I was on a car ride a few months ago. Actually, I was driving. We were a group of ladies going to visit a Vithal Mandir in the gaushala behind our building. We can see the temple from our balcony, its just separated by a wall. Late evening, the heat was still sticking to the ground. As we entered the tiny village kachha road that led to the temple, I felt I was in another world. Tractors were parked on the side, squeezed in the corner, tired from the day’s work. Cows lay beside – their big beautiful eyes, assessing this new motley group. I gingerly parked the XUV 500 on the side, near a tractor – I hadn’t driven this vehicle for a while. You see, I had already made the transition to the world of automatic cars – and the hands were fumbling with the gears.
We walked a few steps to the temple – tiny pink houses in sight, a few houses had khatiyas / jute beds already put outside, their occupants ready to go to bed. It was around 7:30 pm.
The temple was a neat, charming room – with the last of the arati ringing loudly. Two neat lines near the idol, with small cymbals clanging loudly and words in a Marathi-like dialect, called Ahirani.
After the singing, everybody sat down and put out their right hand to receive the prasad – a few granules of sugar. I waited, nobody seemed to have popped the prasad in their mouths – and the one person who had, looked around wonderingly.
After the singing of a few more lines, everybody reverently offered the prasad to themselves – great, that was my sign.
As the last of the villagers trooped out, we kept sitting – observing the antics of the 1-year-old in our group and the prayer gestures she kept making. We spoke about the saints of Maharashtra whose pictures adorned the temple walls. A sweet grandma told me the story of Sakubai and her devotion to Vithal; I vaguely remember reading it in school. It was beautiful.
We, then, made our way back to the vehicle and stopped at a Shiva-Hanuman mandir. Similar in construct, we went in and offered prayers. The soft light of the lamp flickering, our shadows playing on the wall.
I realized a lady driving in a big car was quite a sight as several men and women gathered around to observe us. We were watched for longer as a truck, unmindful of its size, was trying to reverse into a tiny gully and its backside kept touching the wall of a house while its front kissed a stack of hay. Of course, there was another truck parked near the hay, and a cow was behind it.
Since everything was arranged in order of chronology, like fate, the big fat truck did not have much of a chance…and after several unsuccessful attempts, finally grunted and made its way outside.
Meanwhile, I completely understood what animals in a zoo would feel like – being watched with a gamut of expressions, from giggling to uncomfortable stares.
As we plodded ahead on the bumpy road, I finally could concentrate on the topic of conversation – a famous film personality in India had passed away that day, and everybody was chatting about him.
From his looks to their favorite films to his career in social work, “Oh no, the producer of that film was so-and-so, he’s no more too.” I was fascinated and just kept listening – everybody had a view of the way the actor lived his life, “This was the biggest mistake he made in his life! Otherwise, he would been even greater…” somebody said referring to the 5-year-break the actor took. Somebody else commented on other decisions he made in his life. When I opened my Facebook page later that night, I read another post that lauded the ‘so-called’ mistakes of this gentleman and hailed them as signs of evolvement.
Everybody looks at the same situation differently from their framework of reference – what is a mistake for one could be the single most defining moment for another or a move towards success. So, perhaps there is no right or wrong – while I felt a pang of pity for the little children who were running outside a temple, they, perhaps, were having the time of their lives – and were completely contented. And possibly looking at me strangely, wondering what I was doing. It’s just your frame of reference, that all. Separated by a short wall.