Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Road to God: Unforgettable journey in 13hours

People say filmstars live thousand lives in one life, well, I am not a filmstar and I am content with the way I live. Content, a relative term, is over worldly pleasures or richness or hunger that is prevailing. Had I been not part of this Tirupathi temple visit with my friends, I would have never seen those situations which I hope I will never come across. God always shows how to lead your life, isn’t it?!

On a Friday late night, we hit the road on a jovial note, 8 of us, on the way to Tirupathi. We reached at 6am and booked a room for ourselves near Alipiri. It took us couple of hours to freshen up and at 8.30am, we set off on this incredible journey, barefooted!

This so called “trek” covered seven hills (I am not sure!), 3550 steps spread over 11 km. Initial 2000 steps are really tiresome and is a real test for your stamina. Mind would say “Keep climbing” and your legs would just cramp up seeking rest. My t-shirt was drenched with sweat and I was trying hard not to slowdown, since my cousin had suggested me not to do so. (Logic is once you rest, you’ll rest forever!)

We arrived at the counter of DivyaDarshan and we got our ticket to visit the temple, this stop was after 2083rd step, near Galigopura, which is fully equipped with dispensary and numerous eateries. We grabbed some food and juice, and this was just the beginning of our unlimited eating spree that went on for next 8 km!

Watermelons, oranges, sweets, chats, corn masala, mango slices, ice candies… We didn’t let go anything that we saw, we tasted everything! We had slowed down after the initial challenge and now were enjoying every bit. Glimpse of the deer park and cool breeze that blew with relatively dense greenery around was refreshing. To mention- the entire pathway is covered with concrete roof (awesome thing to have) and to reflect our cultural fate, has many idiotic scribbles!

By the time we reached the premises and stood in the queue, it was 2pm. We had managed to get our hands on tasty uppittu, served by TTD which manages the daily choirs of the temple. We were soon led to a room (didn’t I call it a “CAGE”? I am surprised!) and the real wait (life) started!

It took sometime for initial excitement to die down. The cage (Oops, I couldn’t resist!) was completely overpacked and even there, we managed to grab sufficient place to lie down and sleep. We were anxious for the release. We could see the Gopura of the temple, exactly opposite to us, in less than 500 mtrs, so near yet so far. Soon the lights were light up and we realized that our estimated Darshan time of 4 hours were over!

Clock ticked 8pm and there was no sign of our release. Cage had a mere toilet (I leave it’s beauty for your imagination) and no drinking water facility. In between, the TTD served milk with extra water and food (looked like one of the “baths” that we get in Bengaluru) in plastic plates. That scene- people fighting for food, not even bothering if it was a lady or a kid, snatching it from other’s hand, making their best of efforts to catch the food that were being thrown, more or less it resembled the flood affected or earth quake prone rehabilitation Centre.

Frustrations were clearly visible in everyone’s eyes. One of the devotees put his heart out to get out of the cage by climbing up the grills and trying to sneak out through the roof. These heroics attracted applauses and whistles. People booed and the doors were constantly banged. We managed to keep our morale up with antakshri and our never ending talks. Our patience was put into some hard scrutiny. To spice up the story, when everyone finally fought their way out to grab some food, we were released from the cage. This was the moment people waited with bated breath. They didn’t even bother to wash their hands or finish their food. It was littered all over and was one hell of mess where was food being wasted.

After this, was a smooth sail, where we had a pleasant Darshan of Lord Venkateshwara which made us forget all ill-experiences of the cage. By the time we got out with laddu’s, clock was past 12.30am, Sunday. First thing we did- fill our stomach! We had to stay back till 3am as no vehicles ply to Tirupathi till then. We made the best use of it and took the DharmaRatham, free bus to travel within tirumala, and got the glimpse of the hill top where the God slept only for an hour, from 1am to 2am, yes, this is how busy Lord Venkateshwara is, you need to pay for being rich, right!

Next morning we boarded Rajahamsa of K.S.R.T.C to Bengaluru and slept all the way. These 13 hours were like a roller-coaster ride that brought us joy, fun, hunger and put us through a rigorous test of our mettle, gave us a glimpse of how it feels to fight for basic amenities, and beauty of changing moods of crowd from devotion to rebellion. It had it all. God is an entity which is highly dependent on how good a devotee can comprehend. I saw God, in those steps, in that long wait, inside the dirty cage, in this journey …