September 25, 2011

Two Walking Sticks


By: Venkatesh Sathyanarayanan

It was a temple. A very modern one built with marble floor tiles having electrical bells for aarthi, direction boards detailing where the various gods are, running messages about auspicious days and the schedules on LCD displays etc. It was one such auspicious day and one could see the place buzzing with activity, the priest distributing the Kumkum and Tulasi, a group of people mumbling prayers fervently trying to reach out to the almighty, another group trying for the same by circling around the main deity and yet another group chanting the beautiful sounding sama veda.

A bit away from this scene you could spot a queue in front of the cafeteria (madapalli) which was my next destination. One can get the greatest tasting food at the lowest price with the food served in the most innovative bowls, one made out of leaf which is recyclable, cost efficient and user friendly. As I got the food I wanted, I settled down in a quiet place in the verandah. Facing me were the vivid paintings on the wall - detailing the acts of god as told in the scriptures. I was engrossed in those paintings when a young man came that way and sat beside me with prasadam in hand. He must have been in his late twenties neatly dressed in a white shirt and a khaki pant and with the ashes applied across his forehead. He was lost in thoughts with signs of anxiety on his face indicative of some troubled times in life. He seemed to be trying to find answers for his current state or just seeking divine support to cross through the period, and he was completely oblivious of me noticing him.

A good ten minutes later a shabbily clothed, very old gentleman was walking past us literally trying to drag his body along. I started sympathizing with the old man’s plight. When the body loses all its vigor, tired after decades spent on the rhetoric pursuits of life, it needs a support to cling on to, to enable itself to do one of the simplest things in life – i.e to walk. I made it a point that I would get him a walking stick the next time I come to the temple. As I was pondering, I realized that the young guy also needed a walking stick – one for his mind for it not to limp and cross through periods of trouble in life. I sat next to him and started a conversation.