because I liked someone around as I studied late at night, she used to lie on the floor in the same room and give me company. My parents were totally invested in us! Not were... Still are. Even now, we sisters are number one priority. We are total VIPs at home. 

Mummy, Papa... You are truly special.

Home Is....

  • Where morning is somewhere between 0700-0900, unencumbered and uninhibited 
  • Where ginger tea, biscuits and newspaper are a morning tradition as are afternoon siestas
  • Where the local dhaba's chicken  biriyani makes a fabulous combination with mummy's fish curry 
  • Where malai chap, chena poda, kulfi  and kalakand reside in the fridge always for a quick snack, dessert or just like that
  • Where taking bath using the bucket and mud and splashing water everywhere in the bathroom is every child's dream come true
  • Where mausi's evening massage is divine
  • Where bhata(rice),dali (lentils), aloo bharta (mashed potatoes) and amba khata(mango chutney) are so satisfying and fulfilling that one could eat them morning, noon and night and still ask for more
  • Where the huge balcony the bedroom opens into gives the feeling of sleeping in close proximity to nature
  • Where the cuckoos create a racket in the morning which can wake you up 
  • Where one gets the rest and relaxation no Thai massage or expensive getaway could ever  give 
  • Where the heart truly resides