Good mornings are made of these

Good mornings are made of these

‘Jai Shri Krishna,’ calls out the pundit from the tiny alcove that houses the Radha-Krishna idols. I frown at the cheerful greeting that sounds like an  intrusion to my crowded mind. I walked down to the temple this morning looking to spend a few quiet moments undisturbed by human company. And as I sit on a solitary bench a little distance away I have no desire for conversation.

Despite my initial frown, my lips turn up in a polite involuntary smile as I return the greeting. The Pundit isn’t really looking for a chat and so I linger on to watch as he gets busy cleaning that small ‘temple within the temple’, the one that houses Lord Krishna and his consort Radha. The idols are arresting in their beauty, made of blue and white marble respectively with large eyes, delicate features and peaceful smiles. I realise this is the very first time I have noticed how very pretty they are.

The priest shakes off bits of incense ash from Radha’s sari then settles it making sure it falls perfectly down to her feet. He reaches out for her diaphanous pallu pleating it just so, tucking one end at her back so that the pleats open up in a graceful fan. He sits back to admire his handiwork and then moves onto Krishna. He adjusts the folds of his dhoti, untangles and sorts his multiple necklaces, straightens the blue-green peacock feather that rests in his crown. He then bathes their feet with water carefully collecting it in a pan to be distributed among devotees during the course of the day as charanamrit. He puts a scarlet vermillion teeka on the idols’ foreheads then loops garlands of fresh golden marigolds around their necks. Finally, he tucks in a bright red Hibiscus at their feet.

I find a certain peace in watching him as he goes about his daily chores with devotion and dedication and a quiet happiness I haven’t seen in a while.

Elsewhere in the temple other priests are at work too.

I am not a religious person but this is exactly why I love this sprawling temple complex, for the sense of space and peace. And this is perhaps why I headed this way today  morning without really intending to. Tucked away in a number of nooks are idols dedicated to various gods and goddesses. One corner has been turned into a gaushala, a cowshed, where a few cows sit drowsing, their mouths moving relentlessly in an unceasing rhythm. Their gentle mooing and the smell of dung asserts their presence. Would you be terribly surprised if I say I don’t mind the smell at all? It reminds me of long lazy summer vacations spent in the village, which was my mom’s childhood home. As it wafts over to me merging with the perfume of marigold, incense and fresh grass there really is no unpleasantness.

Far above my head, the trees are dotted with pigeons which is a rather strange sight used to as I am, of seeing these city birds only on balconies and rooftops. But here they sit along the branches, rising up in unison at the slightest disturbance.

At my feet the ground is covered with yellowed leaves from the trees. In just a little while the cleaning man will come by and sweep them all away. But for now I enjoy the splash of colour, undisturbed. And in the silence I find what I came here looking for.

24 Replies to “Good mornings are made of these”

  1. I loved this piece and I could see the sights and hear the sounds you described. I’ve never known temples to be peaceful because in Bombay, they never were. The final sentence was my favourite.

    1. Thanks you Sanch. I know what you mean. I’ve been to a few ‘famous temples’ of Bombay – those long winding queues and ten seconds before the idol! That’s not really my idea of a temple. I’d much rather look for a quieter place. Besides, this was pretty early in the morning which is why I got to savour my solitude.

  2. You took me with you to the temple and I came back feeling at peace, with the world and with myself. Such a beautiful piece, Tulika! You must do this oftener!

  3. First of all, it’s a beautifully written piece that creates nice, peaceful imagery. Even I am not a religious person but as you said ‘for the sense of space and peace’ — I can go anywhere. And, I’m not surprised that you didn’t mind that smell. I understand what you mean. 🙂

  4. It seems like a wonderful place to be! Especially when you are looking for some quiet in this hurried world where everyone is tied to a watch hand.

  5. You painted a wonderfully evocative picture of the peaceful temple precincts. It was interesting to read Michelle’s comment about the frown and the smile at the priest and thought you didn’t want to connect with him but politeness forced you to smile and then read in your reply to the comment that that’s exactly what happened. Bizarre isn’t it – how we take to heart the injunction – Why can’t you smile? And are cheery and friendly even when we want to be reflective.

    1. Glad you got that Kalpana. We’re so wired to smile at anyone who smiles at us. I know I am. And I think it’s alright. Better than sulking, no? I’m not sure what I would have done had he struck up a conversation, walked away I think. But just a smile was fine.

  6. I loved the peacefulness you’ve conveyed and your descriptions are vivid and beautiful. The only line I tripped over was the first sentence in the second to last paragraph. Thank you for sharing your moment of quiet serenity.

  7. What a great job setting the scene of what it’s like in the temple and what it’s like for you to sit and watch with such reverence. You did so well in elegantly describing the peace you felt and saw all around you. I especially liked your description of the pigeons sitting in trees and then brought our view down to your feet with the lovely leaves. Reading this made me feel calm and I can use all of that I can get. Well done.

  8. I felt calmer simply by reading this piece. I’m not familiar with the setting, but your description helped to visualize what I hope it looks and feels like. It’s lovely. Since you have the concrit badge, I did find thing that threw me a bit. In the first paragraph, you say you frown in response to the Pundit’s greeting, but in the second, you say you smile back. Obviously, you went there to find peace, and I absolutely understand not wanting to be disturbed. But something about the sequence wasn’t quite flowing in my mind.

    1. Thank you for reading and for those kind words. I do see how that part can be confusing. The smile is a response I’ve been taught to give since I was a child – simply a polite response to his greeting, though unwanted.

  9. I am not very familiar with your culture but this really drew me in. Your words painted a great picture and I felt as if I were there. Minor concrit: There is a typo which I put in quotes: I headed this way “today morning” without really intending to. I think you meant either just “today” or “this morning.”

  10. For me is the sweet camphor smell that always lingers in the temples and the chime of the bell. When I was younger I’d try to jump and ring the bell. It was proof that I had grown taller every time I could succeed! My young heart would be filled with happiness when the priest handed me the ‘prasad’. I also think the reason people say going to the temple lifts the burden off one’s shoulder is because one tends to pay attention to the little things you have mentioned and forget about other matters that have been bothering them. I too tend to notice the little things you have so beautifully written about and it never fails to lift my spirit.

    1. Ah yes the smell of camphor, it’s in the prasad too. We did the bell ringing too. When we were kids our dad used to lift us up just for that one ‘ting’ – so much happiness. Perhaps what you say about noticing the little things and forgetting the big ones might be true. This is why a lot of people find small mundane tasks have a calming influence.

  11. I saw this in my email and rushed over when I saw your written it for Yeah Write! Yay!

    On that note it’s a beautiful, lyrical piece. I was right there by your side as you described the actions, in rhythm and motion. Such elegance in your phrasing and you did a very fine job of bringing the peace of the moment across through your imagery.

    The only place that could be a bit confusing is the reference to ‘his dhoti’ where the he could refer to either Krishna or the pundit. But other than that I couldn’t find anything to critique 🙂

    Loved it, Tulika. Completely and utterly.

    1. Thanks Shailaja. I didn’t start out writing for Yeah Write. In fact I haven’t been feeling like blogging at all but then I went on that walk feeling at a bit of a lose end and came back feeling much better and so I wrote. Much of it might not even make sense to someone who doesn’t have Indian sensibilities but I figured I might as well link up. Glad you liked it. PS: Will see what I can do about that dhoti :-). Thanks for pointing it out.

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