December, 2011, I was not doing well at any front of life with anything. It can be termed as a kind of rough phase of life when even things known to you for a long time suddenly started appearing to be unknown and strange. So, I decided to run away like I always did in that part of my life without thinking much about after effect of such an approach towards life.
At 2 0 clock early in the morning, I started my bike and simply hit the road taking the first exit to Nagar Road which was around 3 Km from my residence. Due to almost zero traffic, I quickly reached to Pune- Mumbai highway and my first stop to have a cup of tea was at Satara. All this time I failed to realize that I drove for almost 5 hours without taking a break. What was wrong with me? Was I being possessed by some kind of ghost or whether I was out of my mind? Nevertheless, it was a blissful morning and the surroundings was perfected due to sheer presence of windmills, in fact a lot of them. I bet nothing could be more charming than a place like that to have a cup of tea.
Even at that moment of time I was not sure where I was heading to. Left part of my brain was compelling me to return back to Pune from there itself and the right was insisting on taking the road to Goa. I swear to god that till the last sip of tea I had no answer to my own questions. Anyways, I thanked the tea shop owner for that wonderful cup of tea and the unmatched freshness of it. I started my Royal En-field in the direction which shown Goa over the green board.
Because of winter, sun appeared little friendly and sunlight made it like a blessing all the way. Around 11 0 clock, I felt like all my bones were cursing me to make them starve for more than 15 hours. So, I decided to have some meal at a small rustic line hotel. The freshness of tea was still there and I was in no mood to ruin the feel of it by swallowing any other form of food, but my body was not supporting my spirit. I managed to make myself comfortable at a corner on a dusty cot woven by coconut coir ropes. To my surprise it was way more comfortable than any of the couch I used so far even at any five star hotel. I got no idea when I actually fall asleep. When I finally woke up, my entire body was lurching on that poor cot. And a mid aged woman was standing there with a bottle of mineral water. She immediately passed it to me seeing me awake.
“How long had I been sleeping here?”, I said checking my cell phone for time.
“Almost 45 minutes.”, She replied in pure accent of Kolhapur. She then brought a small sheet of paper which I correctly guessed for being a menu card.
“You can give me anything which you find good. I am very hungry right now and got no strength left to make a choice.”
She instructed a teenager boy to get some kind of rice plate. And then she turned to me and asked, “Where are you coming from and where actually are you heading to?”
And that was something difficult to answer, but then she was waiting for me to say something. Finally I cooked up a story and said,”I am coming from Pune and going to meet a friend in Kolhapur.”
She did not seem to be convinced and went inside to check on another customer, who was shouting his lungs out for late arrival of food that he ordered. Lady went to calm him down and to my surprise his entire mood changed and he started flirting with her.
She came back to me after 10 minutes with a plate which had chapati, rice and some real spiced vegetable curries kept in it. She then said,”You better be knowing the place you are heading to . I suggest you visit the small Bhavani temple down the lane which is hardly 5 km from here.”
“What is so special about that temple?”, I still regret about asking that question.
“For you it is not going to be just a temple.”, I could see the flair in her eyes and that stopped me from asking any further questions to her. I quickly finished up my food and reached out to her for paying up for it. She took it and returned me the change.
I was in no mood to visit a temple at that hour of time. My body was tired and it was asking for a bed to spread upon, but somehow my bike automatically turned to that lane. It was a village road with lot of blind curves. From a distance I could see a small temple standing tall in between a stream of water. I parked my bike at a flower shop. A small girl insisted me to buy some flowers for deity. I bought some from her and also requested her to take care of my bag.
Before taking the first step on the stair case, I left my shoes. After climbing the final step, I realized that temple was actually surrounded by a kind of mysterious river with mild current of flow. One was supposed to cross that stream of water to reach the main door of temple. The priest over the main gate signaled me that water was just knee deep and so nothing to worry about. So, I did not bother to open my shirt and set my foot in water. The moment I reached in the middle of it, the level of water reached to my shoulders and I was struggling to keep my walking steady because of the current. I decided to swim across it to reach the temple, but thought of taking a dip first. So, I took off my shirt and threw it towards the stair case.
And there she was standing with her generous toothless smile beneath the water. Yes, I could easily recognize her. It was my grandmother who died almost a year ago in 2010. I took another dip and this time I saw the lady whom I met at the rusty hotel, the lady who asked me to visit the temple. She too smiled at me. Out of fear I immediately came out breathing heavily. But, then I decided to take a third plunge into the water defying the fear and that was the time I saw a young lady in yellow sari and black cardigan sweater. Her face was bright and was shining miraculously under the water and her smile was infectious.
I came out and started swimming towards the main door to worship the deity. The priest looked at me and I gave a smile to him because that was all I was left with. He laughed out loudly like he knew everything I experienced underwater. He marked my head with red and white vermilion and guided me towards the sanctum. No way it was an idol inside because it looked like a kind of living goddess was residing inside. It was shining golden from top to bottom with eyes closed.
“Why the eyes of deity are closed?”, I asked the priest.
He smiled and said,”No, its not closed. Go little closer and see again.”
I went little closer and looked again. Slowly, the pair of eyes started to open up and within seconds it was wide open and looked straight to me. This time I saw that only girl in my life whom I called “bitch” once out of anger after a heated argument some 5 years back. I fell down on my knees, sobbed inconsolably and begged for mercy and forgiveness.
“You are forgiven now Son”, said the priest from behind.
I turned to him with folded hands. He came closer to me and kept his hands over my forehead and enchanted some mantras in Sanskrit.
“Blessed is the one who gets to see the deity in her original form and blessed is the one who get a chance to realize their mistakes. Take a resolution today that you will not insult or humiliate any women in your life again.”
I did not say anything and started walking back towards the river. It was all dried up and there was not even a drop of water left. I reached at the shop where the little girl was holding my bag with utmost care. I gave her the money for the flowers I bought and said,”All the flowers got washed away in the river when I was taking the dip. I did not get the chance to offer it to goddess.”
“That is how goddess accept those flowers. Here is your bag.”
I gave 50 rupees to her before I started my bike and drove back to Pune. That was my first date with life and I still cherish every moment of it.
By: Nilesh Ranjan