Aish's words - Exercise, rejoice, temperature
Vatsala wondered, not for the first time since morning, what the point of the whole exercise was. They had been standing in the queue outside the temple for close to 6 hours in the soaring temperatures. And from the looks of it, they were condemned to be there for at least another couple of hours.
The temple was the second busiest religious centre in the world after the Vatican and attracted over 12 million people annually. And looking around her, Vatsala was sure all 12 million of them had decided to converge on a single day. Govinda! Govinda!, chanted someone from behind her and the throngs joined in obligingly. Govinda! Govinda!
A few months earlier, Vatsala had been down with a serious bout of jaundice and her mother-in-law had prayed for her recovery. So no sooner was she able to sit, than the family had started planning a pilgrimage. She had mounted a weak opposition. I'm sure the gods will understand if I did not come, she had suggested one night to her husband. Why don't the three of you go and mark attendance for me by proxy? But he was adamant. You don't want to incur the wrath of the gods, he had insisted. So she was left with no choice but to come along.
They had arrived at 2 in the morning only to be confronted with thousands already ahead of them in the queue. And with every passing hour, the crowds had swollen and the lines barely inched ahead. Just as Vatsala was about to give up and collapse with exhaustion, there was a commotion ahead of her. Step aside, step aside, someone was shouting and there was a sudden scramble of people to get out of the way. The orderly arrangement of people a moment ago soon began to disintegrate. A posse of sniffer dogs materialised out of nowhere. Policemen, bristling with authority, promptly appeared behind them. And the crowds, as if jolted out of a stupor, decided to scurry for cover. Bombs, muslims, terrorists. Words came tumbling out at random as no one seemed to have any clear idea.
Soon thereafter they learnt that the temple was to be closed for the rest of the day. And devotees were advised to stay away until further notice. Looks like the Lord will not grant us a darshan this time, sighed her father-in-law as they slowly made their way back to the hotel room. The Lord is punishing us for something we must have done wrong, muttered the mother-in-law who thought of Him in much the same way as her high school maths teacher. Thank you, Lord, thought Vatsala as she lowered her head and grinned with relief. She would have to rejoice in private.