The pitter-patter of rain is music to my ears as I stir from my sleep. For a moment, I wonder where I am. I look around to see no one near me, and I panic. But the music drifts in through the window, and I feel at home once again, my heartbeats quickly go back to normal.
“Vigneshwara janma nalikeram ninte thrikalkal udakyuvan vannu…” comes the song from the nearby temple.
Lord Ganesha, remover of obstacles and giver of wisdom, I have come to pay obeisance at your feet. Indeed I have, and I used to do just that every day before I went away. I remember when I was a kid; the song that I first heard from the temple on any day would continue to be on my lips for the whole day.
I get up and go to the window. In the distance, I can see the temple. It has got a fresh coating of white paint recently, but the brown tiles of the roofing haven’t changed at all. There are smaller shrines inside the compound, but the main deity is Lord Mahadeva. Even in the drizzle, I can see people heading down the steps into the temple premises, removing their slippers at the steps, or handing them over at the footwear stall. The men take off their shirts too as they enter, as is customary in many temples in Kerala. Even though it is too far to actually see, I can tell there is a smile on every face, some as they recognize their neighbors and friends, some just as amicable greeting. In the area, it’s like every person knows every other person.
By the time I take a bath and get ready to go to the temple, Aarthi and Vidya are done getting ready too. The two pretty girls are in kasavu dresses, white with golden borders… mom in saree and daughter in a frock. We walk toward the temple, only to be greeted by the flower seller on the way.
“Evideyo kanda poley undallo?” he asks, a hint of recognition dawning on his face. Before I can reply, his daughter decides to translate for us.
“Acchan thinks he’s seen you somewhere,” she tells us. She might be twelve or thirteen, her hair in a short ponytail and wearing her school uniform already.
“Njan Aanand, from the bungalow,” I tell them, thankful I don’t need to bring out my mixed English-Malayalam dialogues too much.
He recognizes my name immediately and we talk for a few minutes, the girl, Megha, joining in at times while she makes a garland for us to take along to the temple. Promising to buy one every day while we are at the bungalow, we take his leave and go to the temple.
The ambience of this temple is such that I get lost in its calmness, its devotion and its music. As I enter the inner shrine, I can hear the rhythmic beats of the edaykka drum, its deep notes mixing with the chants of “Mahadevaya namah” or “Om Namah Shivaya” from all around me. I can see the devotees, their palms folded in veneration and eyes closed tight as they utter their prayers, seek his blessings for success and happiness. The sanctum sanctorum itself is closed, the priest preparing the deity for the morning darsan after the usha puja, the prayers during the time of sunrise. I join the devotees and close my eyes.
“Bhagawaane, iniyum korey divasam ivide aaswadhikyan kittan anugrahikename! Nalladu varuthename! Kaathukolane, Mahadeva!”
God, bless me so that I can spend many more days enjoying in my hometown. Bless me so that only good things happen and protect me, oh Lord Shiva. When I open my eyes, I see the sanctorum has opened too, and the sight of the Lord, in all his glory, greets me. There’s nothing as satisfying.
I apply a bit of sandalwood paste to my forehead; take the theertham given to me, along with a smile from the old priest who has no trouble recognizing Aarthi and me, as he was there at our wedding. We go for a pradakshinam, a walk around the boundaries of the temple, and then head back to the bungalow. The edaykka has stopped, as has the rain, but we’re greeted by the music of this little temple town. The tinkle of bells as school children rush past on their cycles, the caws of a crow or two or maybe even more, and from down the road, the clanking of chains as an elephant slowly approaches the temple. A cheerful “Pinne kaanam, Chetaa” falls on my ears and I see Megha waving goodbye as she rides off to school. I hear the honk of a horn as an autorickshaw rolls to a halt near a small hotel, and the morning banter between the driver and the owner of the hotel. Any new news in the neighborhood quickly goes around, and everything is worth discussing.
From the temple, a new song stars to play, and I turn back towards it, fold my palms and say one more quick prayer. I can see Vidya mimicking me too.
We reach the bungalow, and are greeted by Sharada chechy, who has already been to the temple and back, and cooked a delicious breakfast as well. As we help ourselves to boiled kappa and pazham with pappads, an unfamiliar hum joins us. Aarthi and I look at each other and smile, then look at Vidya as she eats, humming the tune of “Vigneshwara janma nalikeram ninte thrikalkal udakyuvan vannu…” to herself.
And in that moment, it feels as if we had never left home at all.
(11 Dec, 2013)