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The temple across the street

DC D. Randeep said the amount through e-kanike to the Chamundeshwari temple was Rs. 62,570. M.A. Sriram  

I was brought up as what is fashionably termed “a cultural Hindu”. I grew up in an environment where you listened to stories from Hindu mythology and celebrated Hindu festivals. But I was not forced to subscribe to the laid-down religious practices and was free to believe (or not believe) in what I wanted. So it is only natural that as I grew up, ‘temple visiting’ was one activity among many others that I rarely followed.

I moved to Bangalore (apologies, but “Bengaluru” sounds a bit cumbersome!) to a house right opposite a fairly large temple. So I wake up to not only the noise of traffic but also the temple bells ringing. For the longest period of time, I was just an observer of the temple from my house door. It was mostly frequented by elderly retired couples and ladies and, people who turned devout overnight for the sake of getting their swanky new car/ bike blessed by the priest. As time passed, the temple and I continued to have our parallel existence on the same street.

Half a year in, the urban and plastic Bangalore was beginning to get to me. Now Bangaloreans, before you come charging at me, I must clarify that I am as much a part of the urban Bangalore as any other person, contributing to its plasticity (literally and figuratively). But I like to take a break from that part every now and then. I figured it was high time I visited the temple that is my first view of the world outside every day. I decided to go there not out of any spiritual yearning but more out of a yearning for some familiarity. However, owing to the fact that I was out of practice in ‘temple visiting’, I was ill-equipped with its etiquette. I entered the temple wearing a pair of track pants and a sleeveless top, with my hair loose and open.

Once inside, I was surrounded in all directions by middle-aged to elderly orthodox ladies who are regulars at the temple, and one can gather from their conduct easily that they are the unofficial rulers of the temple. While two of them were instructing the cleaning lady to scrub the floor more effectively, another was adjusting the flower garlands at the entrance. One was showing and explaining a video on her iPhone (presumably bought by the son in America), to the mighty priest who was nodding to her obediently. The familiar sight reminded me of my grandmothers, and already made me feel at home.

But the sight of me was clearly a disruption for them. All their eyes were scanning me from top to bottom. While I folded my hands in prayer awkwardly, two of them were whispering to each other. While one was clearly very taken aback by my appearance, the other, from what I could gather was appreciative that I took the effort to come to a temple.

Feeling a little out of place, I did a quick prayer and dashed out. I thought I should be better equipped the next time.

My next visit did not see any great effort from my part. The only difference was that I managed to tie up my hair. But I could notice a clear change from the maamis. One of them smiled at me while the other offered me extra sweets while I was heading out. Two more visits and I was a familiar person for them. I do not know if it was familiarity that made them accept me as I am, but it is a breath of fresh air at a time when people are quickly judged and typecast based on their appearance. These are orthodox ladies who could have easily ganged up and dictated their customs to any outsider. Instead, they choose to let people explore religion and/ or spirituality on their own without interfering and dictating to look, dress and behave in a certain way.

anjanaravinarayan@gmail.com

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 12:22:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-temple-across-the-street/article19861899.ece

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