Sunday, January 4, 2015

Faith & Patience

Religion is a complex feeling (if you can call it that). Especially in India, a lot of importance is given to caste, the god you believe in, the rituals you follow and stuff. Religion, worship and God form a very important part of the upbringing for us Indians. And there are so many Gods and Goddesses in our Hindu mythology. Even though we adore and worship each one with equal reverence, there is bound to be a favorite. The one to whom you pray to when in trouble and thank when happy. The one you make promises with in order to get what you want. As I kid I always adored Krishna. The mischievous, flirtatious and handsome cowboy. In fact I also went through the Meera bai phase wherein I wanted to marry no one but Krishna. Every Janamastmi I used to dress up like Radha in lehanga choli, kumkum bindi’s, flowers in hair, bangles and anklets in order to woo Krishna into marrying me.
Picture Courtesy -
As I matured into the smart young lady I am today (:D), I felt a heart-felt inclination and connection towards Shirdi Sai Baba. Though everyone in my family is a firm devotee and I too held reverence for baba in heart but it was only when I was around 16, I had a spiritual awakening which drew me like a magnet towards baba. I prayed regularly, read books and savored his name. Now for any baba lover, Shirdi is like the ultimate destination. I first went to Shirdi in the year 1994 when I was 5 years old. I do have some hazy memories from the trip like living in the Sansthan, the common washrooms, having dosa for the first time. But the one thing that I vividly remember till date is that we visited some place there (probably khandoba temple) where there was a big statue of baba in red kafni. The 5 year old me was not so keen on respectfully bowing to the statue so when no one was looking, I gave a big hug to the statue.

I always had this wish to see that statue again and redo the hug. But studies, college and myriad of other things made it difficult for my parents to plan another trip to Shirdi. Even after spending almost around 4 years in Mumbai, it was only recently in July’2014 that I again got a chance to visit. We had the good fortune of getting darshan on gurupoornima but I had no luck of seeing that red dress statue. I thought it was in the nearby khandoba temple but sadly it wasn’t. I happened to discuss this with the cool hall girl S (previously mentioned here) who is also Sai baba devotee. She made me happy by saying that there is a big murti in the prasadalaya and that just might be the thing I was looking for. Restless and excited I requested forced cool hall girl S for a trip to shirdi. So off we went with our last minute planning, last seats on bus, turning all hither and thither all the way to shirdi. After a nice darshan and aarti, we went off to prasadalaya to hug the red statue. It was mid-afternoon and sunny, under normal circumstances I would have played the Barbie doll complaining about the heat and demanding an auto ride (overtly high prices be dammed). But I kept walking, the thought of hugging and reuniting with my 20 year old friend kept giving me surges of energy.

My hopes were dashed when we entered the premises because there was no red statue but instead a huge one which was by no means huggable because it started right where by 5 feet 4 inch frame ended. Disheartened we went back to our bus stop in the high priced auto. All the way back I got to thinking that having covered almost the entire town of shirdi how can it be that red murti is so difficult to find. It really made me doubt that maybe I just dreamed the entire thing up. However deep in my heart I still do believe that it is there somewhere waiting to be hugged with love and devotion. Till then I am keeping Sharada (faith) & Saburi (patience)! BTW the murti looks somewhat like the picture below.
Picture Courtesy -
While we are on the topic of Shirdi, I do have a bone to pick about a few things I noticed in my last two visits. I agree that the huge throngs of pilgrims has brought a lot of boon in terms of business for the people of shirdi. But to misuse that in the name of religion is extremely wrong. Just outside the temple all the Prasad shops are looking for ways to make a fool out of us. They give you big thali's with coconuts although they are fully aware that coconuts are not allowed inside the temple. They will adamantly push saraswati yantra, flowers, shawls and clothes into your hands. And most often than not they do succeed in persuading the poor confused visitors. Everyone wants to do their best to please god so the Prasad business is the thriving one. Even when you are back from temple to collect your shoes they won’t stop. They will showcase incense sticks, sandalwood powder, oils, keychains and various other stuffs – all with beautiful pictures of Sai baba which makes it all the more difficult to say no. Its fine to sell all these things but let the buyer decide what he wants, the pushing-the-stuff-in-our-face is what I have an issue with. Then there was a group of eunuchs holding a piece of cloth with baba’s picture on it and collecting money. I have never read or heard any story about eunuchs and baba. They have apparently found an easy way to earn money which again is very wrong. Then there are beggars dressed like baba, obviously to attract more money from visitors. But the thing that literally made my blood boil was the rickshawala’s. They are soo ill-mannered, rude and topping the charts for extorting unnecessary money.

The peculiar thing is that once you have Sai Baba’s darshan, you forget all these things and attain that peaceful-awesome-happy feeling. I had wanted to write this angry post back in July and I was formulating it in my mind whilst in the queue for darshan. But as soon as I saw Sai baba decked in beautiful floral print I forgot all complains and grumbles of mine. And instead enjoyed the yummy salt smeared fresh guavas and blood red pearly pomegranates.

Om Sai Ram