A virgin morning. She had woken up early. Her favourite time of the year was around. The god of elephants sat staring at her, a slight smile in his eye. She loved looking into his eyes. Even though a human being had painted them onto a lifeless sculpture, they were still alive to her. Like telling her to be positive and be calm. She wasn’t a very ardent follower, yet she found a weird solace when she looked into the beautiful painted ones.
The sun shone on her freshly scrubbed face and dripping hair. She sighed with pleasure. It had been close to 4 years since she woke up this early and she realized how much she missed the comforting chill of the fresh morning air.
Her husband and she set off for the Dagduseth Temple. It was on the other end of town, but she was looking forward to the drive. The empty roads looked inviting. She felt like they were the only two people in the world save for the occasional dog scavenging through the waste bins searching for food.
She lay back against the seat, allowing the cool air to sooth her already joyous soul. She loved being out and about amongst people, but she also valued her “me” moments. Her husband drove them in companionable silence as Amitabh Bachchan sang a bajhan in his sonorous voice.
It felt like the air suddenly became cooler, like memories came flooding back. She didn’t even need to open her eyes to know she was within the bounds of the main city. She could feel the difference in her veins. She lived in Pune, she was fortunate she got married within the city. Yet, she felt a sudden homesickness every time she came towards the mandai and surrounding areas.
The clock tower at Wakdewadi reminded her of her innumerable trips to Shopper’s stop. A stupid memory to have for people on the outside, but for someone who dearly missed her side of the town, it was anything but. She smiled.
As they reached the Mandai area, she was reminded of the times her father would carry on his shoulders in the throngs surrounding the Pandol where people pushed and shoved to show Ganpatiji how much they loved him. She would catch a glimpse of him, sitting on his decorated throne and she’d still look into his eyes even with the annoying watchman screaming “chala chala” and kept hurrying my father to move so other devotees could have their share of the God in his glory.
Her husband and she walked hand in hand at a hurried pace, among the surge of people all headed the same way for once. Hawkers screamed at them, maushis with kumkum and haldi in hand blessed them as they passed in hopes of getting a dime or two in return. If only blessings really came that cheap, she mused as she shooed and lectured yet another healthy woman making this blessing game her business. To some it was like slapping god that apparently hides within this women, but they only annoyed her.
A young boy stood silent with a bucket full of beautiful white lotus in full bloom. She cajoled her husband into buying her a couple. She hopped along a delighted child, not caring how ridiculous she looked. They reached the marquee at last. The crowd was massive as usual. She missed the strong shoulders that made sure her feet didn’t touch the ground,that she was kept out of the reach of all hands that groped and spared not even little girls. Some annoying boys and men make it their business to push against women who are nowhere close to the path they are walking. I shot a glare at one such moron as my husband put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
They stood in the long “darshan” queue, patiently awaiting their turn. Finally it came. She looked into his eyes, they smiled at her. In that moment, she forgot all the anger, she didn,t even glare at the watchman screaming at her to “Hurry up”
She just looked, smiled and knew he would always be with her. As would her memories.