In one of the lanes of Chennai's Boat Club Road, at a junction where two perpendicular lanes meet, under a shade of a tree and in a nook by the wall of one of those big Boat Club homes, sits this little Guardian. I am guessing the location of the house at that very spot in the confluence of the two lanes, and all those colliding energies, dictated that He, the remover of obstacles, be installed, ever protecting, ever benevolent, ever watchful.
Many walkers stride by Him every morning. Some even sprint. But most are lost to His presence, engrossed as they are in conversations, and the ones in their own heads...or to the music from the pair of wires that peeks not so discreetly from the sides of their faces, carrying them far into another orbit. And I was one such walker. A walk for me meant, listening to Hindi songs instead of bird song. And measuring my stride on the road, to noticing if the trees swayed or if a flower previously in bud, had bloomed.
I knew, as one often knows, without overtly knowing, that there was a little temple in that corner, but would surreptitiously walk past it, wary as I was of public exhibitions of devotion. And it becomes public and hence feels like an exhibition, because in India, everyone openly stares, and sometimes don;t back down even if you have caught them in the act. So I would not even take the trouble to peek at Him, quickening my footsteps as I rounded that corner.
For a while, He bore it graciously. This rejection. This contrived ignoring of His presence. But one day He had had enough, it seemed. For one day, I walked as ever down that path, a slight tension building in me, as I battled with inclination, leaning towards resistance, and just as I came within a few yards of Him and took the curve that led down the opposite lane, I turned my head and looked. He made me. It was not planned, it was not calculated. It was sudden, un-thought and unhindered for that split second before my mind could pipe up and say 'no'!
And I saw Him. Black against the white. Dots of orange and red in the daintiest places, adding to the allure of that beautiful twin chandan-kumkum setting down his trunk. An artist's lotus lead up to Him, who sat on the carved one. Yellow and blue in the colors of His gopuram. Doors open, with a lock....for how precious is He and can it ever be measured, but only treasured?! A single flame flickering at His feet. Freshly bathed, freshly clothed, and bedecked in flowers. And I looked. Oh how I looked!
I still couldn't bring myself up to fold my hands in greeting, or close my eyes in reverence of His form, so I stared at him simply. No prayer from memory rose to my lips, but I silently said 'Hello' and then '...how beautiful are you.' Those. exact. words.
I could feel someone's eyes on me so I looked to the side and found the watchmen of the building, staring. "Can I take a picture?" I asked softly, pointing to my phone. "Sure madam," they said, watching me with open curiosity now. I felt silly and touristy, but I wanted Him on my phone. So, throwing out all my sense of self, I faced him in a straight line and clicked two times. Satisfied with the result on my phone, I mouthed a 'thank you' to them, which made me even more of an oddity in their eyes, and they probably had something to say as they watched my retreating back.
Before I knew it, the earphones had come back on, and birdsong was lost again. But awakened, by this little encounter, I did look more at the trees. And in the recent idyllic weather of Chennai, they danced their happiness. And above my music, I heard the dry swoosh swoosh of the brooms, as maids swept out the front yards of the dry leaves that carpeted the morning ground. At times, I looked upon the faces of my fellow walkers, not fearing to make some eye contact. And I felt the spirit of darshan there as well.
And every time I rounded that curve, and I rounded it three times this morning, I made it a point to look at Him and have Him look into me. I allowed myself that moment of liberation. And for just a split of a second, I let my eyes close lightly, as the faint traces of devotion took over...