If this wasn’t coming from B, I would have bet my last buck this was a concoction from an ardent devotee. Read on to know why:
In the 1980’s I regularly visited Thirupati for darshan of Lord Venkatachalapathy, variously called as Srinivasa, Balaji…During one of those trips in late 1980’s I was accompanied by two of my office colleagues, one of them a sardarji, a very pious man.
This was the first visit for him. After standing in the queue for about two hours, we finally entered the main entrance in the temple complex at Thirumala (top of the hill at Thirupati) at about 9:00. As soon as we entered there, sardarji covered his head with a hand-kerchief and started chanting some prayer while we engaged ourselves in some idle chat. It took us another 20 to 30 minutes before we could stand in front of the Lord to have His darshan.
On our way out, we collected a small laddu given out as prasadam. We promptly partook the same and, as always, headed towards the prasadam counter located outside the temple entrance for buying additional laddus for our families. With huge demand and limited production in those days, up to three laddus were offered per head. It was already 9-45 and the queue was very long. Hard-pressed for time – the Bombay-bound train was due at 11-30 at the far-away Renigunta railway station, it was clear we would miss the train if we stood in the queue.
Sardarji’s disappointment was writ quite visibly on his face.
He pleaded with the people triumphantly exiting the prasadam counter with laddus in their hands to give him just one so that he didn’t return home empty handed. Unfortunately for him no one obliged.It was no surprise to us – the laddus were and are always a much prized prasadam to be shared with family, neighbors and friends back home. Not with a total stranger.
During our travel to Renugunta station sardarji without let-up bemoaned his drawing a blank and regretted he partook that small laddu at the temple itself instead of sharing it with his wife and daughter back home. We tried unsuccessfully to pacify him saying the good darshan he had had was a greater reward than the laddu. And he should be happy and thankful to the Lord for the same.
The Madras-to-Bombay train arrived puffing and panting for a short halt at Renigunta. We had just the time to board the compartment and move to take our seats before the train pulled out slowly. As we looked around we observed a large Gujarati marriage party going from Madras to Bombay occupying almost the entire compartment. Before long, one of their group-members approached us tentatively with a request: If we could be kind enough to move to the adjoining compartment, three members separated from their group could take our place to be one with the group. Since we were not encumbered with any heavy luggage, we readily agreed to switch our seats.
At the next stop, the shift was effected without further ado.
Once we settled down at the new place,the usual getting-to-know chit-chat commenced among the co-passengers. One of them was an elderly Bengali lady looking calm, graceful and respectable. Our sardarji needed little encouragement to unwind his tale of woe: his first ever trip to Thirumala, the good Darshan he had, the prasadam he ate, and his utter disappointment and sorrow in not procuring even a single laddu for his family back home. The lady continued to listen intently until the end.
When the sardarji finally rested his story, she said: “Beta, Balaji kisi ko nirasha nahi karenge” <He never disappoints anyone>. While it sounded like one of those perfectly inane commiserating remarks, she retrieved a bag from under the seat and pulled out for him one big laddu, at least 4 to 5 times larger than the laddu sold at the prasadam counter.
He was speechless awash with excitement and apprehension – Was it for real? Was she playing some cruel prank on him?
She explained: She had arranged for some special Pooja at Thirumala which included at its conclusion a sizeable quantity of prasadam for her. She added she would be only too happy if she could, in a small way, redress his disappointment.
With folded hands, unbelievable surprise and tears in his eyes, he accepted it and readily shared the some of it with us.
Was this all just happenstance or divine Grace or what was it?
What do you think?
For those of you who have not read my posts elsewhere, B was my neighbor for long years and Vidya Balan, the highly talented and widely acclaimed actress of Bollywood is his daughter.