Journey through the mind of an ordinary worshipper, observing the extraordinary.
There are two places where Indians usually do not bargain. It is at the doctor and at God’s durbar. For both are custodians of life.
It feels like just yesterday when I saw myself voluntarily offering to accompany my mother to the Dagdusheth temple during Ganesh Chaturthi. It’s the time when my ‘religious but not nagging’ mother makes her annual visit to this place, this time she had pleasant new company, me! Surprise had her even more, when I was the one who was up and ready early morning (psst – it was to avoid the startling long queues for just a 5 min conversation with god. Was that change of my mind really selfless or maybe I had one of my self-interests in return?
The empty roads, the fresh air gushing in and the slight chill of the morning, all leaving you calm and to pray in one mind. They say an early morning visit with an empty stomach is the best time to visit a religious place. Does that now qualify me as a better devotee?
Reaching there had me quickly make a beeline for the darshan. Now before that, there were a line of puja thali stalls that were selling a ‘fixed package’ of 5 coconuts, a sweets packet and flower garland. Before you can think, they have already decided for you as one I overhear saying, “This package is the best offering which everyone makes” and the true early morning devotee you will only nod in return with no defense. The stalls stood at such corners where the devotee exactly will make up its mind to buy one, strategic business I say. Their most attractive offer being, they will guard your shoes when you are busy bribing your wishes with God. Be it a Reebok or a Catwalk shoe, they are safe with them. If a devotee buys no thalli or offers only one coconut instead of 5, does that make his prayers less inviting in God’s Durbar?
Puja thali in place, and queue moving, I couldn’t stop admiring the grandeur of this beautiful temple and watching the people around. Like every year, the temple had erected a replica of Shri Swanand Ganesh Lok known as Ganesh residence mentioned in the Mudgal Puran.
A bunch of college kids in front of me were giggling away and discussing on the numerous selfies they were trying to perfect. Not to forget every second person I saw was take a selfie of himself or of a group, sorry I didn’t join the gang! In front of me stood group with many families from outstation I figured and had come to seek blessings in person. Each family held one of the fixed packages of puja thali. Besides that, some also stood with freshly packed modaks from the nearby sweetshop Kaka Halwai.
Just then, an Audi car lands right in front of the entrance. Out trickled first a saree clad lady adorned with fancy jewels and then her husband dressed in crisp white. With a home-made puja-thali and a large sweet box in hand they quickly proceeded towards not the line which we not were standing in but behind the idol; a VIP line maybe? My attention now went to both sides of the temple where the Maha-Abhishek was going on. Simply put a bigger puja involving few greener notes, in turn more bhakti and in turn expectation of more blessings. This myriad vision of different kinds of offerings, VIP lines, personal visits does that grab better attention of the deity in front?
Before I could derive a conclusion, there in front of me was the idol in clear view. Lord Ganesha bejeweled and looking magnificent in his best avatar. He was surrounded with variety of sweets, heaps of coconuts and of course the Pujaris- our gatekeeper’s to God’s durbar.
If you believe that God only listens to prayers when you stand exactly in front of him, then make sure to have revised and re-revised your speech. When the moment arrives, be ready to utter it out correctly in your 10-seconds opposite him. That’s precisely what happens. The bouncers cum security make sure they are politely rude to show you the exit doorway! I was happy to oblige, but mum, she made sure that she too politely played hide and seek with him and gained another precious 15 seconds standing in different corners. Does she get granted an extra wish fulfilled?J
Mission accomplished prayers nicely home-delivered to its destination! We headed to pack the Prasad from the puja thali, priced at Rs. 100. There are two places where Indians usually do not bargain. It is at the doctor and at God’s durbar. For both are saviors of lives.
My visit comes to an end. Oh yes, there behind I saw the VIP line trickily hidden behind the temple replica for commoners to not spot. It tempts me to compare this to the reservation quota prevailing in India where the upper caste complains about the lower caste getting it all. Make it synonymous here to the socially reached primarily the upper class who are seeking blessings easily as compared to the awaiting commoners. Perhaps that’s their weapon in return.
Do all devotees make a beeline to a religious place with absolute shraddha or just as a ritual with a half-baked mind. Does a greater blessing lie with the one who has come from a far off distance than to one with the one who couldn’t make it but prays at his house with equal devotion? Is it wise to stand in a VIP line for darshan thanks to contacts? I am no atheist but not someone with blind faith either, and surely don’t know the real truth. But do know that place, time, money cannot define the power of a pure mind. Regardless of whatever maybe the answer to these string of question, we Indians will still continue to throng religious places and seek “Your attention please”- at God’s Durbar!
P.S – This was put down on paper by me in 2015 which saw the light of the day this festive season. Older with time, wiser by words but thoughts are the same. Happy Festivities to you all, at a social distance 🙂