Saturday, August 22, 2020

A promise hastily made

 The young man was in deep debt. The debtors were pressurising him with threats. He was the sole bread winner for parents and younger siblings. His income was hardly adequate to meet the basic needs of the family.  He could see no way out except to take refuge in God at the temple. He took a bath, applied ash marks prominently on his forehead, arms and chest went to the nearest Vinayak temple. He removed his shirt, stood bare bodied before Lord Ganesha praying devoutly with his eyes in tears.

” Show me a way out of this mess I am in. If I am freed of this burden of debts and the onerous task of looking after the family, I promise to you sincerely that I would renounce the world and be your devotee forever. Kindly show your compassion, “he pleaded.

As there was a jostling crowd in the morning, he chose a corner and sat with his eyes closed to chant His name.1008 times keeping his shirt before him.

Many devotees thought him to be a mendicant and dropped coins, notes and even fruits. Engrossed in prayer, he did not notice this. It took a long time for him and just when he completed the count, the temple bell tolled repeatedly and if to signify his prayer was answered.’

The young man rose to jump in joy with his eyes closed unknowingly at the amused smiles of the people at the young man jumping madly as if possessed. When he opened his eyes and saw the small crowd around, he was highly embarrassed and bent to pick his shirt. To his utter bewilderment, he saw the coins, currency notes, fruits and surprisingly a lottery ticket too on and around the shirt. He hurriedly picked them all and made a hasty exit.

He thought someone had left an expired and useless lottery ticket. However, his curiosity overcame his impulse to discard it and found the next day was the day for the results. He was hopeful that Lord would not let him down but had not much hope on the lottery ticket. He put his signature and address behind the lottery ticket as a matter of abundant precaution.

The next day when he went to the bazaar, he was thrilled to find the ticket had won him one crore of rupees. All his problems seemed to vanish in a trice like snowflakes before Sun. Lord Vinayaka in His infinite mercy had answered his prayers. He quickly settled the debts, opened a small grocery store for his father and made proper investments to get regular monthly income.

 After a month his conscience pricked that his part of the prayer remained to be fulfilled, when he saw in the bazaar young and beautiful girls walking past him, the array of textile shops with display of beautiful clothes and the bars and beer beckoning him. He had not gone to temple except once after winning the lottery for elaborate puja and offerings.

Unable to bear the guilt and remorse at his being a cheat, he bought himself an ochre robe and gave away the pant and shirt to a beggar. He decided to move away from family and the town., His mind was restless as he sat in the temple in his yellow robes. Tears trickled from his eyes as he realized it was not easy to take to Sanyas.It was a foolish promise made in haste but he cannot fail to keep it. He was in a quandary not knowing how to get out of this tricky situation that he had invited upon himself. His eyes were closed in deep thought at his predicament.

It was then he heard the voice,” Cut, pack up. The day’s shooting is over.”. The garishly rich young man, smiled at the director and readied to get into the sleek car as the door was opened by his chauffeur.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The power of prayer

Selvam, a 12 year old boy, did not know what to do.His mom had been unwell for the last four days and since this morning did not open her eyes. She did not respond to his call. There were none to help them in the huts around. His father had deserted them and went after another woman. An old woman living in the adjacent hut had given his mom some home made herbal remedy the previous day but it had no effect at all. Her condition had worsened and caused him much worry. She had not taken any food even tea. The old woman advised the boy to take her immediately to some hospital. He had no money even for a rickshaw let alone taking her to a doctor. The boy sitting outside the hut was crying.
An old man who lived nearby and whom this boy called grandpa came and sat by the boy’s side. He was moved by his pitiable condition but was equally poor. He put his arms lovingly around the boy and said “Selvam, do not worry. I will be sitting here. You go to the Vinayagar(Ganesh) temple and pray to Him to make your mom alright. We have no other recourse poor as we are but to trust Him. Pray sincerely and He will answer your prayers. I have seen this many times. Hurry up. I will keep a watch over your mom.”
It was already 8 PM and dark. The boy ran to the small temple. The door of the sanctum was closed. The priest was not to be seen. There were none there. Selvam was disappointed. He peeped through the holes in the door and prayed devoutly to the God whose idol was visible faintly in the dim oil lamp that hung from the ceiling. Tears flowed from his eyes. He rang the bell loudly many times hoping it would notify the God of his presence. The boy sat on the ground before the sanctum, closed his eyes and repeated the name of the God 108 times. He opened his eyes with a start when he felt someone touching his head. He found before him an old man short, pot-bellied, wide mouthed and with a smile on his face. 
He asked softly
“Young boy, why are you crying and what were you praying the God for?”
“My mom is very sick. Her condition is bad. I have no money to take her to a doctor or hospital. I have none to help us. I prayed to the God to make her alright. I am very much afraid about my mother’s condition” Selvam said.
“Do not worry. I will come with you and see personally. Take me to your hut.” the old man said.
When he reached he found the ‘grandpa’ missing outside the hut. The short old man placed his hand on her head, applied some sacred ash on her forehead and sprinkled a little on her body. He turned to the boy and said “She would soon wake up. Give her something hot  to drink. She would be alright. Do not worry.”
The boy turned to his mom and saw her opening her eyes. Astonished at this quick development he called “Amma, how do you feel? Can I give you some tea?” She held his hands and smiled feebly at him. The boy wished to report to the short old man about this and rushed outside only to find the visitor no where seen. He ran a small distance towards the temple but he had mysteriously disappeared.
Hurrying home he found his ‘grandpa’ sitting inside the hut and talking to his mom.When Selvam narrated what happened since he went to the temple, about the short old man’s visit, sacred ash and his abrupt disappearance, his ‘grandpa’ was certain that he was none else than God Vinayagar(Ganesh) He queried the boy further about his appearance and any strange thing that he had observed while the old man was there.
Selvam replied “I did not see anything strange  except a mouse unusually sitting at the entrance and watching the short old man when he was inside the hut.
(Mouse is the divine vehicle of lord Vinayak popularly known as Ganesh or Ganpati Boppa)

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Who scooped the butter?

                          A topical story on Janmashtami day

Sukanya was like any other twelve-year-old girl, gregarious and fun loving, playing with neighbourhood girls but studious in studies coming in the top three of the class. Strangely in the last three months, she had changed into a silent and serious type not mingling with others. Even her parents wondered at the change.

It all happened suddenly when on a visit to her grandmother’s place, she was gifted with a doll of Sri Krishna. It was a two feet high, doll of Krishna in blue colour standing with a flute in hand and a cow behind. With His bewitching smile and handsome features, the doll of Krishna caught the fancy of the little girl. Her grandmother had narrated to her, the story of Meera Bai and her unflinching devotion to the Lord despite the trials and tribulations she faced. The story made a deep impact on the young girl and transformed her completely. She lost interest in studies and playing with friends. She spent all the time other than school hours with the doll she had kept in the puja room, dressing it up, making flower garlands, talking to it, singing bhajans and doing puja. A beautiful girl, she was blessed with a sweet voice and sang well with devotion.

Her parents were upset initially with her constant attention to the doll to the detriment of her studies, play and other chores. While her mother Savitri understood the girl’s love for the doll and her sincere devotion to the Lord, she did not confide much to her husband Hariharan knowing his impulsive nature. As a result, Hariharan was not fully aware that Sukanya spent most time with the doll.

About two months later, Hariharan when on evening walk happened to meet Sukanya’s class teacher whom he knew slightly having met in one of the school functions. The teacher from the other side of the pathway signalled him to stop and came towards him. After the pleasantries, the teacher asked him, “I find of late Sukanya lagging behind in studies. She was always in the top three but she is not performing well. More than that, she is morose and not the ebullient type she used to be. Lucky I met you today. I have been wanting to apprise you. Is she not well or what?”

“Thanks for informing. She is in good health I will look into it, “replied Hariharan.

As soon as he reached home, he asked his wife angrily, “Where is Sukanya? Call her here and you also remain here.”

The girl came out of the puja room with a flower garland in her hand unaware of her father’s mood. Hariharan plucked the garland from her hand and threw it away to a corner. He roared in anger at Sukanya who looked dazed, “Look here, I have just met your class teacher and I had to hang my head in shame when he made unflattering remarks about your performance and morose ways in the last two months and asked me whether you are keeping well. I find that you are always closeted with the doll in puja room and I have not seen you before your study table. I am not also happy with your mother in not sharing about your lazy ways and playing like a three year old baby with a doll. I am going to put it in the loft tomorrow. I warn you no more playing with doll.  I hope you will mend your ways.”

She cried inconsolably pleading, ’Appa, I am not playing with the doll. He is Lord Krishna. I am doing puja daily decorating him and offering raisins while singing bhajans in His glory. I promise to study well as before and score high marks. Please do not deprive me of my dear Krishna, I beg you appa.”

 After Savitri’s persuasion, he relented on the condition that she spent only 30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening and that she went to play daily, do her homework like before. She readily agreed but audaciously put a stipulation that her mom should provide her with butter in a small cup for her Lord. This was agreed to by them without fuss and inwardly happily.

 She knew that Krishna loved butter most. The doll remained in the puja room and not a day passed without Sukanya doing the soul stirring Bhajans, puja and offering of butter to the lord, all within the stipulated 30 minutes. The parents too saw no harm in her devotion, as it did not clash with her studies, play and other chores

One day when she had finished the puja, she found the butter had been scooped as if by small fingers. With surprise and glee, she asked her mom to witness the strange happening. When her mom looked at the cup and her fingers, Sukanya denied amidst sobs that she had not touched the butter. While they didn’t know what could have caused it, they decided to keep quiet. When this phenomenon happened in the successive three days, her mom told her husband about the strange occurrence.

The father called the girl and told her sternly that he would stop all the puja if she did not come out with the truth. With this veiled accusation as if she had taken the butter, the girl denied her hand vehemently. But the dad was not convinced and said, “I have not come across any incident of God taking the prasad offered to him. May be you are not aware that you are unconsciously handling the butter. I think there is something fishy about the whole thing.” Sukanya was deeply hurt but did not respond unwilling to provoke him.

The next day Hariharan stayed at home to get into the bottom of the matter. When the girl was doing the puja, he surreptitiously came down without the knowledge of the girl and his wife who was busy in the kitchen. Now and then, he saw through a narrow opening of the puja room door, the girl singing softly with her eyes closed. When the song was over and the puja seemed to end, he peeped again through the opening. What he saw astounded him.

 He saw a boy of ten years bluish in colour with yellow silk around his waist, a peacock feather on his head and a flute in hand stooping down to the cup and taking the butter with his fingers. When the boy turned his gaze towards the opening in the door, Hariharan instantly fell unconscious.

 Hearing the commotion both Sukanya and her mom came running towards him.” Appa, please open your eyes. What happened? Why did you faint?” asked Sukanya.

When the man blabbered about the blue boy he saw with his flute and the feather, her mother splashed some water on his face and gave him some to drink.She waited  for  him to  calm down.

 She said “What boy and where is he? The front door is locked. There is no one here. Sukanya also hasn’t seen anyone. Are you day dreaming?”

 “No, I saw him distinctly. I have never seen such a beautiful face and the eyes were red in colour of unparalleled beauty. He stooped down and scooped the butter. Believe me, you can see the cup yourself if you do not trust me.”

When they saw the cup, they found the butter had been removed by two tiny fingers. Sukanya with tears welled up in her eyes shouted in elation and excitement, “Kanna, Krishna, Govinda, Navneetha chora, how lucky I am that you have heard my prayers and had come to stand by my side. How unlucky I was to keep my eyes closed when you stood near me and ate the butter? Why did you not make some noise?”

 The parents embraced the girl who was in rapture and delight and smothered her with kisses.

 The choice is yours, dear reader, to dispute the strange happening or trust in full faith as Lord's Divine grace.