The dreaded T word… or Tirupati as it is better known

I have always been wary about going to Tirupati…. the abode of Balaji. It is supposed to draw lakhs of people every month and people consider Him the greatest of all Gods!
All that is great! but I have always dreaded the crowds and the commercialization of the place. Its been 24 years since I last went to Tirupati, and you can understand that I held no memories of the place.

So when it was our turn to go there and get the Lil Princess’s tonsure done, I started palpitating. I ensured our travel tickets were booked and our stay as well. The only thing I couldn’t ensure was the darshan. We didn’t know anyone of influence who would help us with an easy darshan. Not to worry, said our friends, a Rs.300 quick darshan ticket will ensure speedy darshan and have us out in an hours time. That is how efficient the system had become. I was very skeptical, but decided to go with that advice. We had 3 elders and one child and I wasnt sure they could cope with it if it was too crowded.

Moreover I thought, why should I be a part of the differentiation just because we are financially a little more well-off than those who could afford only the free darshan.

What happened was probably something that I had part expected but had hoped would never happen.
We had a good journey, found a great cab driver, checked into the decentish accommodation that TTD had provided. After that everything started to go awry. I was very very scared about Lil Princess’s reaction to the tonsure. She is a highly sensitive child who screams even at the slightest sound, the slightest fall. She cannot even bear someone hugging her a little more tightly than usual. I was sure she wouldn’t let her head get tonsured. Which is why I refused to go for it. I didn’t even want it to happen in the first place.

As expected, she screamed and wouldn’t let the guy cut her hair. The kids around cried for a bit but calmed down once they realized it wasn’t going to hurt. She didn’t give anyone any time or opportunity to let her realize that it wasn’t going to hurt. The result was that she did get a tonsure but she screamed herself hoarse and even got nicked at various places due to the constant shaking of her head. The tonsure guy got so psyched in the end that he refused to let my mother and P go without tipping him 3 times of what he usually is given.

That done, the next biggest issue was the darshan. All along I was told by P and the in-laws that the crowds werent much that day and that we would be out soon. Let me explain my paranoia first-  I am claustrophobic and I have a short temper. Put both together and you get a “monstress” of sorts who can’t be put into a closed atmosphere and who will blow her mind if she isn’t let out immediately. That sorted, once we went up to the line we saw that it stretched endlessly. I am talking about the famed Rs.300 lines which are supposed to ensure you get darshan in under 2 hours. I started to panic. Dont, assured the family. We will get through this quickly. Remember, I had elders who were eager for this darshan and would do anything to ensure they got it.

It’s not that I wasn’t eager, but I think temples are places where you are supposed to go for some peace of mind. To see the Lord and try to imagine Him close to you and are able to talk to Him through the silence. Not through pushing and cribbing and shouting matches. Which is what this ultimately turned out to be. Nobody even wanted to consider that they were in a temple, all they were interested in was the fact that they needed to get the darshan and get it as quickly as possible even if it meant breaking lines, pushing other people, pulling their clothing and everything else they could do to get ahead.

I had a 1-year-old child with me and 3 elders. I didn’t know how I was going to pull this through. And to top it all I was wearing the garment I am most uncomfortable in- the saree. Even if it was a cotton one, I could have managed but I had to go and bring my Mysore silk one- yes! the same one that is worn for a couple of hours during parties and other such assorted occasions. It kept slipping off at various places during the push pull routine and all I wanted to do was pull it off my body. My common sense had gone on a vacation when I was packing, I think.

It took us 5 hours to get to see THE GREAT LORD. It was just a glimpse and so momentary that there wasnt even a feeling of having seen Him. And it was amidst such pushing and pulling and screaming that the “connect” between us never happened. All I could do was take a vow front of Him to never to come to Tirupati again. I would go to the US and visit Him at His temple there but never again to Tirupati.

Maybe it was too quick and too harsh a decision. Maybe circumstances weren’t in our favor that day. Maybe another day and we would have had a much better darshan. My in-laws insisted that they have been here several times and they have never had to face something like this. They have always been out within a couple of hours. They also bragged about how their elder son took them through the VVIP quota and how they stood inside the sanctum sanctorum for about half an hour and had their fill in terms of the darshan.

But the way I look at it – No one should have to go through what we went through that day. Why should we have to push through crowds to ensure that we get a glimpse of God. Why should we listen to the leering remarks of security people and beg them to let us through. It is not a fundamental right of ours to worship whoever we wanted to, whenever and however we wanted to?

My in-laws’ subtle hints at telling us that we should have taken them in a more comfortable manner only gave me further proof that it is because of this differentiation towards certain people, that the common man has to wait and get manhandled during their wait to see the Tirupati Balaji. I saw several BMWs and Mercs going by when we were standing in the queue. Probably we were waiting for so long for that very reason- those travelling inside these cars were being given priority. We were told after we came out that there were people waiting in line for more than 24 hours and who had managed to get darshan only with us.

And yet, people return to this place and go through the same process of pushing and screaming every time. Why? Maybe it is that famous magnetic “pull” by the Lord that everyone keeps talking about. Maybe this is what darshan means to them. Maybe this is what makes them feel lucky amidst all the bad luck that they seem to have in their lives. I don’t know.

All I know is that, for me, this was the end of a journey. The one that I had resolved to make when I was pregnant and had developed severe complications threatening the survival of my child. To fulfill that one resolve I made this journey only to make another one at the end of it – to never make this journey again.

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Finally… we meet

Finally met Just like that today… even though we live in the same complex, its been 3 months since I moved into it, we havent had the opportunity. Although, we have met at bloggers meets and baby showers and stuff. Today, it was by chance, she was taking a walk with her mom and I was with the little princess and my mom in the play area. If I wasnt looking around, I would have probably missed her. Anyways, it felt great meeting her. JLT, heres to many more such meetings….