In the last 12 months everything had changed for Vinodh – in fact turned turtle. His promotion got stalled his pet project got delayed, his job was about to me made redundant. His 6 year old son couldn’t get admission into the school of choice. His wife kept intermittently ill. As if all this was not enough ,his parents met with an accident, though not fatal, but it caused a severe emotional, physical and financial damage. In short – life was at it’s lowest ebb.
‘When the going gets tough, it’s God that needs to get going.’ Vinodh Kumar lamented to his wife Sarayu.
Just then the lights went out. It was pitch dark in the room. A distant chortle of a few children playing floated into the room.
‘Darn another power cut! Just like our lives – dark and no where to go’
‘You know what, He doesn’t show Himself when He is most needed. It’s when you want Him the most He’s not there. What’s the point in continuing to keep the faith?’ Vinodh was distraught.
She looked at him as if to say don’t give up hope, but the words somehow got lost in the deep trenches of memories. After all it wasn’t too long back when she had said ‘keep the faith in Him.’
Suddenly the lights came back and the television switched on.
‘When your back is against the wall, it’s a good thing’ a creaky voice spoke out of idiot box.
Vinodh went through three emotions at once – rage, remorse and resignation. There was a pregnant silence in the room.
Sarayu turned around to find the television flickering with some religious documentary on the NAT Geo channel. The sage on the banks of Ganges spoke to the reporter with a mystical look on his face.
Vinodh too turned around to listen closely.
The sage continued – ‘you see when your back is against the wall, the only way is moving forward, isn’t it?’ The reporter nodded, so did Sarayu zooming out of the television and zooming into Viodh’s eyes.
She had found a renewed vocabulary for hope.
‘You must go to Tirupati – Lord Balaji will solve all our problems’ she asserted.
‘These are signs Vinodh’
‘It’s just a stupid documentary Sarayu’ snapped Vinodh.
When a woman means business her eyes do the talking.
Sarayu looked deep into his eyes, held his hands and mustered up all the courage she had left in her and convinced Vinodh to give it one more shot.
‘Vinodh just give belief one more chance!’ she pleaded.
A myriad of emotions went through Vinodh’s mind. Conflicts, hopelessness and melancholy fought with each other. Finally indifference took center stage.
‘Whatever,I’ll go besides I think I just need a break !’
With that Vinodh set out for Tirupati.
Logic, science and reasoning kept challenging him right through the 12 hour train journey. He blocked them out, reasoning that all logic and calculations had failed, this time he was just going with an escapist state of mind.
Deep down he knew this fatalistic approach to life could back fire so badly that it could send him to a point of no return.
He had taken off from work without letting his peers nor his boss know. His boss had sent out a message a few days back that they needed to have the “talk”.
He knew once he returned back to work it could potentially be the end of the road for him. As the train rocked along he fell asleep with a thousand thoughts in his mind slowly losing voice.
When he opened his eyes next it was Tirupati junction.
The darkness cloaked the crimson skies. The birds chirped their way distantly and the temple bells rang in his mind. He looked up to see the tip of the shrine shimmering in the reflection of the golden sun.
Vinodh had decided to walk up the hills – precisely 2388 steps to reach Tirumala where the central deity resided.
Going to Tirupati without adequate planning, buying a ticket for a “Darshan” is an ill advised proposition right through out the year. Yet Vinodh went ahead, some part in ignorance and some part hoping for a miracle.
The steps looked fairly simple at the start, till he reached about the 500th step mark, first signs of fatigue set in. Every 100 meters there were replenishments for the body but none for the soul. Cramps in his calf muscles made it even harder to take the next step.
By the 1500th step, Vinodh had drained out every ounce of energy, will or zeal to keep going. He decided to branch out to the road, hail a taxi and go back , down to Tirupati town.
Just then, a security guard shouted from a make-shift desk near a bend.
‘Your free-ticket can be collected from here’.
Vinodh was startled.
He struggled his way to a few more steps to reach the security guard.
‘Why free tickets?’
‘This is normal sir, for all those walking up to Tirumala we give a free
Sarayu’s words drifted into to his mind…keep the faith…
He took the free ticket ,sat down besides the steps and decided to give another push at reaching the top.
Vinodh was exhausted climbing up the stairs, walking barefoot and reaching the main entrance. As a reward he had at least got a free ticket.
Friends had advised him to buy Special darshan tickets which generally cost a bit more but ensured a quicker darshan. He headed over to the Vijaya bank ticket counter and stood in the long queue. By the time he reached the booking window, the counter shut down.
The moment was intense. Vinodh struggled to keep his emotions in check. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
An old man came rushing from behind and banged the window –
‘open up I need to cancel my ticket!’
He got the last available special darshan ticket. Felt a bit relived that at least he won’t go back without a darshan.
Vinodh thanked the old man and felt some excitement for the first time.On one hand he clutched the special darshan ticket and on the other the free darshan ticket.
Vinodh was tired and wanted to rest for some time, but with this sudden development, he thought about maximizing this opportunity.
‘Let me take a chance and see if I can get two viewings, today and tomorrow. If the queue is too long I can always exit and come back tomorrow for special darshan’ -Vinodh reasoned.
As he entered the free darshan queue, his resolve got tested.
The queue was almost a mile long. It was nearing 11 PM by the time Vinodh stepped into the long winding corridors of the temple. He was hungry, tired and low on energy. Nothing much to eat other than a little boy selling pop corn along the queue.
He had already spent 2 hours being absolutely stationery in the queue.
Vinodh overheard someone say it would take at least 5 to 6 hours more, to get to the main deity residing in the inner sanctum.
‘Maybe I should not push myself so hard – let me come back tomorrow morning, special darshan should get me a quicker darshan after all, why wait and stress out?’
This time logic was overwhelming. He slowly waded through the crowd towards the exit gate only to be stopped by the pesky popcorn boy.
‘Anna – please have some popcorn’ His big black eyes had an earnest look. His dark dry skin bore testimony of his everyday struggle and malnourishment.
‘No thank you’ Vinodh brushed him away and moved forward.
‘Anna this magic popcorn will help you wait a little longer’. Lord will call you just now, wait and watch’.
Vinodh froze for a moment. Goosebumps appeared in a cluster.
He took the popcorn and went back into the queue.
4 hours passed by and the queue had moved only about 100mts. Yet again it looked like an ordeal to stand so long. Vinodh kept thinking about the popcorn seller who had since mysteriously disappeared.
But that excitement/bewilderment quotient was dying with every passing hour.
Finally after waiting for some more time he decided to quit.
Vinodh decided to finally exit the queue. He just couldn’t pull anymore.
‘Lord it’s not that I am trying to escape, it’s just that I am too fatigued to stand in the queue for another 3 hours. I will come back tomorrow morning and wait as long as it takes – so please forgive me for exiting the queue’ Vinodh murmured silently.
This time he just ran past the gate lest some other popcorn seller or vendor or anyone stop him. As he exited one corridor after the other, he realized he had actually covered a lot of ground while feeling stationery. But there was no turning back. He was a determined man albeit a tired one.
Vinodh reached the final gate, which was the first gate a few hours back. Security was always tight in Tirupati. All gates were manned 24/7.
‘What happened swami?’ one security guard asked.
‘errm I’m not feeling too well, I want to exit the queue and will come back tomorrow’
‘Aarey no saar, I just got a message on the intercom, we are opening the inner gates, please rush inside, you will get darshan within the hour’
Not again Vinodh thought.
‘No you don’t realize, I’ve been walking since 6PM this evening and it is 2AM now. I can’t go on anymore, I will come back tomorrow.’
‘No saar we are opening the gates please go back, besides you cannot exit from the entry gate, you have exit from the exit gate na?!
Vinodh closed his eyes and realized someone wanted to see him today. He turned back yet again.
By the time darshan got over , it was nearly 3.30AM. Vinodh had never seen such a beautiful darshan before. The Lord induced a sense of calmness and positivity in him.
Vinodh sat in his hotel room in Tirumala and recalled what an extraordinary journey he had been through. However, it wasn’t until 8 o clock in the morning that he realized what a divine intervention he had.
A notice board outside the main Temple entrance read
“All special darshan cancelled for today due to VVIP visit.’
Gyanban Thoughts – We always hear, seeing is believing. However sometimes in life you need to believe it to see it. Keeping the faith in the most testing times is just one part of believing, the other parts are when you have alternatives or are doing well. That’s a true test of one’s faith. So the next time you call upon the Lord when in trouble, remember there will come a time when there is no trouble so don’t forget to remember Him even then.
I am guessing if you have read through the story some of you are thinking – this is a complete fiction and some are thinking it sounded like a true story.
Well all I can say dear readers, is keep the faith. Believe what you must, and you will see what you should.