It had been almost two years since I had met my college friends, and my 'stealer of heart' in His most special form. The marriage, happening at the weekend, was a perfect time for a get-together with both—my friends, and my Idhaiyakamalavasaka...
A day in Coimbatore would give me an opportunity to visit the ISKON temple, and see my dear Krishna as Jaganath, in His happiest mood, along with His sister Subhadra, and brother Balarama. In the final year of my college life, Vasudeva in His Jaganath form was my only solace, and my only joy. Every visit to see my Krishna had uplifted me, and given me memories that I could cherish for many lifetimes.
All these thoughts made me land in an unreserved compartment :-). It was a Saturday night. The Niligiri Express was crammed with people. Amidst the jam-packed crowd, I was lucky to find a place(even if it was the pathway). A window seat would have given me the privilege to savour fresh air, and the star-lit sky. But, my luxury was limited only to faces. Tired, exhausted, yearning-to-sleep-faces.
Glimpsing all of them around, I decided, the best way to spend the journey was to dwell within my Self. I started chanting 'Om Shree Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram.' It was also the time, by the Grace of my Guru, I started worshiping the Glorious Rama, and enjoyed the benefits of His holy name.
Throughout the journey, I chanted, and chanted, and chanted to my heart's content. The sleeping heads resting on my shoulders, people barging in and out of the way, heated-arguments, seat-quarrels, and all the unavoidable discomforts of a second class journey left no scar in me. I felt comfortable and happy in my little space as the holy name was on my lips. When I reached Coimbatore around 4 am in the morning, I found my self very energetic and hungry, too.
My friend Santhosh, forsaking the comfort of a Sunday morning sleep, braved to pick me up. [My wait for him and his 'timely' arrival deserves a special post, though :-)]. We had a chat over two hot cups of tea, and left to the apartment, where the rest of my college-mates stayed. As it was a get-together, my friends had rented an apartment to celebrate to the 'full'est(you do know what I mean, don't you?).
As each one woke up, I was happy to greet them. Now, we were again the same college guys. We made fun of each other, laughed a lot, and tittle-tattled for hours. When everyone was up, we played indoor cricket for a while, ate breakfast, and sat before the T.V., giving a damn to the world. As the idiot box didn't grab my attention, I saw the 'unstoppable' time. And I was alarmed. It was past 10:30 am. "Oh god...my visit to your abode?!"
I was planing to visit ISKON early in the morning. So that I could conspicuously fit into the plan my friends had for the rest of the day. But with good-old-friends, you know, time disappears like smoke in the air.
What bothered me the most was—will the temple be open around this time? If I miss now, then I will not be able to make it in the rest of the day. My sole desire for journey would be in vain. I became anxious and worried.
I rushed to have a bath. While bathing, I was pleading with Krishna, "Please Krishna, help me make it today. I want to see you. O lotus eye Madhava...please, don't let me get disappointed. Don't be so near, and yet remain away from me. Please grace me with your darshan, even if I don't deserve it. Please krishna....please Krishna...pleeeassse..."
It is not that you have to visit a temple to have His darshan. But going to a temple, and being graced by His presence is an experience on its own. It undoubtedly boosts your spiritual journey.
I hurriedly got dressed up. I told some of my friends I'm going to ISKON now, and will be back before everyone is ready. I asked Stalin to drop me at ISKON. And there! I was travelling in the bike to see my beloved Krishna, hoping the temple will be open. Hoping I will have His darshan. Hoping my merciful Krishna will never disappoint me.
By now, the time was nearly 11:30 AM. As I neared the temple, I saw a few slippers left outside the entrance. A ray of hope beamed into my heart. I thanked Stalin. Still anxious and doubtful, I went inside the temple. To my utter disappointment, Krishna hid Himself behind the golden-coloured screen, which was dancing along with the wind as if teasing my arrival. Had I had the gift of Thyagaraja, I would have sung and made the screen fall. But what could an ordinary mortal like me do other than getting disappointed and dejected?
Slowly, I climbed the steps. Inside the temple, a devotee was taking Bhagawad Gita class. A few of them were listening to him. I just sat not knowing whether the darshan time was over or not. I felt heavy. Thoughts were flooding me; blaming for my carelessness, and, at the same time, teasing my desire. I also got angry at Krishna for bringing me so near to Him, and forsaking me in the end. Not a word from the lecture went inside my mind. I had to ask someone about the darshan timimgs. In a hushed voice, I whispered to the person in front of me, "Is the darshan timings over." And what he said breathed fresh air into me. I just smiled. "Hey, Makhun Chor, you are smart at playing hide and seek, aren't you?" I thought to my self, and grinned again, seeing everybody and everything thing in the temple. My Krishna has accepted me, again. Deep down, I know my Krishna never ever forsakes someone who has surrendered to Him.
Serene environment...brimming space...the Vishwaroopa Darshan painting of Shree Krishna and bowing Arjuna.... the life-like statue of Srila Praphupada...all and more, in their own magical and mystical ways, soothed my unruly mind, and lightened my heart.
Now, the devotee's voice was falling into my, then-dumb, ears...
"What is the use of those lips if they don't utter the holy name...What is the use of those ears if they don't hear the holy name...What is the use of those hands if they don't clap singing His Holy name. What is the use of those legs if they don't jump hearing the holy name..."
Saying thus, he asked us to chant, 'Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare. Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare'." And ended his lecture.
In utter joy, we roared back . The darshan was about to began. Holding my excitment, I waited to see my Kirshna. The priest pulled away the screen to the cries of devotees, "Jai Jaganath! Jai Jai Jaganath." And lo! My Kirshna, in all His glory, as beautiful as ever, was in front of my eyes. I couldn't ask for more. I was overwhelmed in joy. The sounds of mirdhangam, cymbals, and harmonium mingled along with the devotees' kirtans... I started loosing my self—singing and dancing as if no one in the world but Kirshna was seeing me.
As I was dancing(read jumping up and down, or remember our own Bhagyaraj's trademark dance), a soft, tender hands touched my hands. I opened my eyes and saw a girl running away from me, and hiding behind a person. I was just looking at her. Her eyes slowly peeped from behind the legs of the person. Her eyes were pure, and innocent like every child of her age. She must be 4 or 5 years old. I winked, and gestured at her to dance chanting the holy name. She just kept staring at me. After a few minutes, again, she ran towards me thinking I was not looking at her. But with all alertness, I grasped her hands and asked her to sing and dance. The person she hid behind looked at me, and smiled. I asked, "Is she your relative." He replied, "My cousin sister." I again smiled at both of them and was crying out the Lord's name as loudly as possible. Though, there were only a few devotees, the bhajan got its momentum. And the very atmosphere became vibrant. A dance at ISKON is always a devotional frenzy.
As I was enjoying my own dance(of course, no one else will), once again, the little girl came towards me, and caught my hands. I started dancing with her. His brother, though a bit hesitant, just kept smiling at me not knowing how to control the child's pranks. But we danced together as if no one else in the world was seeing us.
The bhajans came to an end. Exhausted, we all surrendered to Jaganath, the lord of the Universe. Falling at the feet of Krishna after a pulsating dance is an experience like no other. To let go of all the worries in the world, just being silent, and feeling that only you possess His feet would have you completely refreshed. And so was I. Fresh and revived.
Black and beautiful, I devoured Shree Krishna with my eyes as long as I could. Then, I went around the temple-womb, and savoured the theertham, thrice. Not as a religious rite but just for its flavour. I sat before Krishna praying for a while. When I felt content, I paid my obeisance, and came out.
As expected, they were serving the Mahaprasadam which I relish always. After tasting the always-delicious-mahaprasadam(this time it was tamarind rice), I went to wash my hands. To my surprise, I saw a whole family smiling at me. I was taken back by this unexpected welcome. Then, I realised it was the cute, little child's family. Actually, for a while, I had forgotten about the little girl since she was not seen anywhere. Her family, too, had been a silent witness to our rollicking. Though, the thought of their whole family watching me dancing with their child made me feel embarrassed, their smiles comforted me.
But the angel like child, who was playing with me, grinning and winking, never even looked at me. Her mother and father were persuading her to talk, "See the anna, you were playing with...say 'bye' to him."
I, too, expected her to give a heartwarming smile. And called her. Hmmmm. There was no response. I felt she was quite a different child now. Not the one who was daring to dance with me. She kept a frowned face. All the happiness and joy, I saw in her were gone. She must have cried asking for something, I thought, and bade farewell to her, and her family members, who were really kind.
As if at an appointed time, I got a call from my friend, Jumbo, asking whether he can come to pick me up. I gladly agreed. Again, I got Mahaprasadam(winks) for both of us. By now, the temple was closed, and most devotees had left. While waiting, I was talking to the Swamiji, who had gifted me Bhagawad Gita sometime ago.
My friend reached. Half-heartedly, I left the temple, wishing I could spend more time in this atmosphere, and with my Krishna. When my friends saw me again, I was able to deduce a few surprised(suspected?) looks. They must have thought, "This guy, come what may, will never miss the ISKON prasadam." Lolz.
The rest of the day was with my friends. Evening, we attended Shalini's marriage, and after feasting upon the delicacies, I left for Chennai.
I was remembering my exuberant dance with that beautiful child. And my heart said something....and I was overwhelmed with joy. My heart was filled with gratitude, and I was wordless. For, Krishna, ever the gracious, had given me much more than I had asked for.
I reached Chennai, and was back to my room eager to share everything with my brother. From the bed, my bro asked "How was the journey?" I told him everything, and saved the best for the last. I also showed some of the photos I clicked. Then, after a while, I was silently smiling at him.
Knowing I had some surprise, he asked, "What?" With all my teeth visible, I replied, "Anna, something unexpected happened." His eyes became curious.
I paused, and said, "I think....I danced with Krishna Himself." And narrated the happenings in the temple. He didn't comment. But flowered a smile, his most adorable smile that I always love.
Even as I write this I couldn't remember the child's face or the colour of the dress she wore...but just the experience lingers in my mind. To me, a child, that too a stranger, coming, and playing hide and seek, and dancing along with me felt like a divine conspiracy. A Krishna's conspiracy, I must say. And, with my Madhanmohana, leelas are as common as pebbles on the seashore. Each time I think of this incident, I feel happy. Of all my encounters with my Krishna, this experience stands tall. Every time, I think that Krishna has embraced and played with me, my heart and body lightens. A smile appears on my face.
Am I such a good-deserving person? Am I worthy of His touch and love? No definitely not. But I know, you don't have to be deserving to receive His blessings. Because Krishna is the Saviour of the worst of worst sinners. I'm a living example for that. And this very incident is the proof that Krishna never forbades the one who had surrendered to Him. He fulfills even our silly desires in a way more than we desired.
My dear readers, to be honest, I really don't care if anyone believes this incident or not. But, if anyone says it was not Kirshna, I am not ready to agree. Because, for me, everything is Krishna!
And if you are still with me, your patience is rewarded! Here's my special greetings for you. (Pls right click on the image, for a better view.)
If you like my greeting, you're most welcome to download the image.
Hope you will ;-)