When: December 1980
Where: Sabarimala, Kerala
I was six years old when I made my first-ever trip to malai as we fondly call Sabarimala, the temple shrine of Lord Ayyappa. It was a custom in my family to even take girls, atleast once before they turned 10. I vividly remember carrying the irumudi and walking uphill with appa and my brother. But my most enduring moment would be of someone (don’t remember who), from the group lifting me high to have a glimpse of the Lord. I pray that I live up to 50 to visit malai again… and relive the childhood memory.
When: July 1995, around noon
Where: Shirdi Sai temple, Nagpur
It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. Rain clouds were playing peek-a-boo! The kind of day where you just want to want to put your feet up and curl up with a book. My cousin Kartik comes barging in, asking me to come some place with him. I decline but he persists that it’ll be a memorable experience. Reluctantly, I ride pillion on his scooter. We stop outside a huge white temple. As I enter, the sweet, lilting strains of the aarti freezes me on the spot. It is the dhoop aarti. I stand there mesmerised, listening to a song sung in Marathi, a beautiful language, I am yet to grasp fully. It’s a moment etched in time, a memory, of a belief and faith that will remain forever.
When: July 2006, 8am
Where: Chottanikara temple, Kerala
It was an unexpected vacation. I had just visited home five months back.
Since I had quit my job, I had to exit the country to come back on a family visa. It timed with the brat’s vacation as well. Just a day before leaving, all of us decided to visit the Chottanikkara temple. When we left home, the sun was out and the skies were clear. But just as we entered the temple, the rain came down in torrents. I had no umbrella but did not wait for the rain to stop. I prayed at both the ‘kaavus’ in the rain, totally drenched from top to toe! It was like being awash in a new spiritual experience, though I have been to the temple many times before. It was also the last vacation I spent with Appa. He passed away the next year.
When: November 1998
Where: Sree Krishna Temple, Darsait, Muscat
I had heard of the famous Ayyappa puja in Muscat and this was my first-ever experience! The day before the actual puja, I experienced the oneness and camaraderie that bonded the expatriates in Muscat. All the ladies were busy cutting the vegetables for the next day’s sadya. And what came to me? The chillies and ginger for the pulli inji. I might have had tears in my eyes, but they were ones of joy; of the happiness of making new friends and enjoying divinity in a place so far away from home. The next day, the pujas, aarti, bhajan, the sadya and the huge crowd made me realise how blessed I was… To be in a land that revered and respected all religions. The blessed experience continues… year after year.