A blast of freshness

A blast of freshness

Sunday, August 1, 2010

“Our Saint , the divine intervener –@ Puri”

Our Saint , the divine interven er! –@ Puri”

It s been almost over a semester that I have not updated my blog .. yeah I suffer from a unique condition – the short interest span disease .. But suddenly something happened yesterday that made me feel that I should perhaps re start bugging the world with my inept vocabulary .

Not that there are any followers to this stale piece of web page in some corner of the Web world ,but ,just that one of my college friends whom I was chatting with actually mentioned that she loved reading my blog !!! she must have been madly sloshed ,and high on marijuana (legal grass- she s in Amsterdam) to have said something like that .. but hey that was inspiration enough for this Bard cocophonix to pen his experiences again J So Sorry World .. The culprit is a joint!!

This happened when I reluctantly agreed to go on a trip with my Parent to Puri and Jagannath Temple- yeah , the very scary Tirth Yatra !! Not that I detest temples or dislike traveling , but because it was my vacation after a long time ( I was in my third semester of MBA) ,and I wanted to be home , in Bhutan ,enjoying the small luxuries of a wonderful ,pleasant weather , nice hills and awesome home food and most of all the luxury of sleeping forever and confusing my body clock thoroughly . BUT.. It was not to be .. when your mom starts saying desperate stuff like – we ll go to the beach there , Chilka lake and cites locations that you know for sure that she is not even remotely interested in .. you start feeling guilty and ashamed that she has to helplessly lure you into the trip !! So .. I agreed ,and I guess as they say –“Life teaches you lessons at every step” this trip would soon turn out to be some experience .. lessons in sales that I never even got close to learning in the three sems of MBA in Marketing !!

It was a warm evening , actually around early dusk , when the flight landed on the soils of the Kalinga – The bhubaneshwar airport ( Birju patel) and the excitement begun right away .. Just as I disembarked from the tiny plane ,I saw my co passengers so coolly walking across through the runway to the Airport , least bothered to wait for the Air taxi!! Man what a place!! , here was the first time I set foot on the run way.. literally walking on it in RDB style .. Welcome to Bhubaneshwar read the big red colored board with Puri and Jagannath idols on each edge .

Just as I came out of the small, but so chic looking airport , feeling the damp evening air ,I saw someone wave at me from a distance – Yes.. It was my college friend Soumitro ..a resident of Bhubaneshwar who along with his dad helped me decide on where to stay in Puri and went Hotel hunting with me at bhubaneshwar , before taking me to his place where I had the most sumptuous food in a verry long time .. Just as I was struggling hard to push in the last huge rasagolah ( ok I need to stop here and explain that huge is an understatement – it wass humungous , the size of a watermelon !!well now that’s an exaggeration , but the rasagolah was certainly the largest thing I d seen ,almost as large as an apple), Soumitro s dad told me that it would be a good idea to stay in Puri as my parent would want to visit the temple a multiple times .. rightly so , as though they were keen to look at the dolphins in the Bay of Bengal, who was I kidding!!

So, finally when my parents landed the next morning , we set towards Puri after a brief halt and ever so refreshing break fast that Soumitro s mom had cooked for us. In about an hour s time , we set out ,in a blue colored ambassador taxi ,which took us through the wonderful damp and lush countryside of bhubaneshwar ,towards the very pious destination called Puri ,Jannanath..!!

The moment we went there , began the Herculean task of looking for an appropriate hotel , well I was asked to do a little research on the possible hotels that we could halt at while we were there ,and research I did , religiously opening up the Google tool bar and typing in everything and pulling out un related , worthless data !! So finally ,when we were not convinced that my research could be relied on , my mom pulled out the address of a Hotel that her friend had suggested ..I knew it ,how could she trust me upon such an important task- it was merely to make me feel important and busy!!, so we managed to reach the place , which was very nice ,cosy and modern ,located just in front of the shore to my surprise..and yeah ,Of course.. It was Vegetarian.

After dis-embarking and unloading the luggage ,we booked a taxi for our first visit to the ever so revered and pious shrine of “Shri Jagannath Ji”.

One thing that comes with visiting so many holy shrines in India is the experience and knowledge of what was in store for us.There were some strict rules that were to be adhered to , which my Dad meticulously drew from his experience of visiting a plethora of Indian religious sites.

Rule number 1 said : Don’t ever entertain a panda/Pandit ,who will very tactfully extract money out of you and also make you feel good about it eventually. (This is a lesson that was derived out of the visits to the Kolkatta Kali Mandir..).

Rule number 2 said : It is wiser to visit the temple at not so auspicious hours ,when the crowd would be less and one can manage to see at least some parts of the main idol in the shrine.

Rule number 3 said : No matter what happens , do not talk to the pandits who are inside the shrine .

These three mantras in place , my dad and myself thought that we were well equipped to go in, worship and come out ,un extracted, un cheated .but , God had other plans that day and we turned up feeling like village bumpkins who get taken for a ride ,yet again !! Holy God – your ways of teaching are un remarkably exciting and funny!!

That day ,we managed to end up breaking all three of the precious rules !! and as always,the smart pandas got the better of us. J and how smartly planned and executed, I would confess !!

The moment we put our footware at the stall , we were being noticed and carefully profiled.The moment we entered the queue ,we were being studied carefully and meticulously without our knowledge.The moment we went the wrong way , in pursuit of the special queue , we stepped into the trap!! A man , immaculately draped in orange ,speaking impeccable English, and a face as serene as the moon, realised that we were a south Indian family ,and addressed my dad in tamil saying that he had come just a week ago and works with the ISKON here .. one “Vannakamin Tamil was enough to blow away the rule number 1 – so there we were intently listening to this man who looked like a saint who had just attained nirvana and had come back from his heavenly state just in order to help us!! Oh how gullible can we get ..

So there he stood , cleverly guiding us , saying that he will take us with him into the main shrine without hassle ,and warning us to beware of the pandas!! Smart and unassuming – in Marketing parlance ,we call it “profiling and addressing the customer’s anxieties before he spells them out”

So ,the moment he said “Beware of pandas, he was clearly differentiating him self from the cluttered market ,cleverly positioning himself as our guardian , winning our trust!!”

Faith is one thing that is very confusing at times, the moment he said , “I ll take you to the inner shrine hassle free”- The Greed of being able to accomplish what most other devotees were standing in the huge queue for gripped us !! He hit the nail on the head ,or so I would say ,as my mother increasingly started looking at this as a mega God Sent opportunity to be close and inside the shrine , and stand next to God.Not that she thinks that God has Myopia (“short sightedness”), it s just that for a moment , faith triumphs over all logic and the very fact of being close to the one that millions of others have come to see, gains supreme importance.

So like a pied piper ,he lead us through the gateway of heaven , smiling at the guard who was supposed to stop us from getting in without a special ticket . all of this felt like devine intervention –well divinity it sure was , divinely executed as well...!!

So within moments ,we stood there ,right in front of the three huge idols , of Balram , Krishna and Subadra ,wonderfully sculpted and massive- massive enough to blow any devotee s mind over.

And in all the clutter and hails of lord Krishna s name ,and the aura of inscence gripping us , he took us aside to bow our head right in front of the massive idols . This was the defining moment , My mom felt the nerve in her head reach a state of high , and the moment the priest said –“Kuch dalo hundi mein – bhala hoga and blessed her”; currency notes neatly flowed out of her purse that she was so firmly grasping up till now into the coffers of the saint priest smoothly. Soon it was my dad s turn , and he was just as enchanted and in a state of high as his better half and again , effortlessly donations were made and blessings sought. I was just standing there , spellbound and watching it , unable to grasp whether to call it divine intervention or marketing pull.. but whatever it was , it surely was an experience of sorts, a heavenly state where the divine and mortal interlude and a new feeling emerges, a feeling of detachment and a feeling of bliss – but the next moment , the crowd that roars behind you shakes away all the emotions and you are thrown with a thud into the ever so materialistic earth – the earth that I love for being so menial and straight forwardly materialistic.

Having said so , this was not all !! The best part of the story is yet to come. From the main shrine , our saintly divine company clad in orange ,face as calm as the deep sea guided us into the adjacent shrine – which was of Goddess Lakshmi – “the goddess of wealth” . By now , me and my dad were in a state of conscious awareness and so , the moment we saw the priest inside ,inviting us to get in , we quicky ran out , saying to ourselves that “door sey darshan kareingey!!” Little did we realize that my mom had managed to get in ,up close and was in side the protected area again !This time ,the priest was trying to make a sale – He had a beautiful small image of Goddess Lakshmi and he cleverly figured out who his target customer would be- “My emotional Mom!”

But this time , it was tougher than the priest had thought ,because I could hear my mom say that the money was with those two guys standing outside ,pointing at us.

This is where I must say experience comes in handy , The priest was certain that if my mom left the area and came to us to get the money , he would lose his client – influenced by bad peer pressure (that was us!!) So he cleverly indicated to our so called guide , who looked at us , pulled us in a hurry and said “Go and ask madam to come out ,don’t ask her to buy it” saying so , he cleverly walked us in – towards my mom and the priest .Once inside , we had to respect the sanctity of the place . Just when I tried to pull my mom out , saying that “he was just trying to extract money “ came the one dialogue from him ,that made me stand there astounded and in admiration of his perseverance and tact.

He said “ Ma ji .. dekhiye – aap ghar ki lakshmi ho !! yeh jo saath din tak pooja mein rakha hua tha , sab ko nasseb nei hoti, wo tho mujhe aapmey woh lakshmi ka roop dikha ,aur mata bhi chahti hai ki aapke ghar mein basein ! Is liye jho decision leni hai , who aapko leni hai , kyunki aap ghar ki lakshmi ho !!”

Brilliant I thought – just brilliant – In one sentence –he created exclusivity for the product as well as crafted a niche for it . He so cleverly pushed aside my decision and dragged her in ,by adding value to the product by saying that “This idol was not meant to be given to everyone , It is very precious and I am giving it to you just because , I have received a divine message from the goddess herself that she wants to go to your abode!!” Now who can dare say no to such a sales pitch, which had the backing of the superior power itself,so to say.!! So we silently took the image , paid for it and left the place.. Me feeling confused , and my mom feeling utterly satisfied and happy that Goddess her herself given her this opportunity to possess the image and my dad feeling relieved that it was over..

And just as we were heading out of the place , where similar images of goddess lakshmi were being sold for a mere 20 bucks on the platform , I turned around to see where our saint, who took us though this enriching tour had vanished , and there he was – “Silently chatting up a new family which had just arrived to the shrine and guiding them gracefully towards the main shrine’s special entrance path!!”

India I say –is just gloriously brilliant at educating people , I left the place very much confused of whether it was a well planned out business model or a true divine intervention . I would like to believe that it is definitely the latter though..

Whatever it be , it was a truly enriching experience .

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna , Krishna Krishna Hare hare!!”