Nandini was in a happy frame of mind as the plane taxied to tarmac at Mangalore airport. She would be meeting her only sister Bhargavi, elder to her by six years, after a gap of five years. Bhargavi has been pleading with her all these years to take a break and spend a month with her. The exigencies of work, her frequent tours abroad and her husband’s schedule somehow stood in the way of her visit to this coastal town till this day. Luckily she could do now as her husband was away on tour to China for a week and she was relatively free having just completed her project.
She had not decided about the visit till Bhargavi rang up two days back and mentioned,” Nandini, I know you are busy and cannot take a break. But I insist that you come down for your own sake. The Bhagavathi temple here is celebrating its famed quinquennial function this week and young women are thronging to seek the blessings of goddess. There is no question of your disregarding my request as you are wont to since childhood days.”
“Akka (elder sister), I know why you are particular about my visiting the temple. I have lost all hopes of bearing a child and all the medical opinions support such a pessimism. Please understand that I am really not keen about a visit to the temple. I will nevertheless come for a couple of days just to meet you and your two daughters.” Nandini said.
“Yay, inform me your flight details, I will be at the airport. We can decide the rest when you are here,” Bhargavi said in jubilation.
Nandini saw from a distance her sister standing tall and beautiful as ever belying her 38 years in age but a little worn out in these intervening years. She rushed to her dragging the suitcase and hugged her tightly.
“Nandini, believe me, there has been no change at all in you. You look the same charming and graceful young thing that I saw five years back. I am so happy you could at last make it,” said Bhargavi holding her hands warmly.
“Akka, you have also not changed much except for a few strands of grey hair. What is the secret of your youth?” Nandini asked with a twinkle in her eyes.
As Nandini lay in her bed that night after a sumptuous Palakkad dinner with her sister and nieces by her side, she felt as if she was in her ancestral home with her mother who passed away when she had just joined college. It was Bhargavi who was married by then who took care of her till she finished her post graduation and found a good job at Delhi. The two sisters talked into the late hours of the night after sending the nieces to their room.
“Nandini, I am not pressurizing you but having come this far especially at this opportune and auspicious time, why miss offering prayers to the Goddess. You know amma was a devout devotee of Bhagavathi and regularly visited the temple,” said Bhargavi.
“Do you really believe, akka, that visiting a temple during this time helps in conceiving a child even where doctors have ruled it out? I think it is as ridiculous as circambulating peepal tree for getting a child,” said Nandini in a taunting tone.
“I cannot answer your question to your satisfaction except saying that there is a strong belief long held by our past generations and in such matters only implicit faith helps. You need not come as a supplicant but as a devotee of the Goddess whom amma revered much.
Let us have fun afterwards in the beach as the temple is close to sea shore. The scenic beauty of the location, the incessant waves, the blue sea, the azure sky and the boats of fishermen setting into the sea is a delight to watch. Get up early. We will all go in the morning. Sleep well as you must be tired,” Bhargavi said and bade her goodnight.
The next morning was spent in the crowded temple, offering prayers and going around the sanctum thrice. While Bhargavi prayed for Nandini, it is not known what she sought for. The rest of the time about an hour were spent on a long walk in the beach and watching the waves striking the shore.
On the way back home, Nandini asked her sister, “Have you heard of cases where women without children for long years having conceived after visiting the temple? Be truthful.”
“Frankly, I do not know. It is all hear say but still people throng here. Your case should tell me whether it really works or not.”
“That means you used this ploy to drag me here, is it?” asked Nandini in an accusatory tone.
“Take it in whatever way you like. Is it wrong for an elder sister wanting to have her younger one with her and shower her affection? Do you really know how much I miss you? Who else is there for me except you after our parents passed away,” Bhargavi said wiping her moist eyes.
Struck by remorse by her own rude remark, Nandini pleaded,” Akka, please forgive me. I was a fool to talk like that. I really enjoy my visit here. I would do anything you ask for unquestioningly,” even as she bent to touch her sister’s feet.
Once back in Delhi, Nandini plunged into her work. In about two months she had to go to Seattle for three months on a project.
It was a rainy Sunday at Seattle when Bhargavi invited her on FaceTime. “Nandini, I am in a mess and I feel highly embarrassed to talk about it. You know I have completed 38 years and my younger daughter is nearing six. I have not had the monthly thing for the last two months. I actually went to pray for you but I wonder whether Bhagavathi misheard me,” she said hiding her pain behind a smile and added,” I wished to abort but your brother in law dissuades me from it. I am very shy to go out these days and remain confined at home.”
“Wow, I concede Bhagavathi is indeed powerful though her blessings are misplaced! Why do you care about others? Let us hope it is a boy for a change. When it is time for delivery, I will come to be of assistance, I assure you,” Nandini spoke to her encouragingly.
Six months later, when Bhargavi was blessed with a baby girl, her husband offered the baby to Nandini who was there telling,” We had already decided accordingly. We felt since Goddess Bhagavathi could not help you directly due to you some medical issues, She perhaps used this ploy to give you a baby. Kindly accept this baby girl as yours. We are sure your home would be filled with laughter and fun and you will have someone to aspire for and shower your affection.
Nandini gladly took the baby in her arms to give her smooches even as her heart was filled with gratitude to Goddess and no less to Bhargavi. Her joy knew no bounds as the baby snuggled close to her and smiled. Bhargavi looked on with tears of joy in her eyes.