Well, the plan was to go to Red Fort. But if things go as per plan, then one is not in India. There is such charm in facing the unexpected, welcoming the unannounced…Power cut, water taps drying up, Bandh, cooking gas cylinder becoming empty a week ahead of schedule, car not starting, sudden guests – there are any number of possibilities that creates a daily tussle of fate and free will. Wonderful!
7 am, Sunday morning. My cell sang.
“Sirji…” called an old school classmate of mine…
Cell phones have connected India like nothing has ever done before. Just dial and talk, without worrying about the variable “where”…
As it was, I thought he was in Bangalore or Mumbai, and he thought I was in Chennai or Bangalore…
His name, btw, is Shankar. He works in Bangalore, and his wife and kids are in Delhi.
“Sirji…today is my birthday sirji…sochaa aapsey aashirvaad ley loon” he said.
“Where are you sirji?” I asked.
And it turned out that he was in Delhi. So was I.
He planned to wake up his kids and come to Uttara Swami Malai temple sometime in the morning. So perhaps we could meet there.
Shankar’s call was unanticipated. Not as per plan. Plan for the day had been to go for an outing with Shweta and my sister Anu. Shweta is a NRI youngster who is from Germany, on visit to India, heading for a three month internship to Banares…She wanted to visit the Red Fort. And so I had volunteered to be the guide and host.
We left at around 9 in the morning. First stop, Uttara Swami Malai temple – also known by Northerners as Malaai Mandir. Needless to say the word ‘malai’ means different in Tamil and Hindi. Malai is the Tamil word for Hill, and Malaai is the Hindi word for whipped-cream…Malai Mandir is a South Indian temple, of Lord Murukan, built on top of a small hill.
We walked into the temple compound. At the bottom of the hill there is a temple of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareshwara (Siva) – as in Madurai. The day being Sunday, there was a brisk throng of devotees.
But right there, in that shrine, I spotted Shankar…We bear hugged in true Delhi style…His wife was with him…”Where are the kids?” I asked him. He told me that they hadn’t woken up. So there.
After a short tête-à-tête he took leave.
And we climbed the steps. Halfway up the hill is the first stop – a nice large hall. A group of devotees were learning to sing Tiruppugazh – the most beautiful verses of Arunagirinathar. An elderly teacher sang first, followed by the students.
“Look” said Shweta, her eyes shining. Right amidst the students, a peacock was sitting peacefully, listening to the Tiruppugazh!
We then went to the niche shrine where is housed a rare sphatika (crystal) statue of Adi Shankara. Beautiful!
Then we went to the hill top. To the temple of Murukan. Lots of devotees. And on one side, a Veda class was on. A teacher was leading a group of young Brahmacharis through the chant of Vedas. In Ghanam style…(Ghanam is a special way of reciting the Vedas. Here, the words of a verse are chanted back and forth, repeated, in a certain mathematical sequence…This is one of the ways by which our Rshis have ensured that no word, no syllable of any verse is lost. A good overview about methods of Vedic chanting can be seen here http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part5/chap10.htm …)
They were chanting the Mrityunjaya mantra (tryambakam yajamahe…) in ghanam style…It was delightful to hear.
With that sound resonating in ones mind, we walked down the steps…Back to the car…
Yes, to Red Fort now…