Wednesday, February 11, 2009

God belongs to me

Subramani woke up before dawn and got ready to go to work. He made himself a cup of coffee as his wife Shanthi was still asleep. During the early days of marriage she got up with him and made him his cup of coffee. After the birth of their only child Amala, who is now 6 years of age, slowly Shanthi had changed. She was no longer eager to serve Subramani. She found more pleasure going shopping or watching movies at home with her mother. Subramani never said a word about it. He quickly finished SandhyaVandhanam and got ready to leave. 
At exactly 5 a.m. , Subramani opened the gates of the Sri Vinayaka Temple and parked his scooter on the side of the temple beneath an asbestos shed. He then walked to the side door, opened the door and then started opening the front collapsible gates and other gates around the temple. He was then getting everything ready for the early morning Pooja when his assistant priest Shanumuganathan walked in. 
Shanmuganathan was still a bachelor. He was as conscientious as Subramani in all his work. Together they got everything ready and by 5.30 a.m. Subramani had started his work. He had already cleaned the space around his beloved Ganesha diety the previous night so morning usually started with its own rituals.
Subramani never understood how time flew. Before he knew it was around 9.30 a.m. and both he and his assistant went to the back room to take a break. Shanthi had brought and left them their morning breakfast which was usually 2 idli and little chutney and one thermos flask of decoction coffee.
That over they resumed their work and could not get a moment of space to breathe till noon. There was the usual crowds and today being a Good Muhurtam day there were more people wanting to do archana and pray. Then the mid day pooja started and he was done for the day around 2 in the afternoon. He had his lunch alone in the backroom as his assistant had left to go have lunch. Subramani had set up a small electric rice cooker in the back room and there was also a small fridge there. He always kept rice when he had his morning break. And Shanthi always brought him sambhar and one vegetable when she came in the morning.
After having his lunch he sat down in the easy chair beneath the fan. There were so many trees around the temple that he never felt the heat. In fact during the winter months he sometimes had to wear a sweater. He read the newspaper which Shanthi had brought for him.
He left the back room around 3 p.m to get the temple ready for the evening visitors. There were also some men from the committee who wanted to discuss some upcoming events and his afternoon just went by very fast. Soon he was in the middle of his evening pooja and around 9 he started getting ready to leave. His assistant took over the cleaning and other arrangements and also closing up of the temple.
By the time Subramani reached home it was around 9.20 p.m. He gave his daughter Amala a hug and went straight to the bathroom to take a bath. After the bath, he went straight to their pooja room.
It was a small room less than 100 square feet and he had insisted to have that part of the plan when he purchased his small flat. He finished his Sandhya Vandhanam and then he started his pooja for the little deities he had with him and his daughter Amala brought him the naivedyam her mother had prepared.
Immersed in his prayers, Subramani lost track of time. Until he heard Shanthi yelling from the Hall.
“Is’nt it enough that you spend all day at the temple? Why can’t you come and watch t.v. with us like normal people do? “ and the rant went on in that tone.
Subramani felt like a spear had pierced his heart. He knew very well that Shanthi had been aware of his work routine and had agreed to marry him inspite of all that. These rants had started just after a few months of marriage. Unable to take the taunts much longer, Subramani had approached the committee board and had requested them for an assistant which they had immediately approved. Still there was so much work to do. Now he thought maybe he would request for one more assistant, even part time.
He was again brought back to reality by Shanthi’s continous yelling and she then purposely dropped a big kudam used for filling water. Together all the noise she made seemed to prick Subramani all over with thorns.
He asked silently of his beloved God ,” Why can you not let me pray to you in peace?”. Without his knowledge a small drop of tear escaped his eyelids and splashed on the floor. It however did not escape the attention of Amala.
“Appa are you crying?” she asked. Unable to tell a lie, he opened his eyes and took Amala and seated him on her lap.
“I am sorry my dear. Even if I pray and do pooja all day at the temple, it is still only my work. I can never feel complete without doing pooja here to our Gods.”
Shanthi overheard all this and fell silent for sometime. Subramani used that breathing space and quickly started to finish his dinner that Shanthi had setup for him on the floor on a plantain leaf.
Amala watched her father taking the water set beside the leaf and how he took some water in his hand and went around the leaf before starting to eat.
He looked up at Shanthi who was standing nearby to serve him food. “Today was very busy… that’s why I got late” he said in a mild tone. “Hmmmm” said Shanthi.
“I will try and see if I can get some part time help to cope with the Music season rush “ he added. There was more “Hmmmmmmmmmm” from Shanthi.
After getting up from dinner and washing his hands and mouth, Subramani spent time talking with Amala and asking about what went on at School. He then got her ready for bed and told her a nice story from the Panchatantra book she had got as a gift. Soon Amala was fast asleep. Before long everyone had retired to bed and all was quiet.
Subramani got up early the next morning and got set to repeat his routine. While driving to work, he observed there was fewer traffic than usual. Once he got to work, he got very busy and even did not notice that Shanmuganathan had not come in on time. Also there were extremely few people coming into the temple that morning. Just a few trickled in. And those were people whom he knew lived nearby.
When he got time to take a break Subramani went to the back room where he had left his cell phone to call Shanmuganathan. Taking his cell phone he saw there were 2 messages for him and he dialed in to hear his messages.
Shanmuganathan had a left message that surprised and shocked Subramani greatly. He had said that in the early morning hours one of the premier politicians had passed away and at the time of making that call around 6 a.m., he said that a huge bandh was brewing and so was afraid to travel. Subramani’s second message was from his wife Shanthi. She had said pretty much the same message, and had also added that she could not bring in Subramani’s breakfast and also had requested Subramani to be careful on his way. The message ended with Shanthi saying sorry for the harsh words she had used the previous evening.
As Subramani kept the phone down, he was reminded of the previous evening. In particular what came to his mind was his silent prayer to his beloved God for some time to pray in peace. It seemed to Subramani that the universe had conspired to make his request come true.
The temple premises was so quiet this morning. Being surrounded with trees the atmosphere was more like a nandavanam. With very few people around for almost the first time Subramani became aware of the stillness around him. He could hear the birds chirping and the sway of the trees in the morning breeze.
Subramani forgot to even have any fruit to eat which was what he would have had for breakfast. He walked in long strides back to the main diety his Lord Ganesha. He fell at the Lord’s feet in gratitude. He wondered how magnanimous his God was to have granted his very small request. 
With tears pouring down his face and streaking his cheeks, he started praying to God. He chanted his usual slokas and having finished his maha araathi he then sat down in meditation. His face had cleared up and looked as if peace had washed over him. 
Finally after so many years he had got the Lord to himself without the devotee crowd jostling each other and most of them loudly gossiping about what someone else was wearing and about the latest street and movie actress gossips. Subramani knew this was his chosen profession but had never imagined he would have to deal with so many types of characters, people, in his daily course of work.
Apart from all this some celebrity or someone known to a celebrity would turn up and he would have to stop his usual routine and take care of this person. How much Subramani hated to take time away from his God to attend to some fat politician.
Today he was all at peace. Never before had he known so much peace. He loved that he had the God all to himself. His eyes sparkled and his voice had a higher lilt to it. He felt his whole body energized and it could be heard in his voice continuing to chant slokas and in his face which emanted the true reason for his choice of profession.

No comments: