Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The prankster in the temple

Pankaja never failed to visit daily around 8pm the Srikrishna temple near her house. It was the only time when she could wrench herself away from the house after the day’s chores. She lived in a big family in her in-laws house with her husband, his parents, and a couple of aged relatives. Tending to the special needs of the old took lot of her time and energy though she had a maid to assist her. Her husband Madhavan was very loving and a caring person. He held a senior position and earned very well. There were no financial constraints and all material comforts were well provided for.
Yet there was a vacuum in Pankaja’s mind. It is almost eight years since she married. She did not go to work due to domestic responsibilities. She wanted children very much but that wish had not materialsied.Doctors could find no deficiency in the couple and held out hopes. She waited for the miracle to happen. The daily visits to temple to pray Lord Krishna were in pursuance of such an objective. She made it a point to circambulate nine times the prakaram (corridor) surrounding the sanctum sanctorum housing the God chanting hymns in praise of Him. She had been doing this with devotion for more than a year.
She was late that day as she had to arrange fomentation for one of the elderly relative. There were very few devotees in the temple. She hurriedly offered prayers to the presiding deity Sri Krishna and other gods in the temple. The priest even remarked before giving her some Tulsi and flowers “Pankaja, you seem to be late today. I was wondering why you had not come.”
“I know, mama (uncle).I was held up with some urgent work .I had to hurry here  before the temple closed” she replied
As she started the usual pradhakshinams (circambulations), she heard a voice when she reached the rear portion. That portion was desolate, dimly lit with some dark rooms further behind. She turned around to see none when she heard from nowhere a giggling laughter as if tiny bells were ringing. She was dumbstruck in fear with heart pounding fast. She virtually ran till she came to the front side. She stopped for a moment wondering whether to continue going round the corridors. When she saw a few devotees still at the sanctum, she mustered courage and decided to continue despite the fear.
As she reached the same space, she heard clearly a voice “Won’t you stop? You are in hurry now also” She looked around and saw none. Again the same peals of laughter emanated from the corner. Her heart pounded fast that she felt it would burst. She literally ran to the safety of the front portion of the temple.
“Pankaja, why are you running and sweating profusely? Aren’t you keeping well? I hope you have your vehicle outside” asked the priest
“No, mama” she said gasping for breath and added”I heard someone talking to me from the rear corner when I did pradhakshinams but I could see no one. I could not figure out whether it was a man or teen aged person. I am afraid to go again there”
“No one is there. The kitchen is closed and the cook had left. I will come with you. Let me see who it is. Come on” he said
When they came to that place, there was utter silence and that itself  sent goose bumps to Pankaja.”Mama I am sure I heard here not once but twice. Believe me” she implored. They stood there for sometime more turning around to see all places.
“I trust you, Pankaja.Our mind can sometimes do many tricks. Now there is none here as you have yourself seen. You can safely finish the pradhakshinams.I will be sitting before the sanctum. Give me a call if you hear the voice again” he said and added” Wait one second. I will, give you sweet kesari, todays Prasad”
When she went again somewhat with trepidation sure that she would hear the voice, she did not hear any voice but froze in shock and bewilderment when she saw a young smiling child of eight years of bewitching charm standing at the corner.”Do not be afraid and hail the priest. What do you have in your hand? Won’t you give me a little?’ the boy said in a mesmerizingly beautiful voice. All fear had vanished instantly and she felt like hugging the little prankster.
“Surely it is all yours. Come near me. Why do you play pranks scaring me? Come on, open your mouth.I will feed you myself with this sweet kesari.Do you like kesari?” she asked as she fed the boy who swallowed it with gusto and a chuckle.
She heard the closing bell chime loudly and asked him quickly  “Where do you live? Where are your parents? In which class are you studying?”
Instead of answering he said “Hurry before they close the gates. I will give the answers later” and ran away into the darkness. Worried where he went, she came to the front portion and found the priest busy locking the sanctums. She left for home but with some inexplicable joy and elation. The boy’s charming visage lingered in her mind even as she reached her home.
She came to the temple earlier than usual the next day in great anticipation and did the rounds slowly lingering each time at the rear side. But the boy never showed up. It was the same the next day and the succeeding days. At the end of a week she was overcome with great disappointment that  she started crying wanting to see the boy when she stood at the rear corridor. When it did not happen she came trudging to the front portion.
“Pankaja, come here. I have something for you” hailed the priest
There were none in the sanctum besides the two.
“I suddenly had  a feeling just now  as if commanded by Lord Krishna Himself that I should give you a bowl of this Sweet Kesari and that you must take three times a little of it in the presence of   God Himself” he spoke as if in daze.
As she took the sweet dish in her hand and took three times, she perchance looked at the idol of Sri Krishna.A shock of thousand volts ran along her body as she espied the handsome small boy smiling at her. She rubbed her eyes again to make doubly sure and witnessed the same spectacle. She fell on her knees and fainted as if she was prostrating before the God.
Let me skip the details. As you must have guessed already the miracle did happen in a couple of months with Pankaja and Madhavan already choosing the name Murali if it were a boy or Radha if it were a girl. To their great rejoicing the miracle did materialize in due course in the form of a twin, a boy and a girl.