A post of my visit to Tirupathi long ago...
"Aren't you going?" I asked incredulously.
" No," my friend replied.
" But you worship him as God. You should be visiting him on his birthday celebrations" I persisted.
"There will be tremendous rush. It is not worth it." he replied again.
"But isnt that the test of devotion?" I queried.
"Perhaps..." was my friend's noncommital reply.
I was talking to him about the upcoming birthday celebrations of Sathya Sai Baba of whom my friend is a devotee. The fact that he refused to face hurdles on that day for his darshan made me remember a small little episode I had when I went to see the Lord of the Seven Hills a few years back.
"it was about 4 years since i saw him.
the delay when noted was surprising given that he is the most visited diety in the world. and i am one of those who eagerly visited him regularly.
its time, i told ramesh and baba (my friends). they both agreed.
so on a slightly sunny august morning seated in an empty AC Chair car of the south central railway the three of us headed south...to the seven hills of tirumala.
baba and ramesh spent most of the time sleeping. and i like everytime shunned the AC for the rush of wind on the dirty compartment steps. India! it has never ceased to fascinate me.
as the rushes of green interspersed with canals, rivers, farmers, huts , birds and all galloped past us for a moment i was Mohun Bhargav...this was Swades....and i was looking at a beautiful but poor India.
but before i could start singing " ye jo des hai tera" reality came bombarding and a yawning baba came out and wondered whether the train was on time.
the train was on time. we reached renigunta and climbed into a taxi by a tamilian called Arunachalam. i smiled at him and queried about his life as the taxi rushed towards the abode of venkateshwara atop the sevven hills. he explained his entire life from agra to mumbai to kanyakumari in the 45 minutes it took us to reach tirumala.
during the ascent i chanced to gaze out at the seven peaks...they are shaped like hoods of a snake (natural formations )...it was chilling to gaze at their humungous black silhouttes in the night. i felt i was being watched.
we checked into the cottage and slept as our darshan was booked for 4 am.
at 4 am we joined the eager crowded line at vaikuntam and the snails march towards Srinivasa began. it was one of the most lifeless crowds i had ever joined...discussions on business, politics, marraiges and a lust for laddoos dominated the psyche. shouts of govinda by me were met with passive stares. i wondered....did modern psyche finally overcome the awe and devotion? there were many from the USA, who made sure everyone knew they were from the USA by their loud english banter. the line moved on....and then....
after 4 years and 2 hours in the line i saw him.
he was the most beautiful thing i ever saw. standing on the pedestal , smiling in mirth venkateshwara looked ready to fulfill any boon u asked him. i waited for the tears to well up in my eyes and the palpitations to start. but they didnt..... within a moment i was out and i wanted to see him again. for i was surprised and confused that whether i too had become too modern for his devotion.
so ramesh and i went to the darshan booking centre and boooked our darshan for the evening....with the regular poor people darshan lines. the previous darshan was through internet booking. in the evening was the raw darshan. with the coolies, the laborers, the poor.
and was it a tornado!! hundreds of poor in luck and money when compared to the ultraelite group of the morning darshan were part of us now. there were lusty shouts of govinda doing the rounds. a small hint shout of govinda of mine brought forth much more lustier and louder shouts of ecstasy from the buzzing line. one person kept on shouting govinda till he saw the diety.
and was it my imagination or was venkateshwara more smiling and happier in their presence than in the morning? the diety it seemed was brimming with life and more mirth.
is this why internet, privileged darshans might bring us close to the lord within minutes....but it is with true brimming devotion that the lord is truly gladdened?
the next day early morining we had another darshan , the lord now in pure form divested of all gold ornaments and the trip ended.
as the taxi climbed down the hills towards the station, i wondered, the poor in luck>? in money? but in faith...in love....they were the billionaires.
Srinivasa it looked, was playing one of his subtle leelas again.