Friday, January 13, 2006

Jai Bajrang Bali Ki!!!!

Tuesdays always bring back a flood of good old memories. They remind me of the time spent in Delhi trying to acquire a college degree. Of the sunny winter afternoons spent eating oranges in the park, slowly fading away to dusk and then melting into starry skies when the chill set in. Of the sound of silence that stood defeated by the bells ringing merrily in all the temples. Of the bright lights and merry laughter that greeted us on our way to the mandir as we walked faster to beat the cold. Of Pummy’s famous ‘dahi-bhalla’ and ‘paapri-chat’ that lured us after
puja got over. Tuesday always spelt Hanuman Ji!

I recall scurrying home from college, making sure that nothing would stand between me and the weekly trip to the mandir. Like Bollywood characters, we would discard our jeans for the sedate salwar-kameez to appease our gods. We would spend a few minutes in Arti while the Hanuman Chalisa was chanted. As the priest finished
offering our ‘puja’, we would watch with bated breadth. What used to happen next still brings a thrill to me.

For the uninitiated, all sweet shops in Delhi prepare peda and boondi on Tuesdays for Hanuman Ji's worship, and the neighboring ‘Aggarwal Sweets’ is still the best in the business. It is perhaps travesty of the highest order to covet the offering that is meant for God, but the flesh was proven weak time and time and again. Those piping hot,grape size boondis, bright orange in color, dripping in sugar syrup had us drooling over. We often purchased half-a-kilo, and dieting plans (if any) were thrown to the nearest passing cyclone. When the priest returned our offering, a mad rush would set in and we would start chomping on the boondis even before we got home. The mandir was located in the middle of the B-block market and we would often encounter neighbors and friends outside. It pained us to share the boondis but we masked it with a smile. Little street urchins would wait outside the mandir, pestering us for ‘prasad’. Sometimes, we ignored them, sometimes we relented.

Last Tuesday, as our bus passed rumbled by a Hanuman Mandir on Strand Road, I saw a priest distributing boondis to passer-bys. Most people did not care to take. Amidst the noisy traffic and smoke on a busy road, there was no place for hungry street urchins, or college girls in salwar suits. The sound of the circular rail nearby and
the horn of buses drowned the bells. There were just a few devotees inside the mandir and the dim lights were depressing. Sitting in the bus, I could only watch helplessly, while nostalgia like a throbbing pain swelled within.

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