So this post was inspired by a simple annoyance over the fact that this is my last real summer and my dad thought it would be splendid if we all participated in his number one favorite activity: temple hopping. No, not in India, where temples have history and character, but here in the midwest where impressive donors contributing a million dollars or more to a temple are showcased on a plaque as ornate as the murthi of Krishna. So I got an earful of screaming children, a spoonful of theertham (holy water), and a bowl full of puliyodhara (tamarind rice! nom). I won’t bore you with the deets of the other temples involved with this particular adventure. But I would like to share a few thoughts on a temple that has marked the childhoods of just about every South Indian Hindu out there–Tirupati, often described as “the richest temple in the world”. The lovely ride through the mountains of Andhra Pradesh? The food at Bhima’s? The lovely little cottages? TIRUPATI LADDOOS?
Or what about Tirupati mottai (tonsure; shaving one’s head as a religious rite)! I cried when my brother got it done. He was so young and couldn’t sit still so the dude nicked my brother’s head in the process and the poor boy was bawling. I followed suit, of course. Pandemonium. Oh and then there was the writing in Sanskrit bit that was fun–we got chalkboards. A memorable experience? For sure. But the only reason I’d ever go back would be to continue to a tradition. Here’s why I’m not going back to Tirupati without kiddies of my own and why temple hopping on the whole is typically not my thing.
1). There is an express lane at Tirupati like it’s goddamn Disneyland. You should not be able to pay extra to get to praying faster than your brothers and sisters. I suppose the alternative is slipping money to someone somewhere to cut in line. Meh.
2). There is no way children have not gotten seriously injured here. The wait is long, the line is long, there are moments where the moving is slow, and then there’s just straight stampeding. Followed by more slow moving lines.
3). Once you get to the main attraction, you’ve got like 5 seconds to pray and then gtfo. Guards will push you out as you’re praying. People come here from all over the world for those 5 seconds. That is insane. But kinda awesome? Just not when you’re actually there.
4). I still remember the sound of coins that counters were sorting through in a centralized location. We get it. It’s a business.
In typing all this, I was reminded of a few things. I am super uppity. I need quiet, peaceful temples where I can contemplate with ease and pray without a negative thought crossing my mind. Sai Baba temples. Jain temples. My closet.
But we can all do that. We can all be saints among saints or in isolation. But not all of us are as good at walking through chaos and finding something wonderful in even that. Every time I’ve gone on these trips with my dad, he’s totally in his element–as he is in every situation that’s ever been thrown at him, as far back as I can remember. He soaks it all in and is ever patient, not a smidgen of irritation. He attributes the pushing and shoving to those individuals’ needs and desperation. Frantic parents, here to pray for a sick, dying child. Nervous students, praying to get into an engineering school. I mean, when I look at it that way…I feel like a total ass.
I’ve got a lot to learn.
Patience for starters. I always reflect positively, but I can be such a little snot while doing something I don’t love instead of trying my best to see the bright side of things.