Murmers, Overtures, Noise


Nov 5, USA (SUN) — The Acoustics of a cacophonous rambling mind.

[Chanting 'snaps' 'celebrations' in my mind, i step in .. ] ..The ISKCON Temple in Kansas City. It is modest and bears no distinction from the several other houses in the neighbourhood. Originally a Church, now a Krishna Temple and a Vedic university. The Chief Devotee Daanweer Maharaj dressed in safron (all the devotees are called 'prabhu') telling the stories of Lord Krishna's past times. I find a chair, sitting, listening, a quick glance around tells me a lot. My 2 friends have found chairs too. Almost all of the students (disciples) of the vedic college have tonsured heads firmly humbled on their shoulders. Around 100 devotees from around Kansas City are gathered to commemorate the 5233rd Birth Anniversary of the makhan chor (butter thief). Everyone's listening to stories of Krishna Janma which most of us have read or heard from the elderly creed as a kid or watched on television. Krishna is born, taken to Gokul, Pootna is killed. I am beginning to sink into the chastity of that place. I m taken by the profound sanctity. The Krishna-Balaram idols in the centre are dancing in Vrindavan.

Now is the time for Kirtan (devotional songs). A disciple takes charge. Uncertain about the approval to take photographs, L inquires and returns with smiles on his cheeks. I am hesitating to take snaps. But still the nikon coolpix's of both of us start clicking. The devotees, the speaker (kirtankaar) are captured. Time for abhishek (devotees get chance to pour water over the baby Idols of Lord Krishna and Radha through a large sea shell, which too are dancing in the Vrindavan). The kirtan is still going on. Devotees form a queue on one side and the abhishek starts amongst the holy mantra (which has 2 shodashakshari (16 lettered) mantras) . We are part of the queue, not together though. I can hear people discussing all sorts of things standing in the queue, listening to the kirtan, moving with the queue.

My moment of bliss comes, as I get my chance to hold the shell and pour water over Radha Krishna idols. L gets his turn a few mins back.

L -> M :set the dial in night mode
M -> L : oh great.

L -> M :The Deity idols are not clearly visible from this distance.
M -> L : ..
M -> L : OK, let's take their snaps in the end. We are gonna be here till the end right.
L ..

We are feeling hot n slighly suffocated, as there is no A.C. and the fans are sparsely placed and obviously other people have discovered that before us.

Few more snaps are clicked. I am retreating from taking any further snaps. I detest myself for my original idea behind the snaps. I wanted snaps to decorate my blog !! to add to my yahoo album !!

I take a chair again. The gentleman next to me spots the tiny camera on my shoulder.

Gentleman -> M : You have digital camera, so will you be taking snaps. Come lets meet the maharaj. I was about to be elevated as the official photographer. i still follow silently * Damn, snaps snaps !!!!!!! i m no different. everyone wants snaps .. is that why we have gathered here* .

I m intoduced to the Maharaj, and swallowing a few, i confess 'i am really not sure how many snaps i will take', no eye contact.

Maharaj says with compassion, to me -> do ur best !

I slug it down.

I ran back but change the place now. Kirtan is still on. The idols of the lord are now behind the curtains. The speaker is chanting. Everyone's following. The mridangam and veena and a few else are trying to catch up with the devotees. The rhythm reaches a resonance. The decible level shoots up. But no one's complaining. No one's index fingures are itching to reach the eardrums. The noise is instead melifluous.

Now, the time to do the Jap. To enchant the holy mantra 108 times. (anyone knows why 108 times? .. the answer is also revealed). Everyone is given a tulasi mala (beans of tulasi) . Together we start, and all that is heard for next few minutes is only Ram and Krishna.

I am entranced by the holy vibrations. I m gasping for air. My eyes are moist. The idols in the centre are still behind the curtains. Stories about Krishna's past times start. I dont care about the watch on my wrist anymore. They start flowing thru my blood, i feel like a lost child, or i feel like someon's found me, or i think i m captivated .. after a while, i dont even follow the stories. The moisure has expansed into tiny droplets. The emotions surging frm my heart are trying to break free thru my eyes. I dont search for a hanky.

The kirtan starts again. Time is around 11.30, i look at the watch after a long time. The Veena and mridangam have caught up well with the devotees. Everyone is chanting the holy mantra. I m surprised by ppl staring at a corner. An elderly person has stood up and started swaying freely to the rhythm. People are staring at him. The recitation continues. Still everyone is glued to the wooden floor. The hands approach 12. The solitary devotee isnt so anymore. Everyone stands up and most start swinging to the tunes of mantra. The curtains drop. The soaring shankha (sea shells) and sudden uproar of the beats announce the Birth of Krishna. Everyone is celebrating, but not everyone is twirling freely. I m just stood up tall and still. My legs are stiff. The camera on my shoulder wont let me shake. Legs are still heavy. I see people jumping, i see some people like me too. I hear the wild strokes on the drum, well people have their own ways of turning anything into a musical instrument. I think of all this, i see the person next to me trying to capture the events in his cam. I pity him. I pity myself. After a while I too lose myself in the trance. But i lack the agility. I know i lag. I dont care. No one's bothered about whats happening, except a few who, like journalists, are trying to capture every single moment into the lense. I dont care even to pity them. It continues .. legs dont feel tired, but then it still ends. Everyone's back on the floor. They have different neighbours now.

Time for Prasadam


How many servings today?

A disciple (named Bibhishandaas) has made 123 varieties of food items for all the devotees. I am appalled. How can one do so. I inadvertantly compare it with our daily dealings in the kitchen.

Quickly everyone's seated in parallel lines, on the floor, like lunch halls. I am feeling terribly hungry. The prasad is served. The items keep coming. You name it and it is there. I decide not to say no. It is Prasad. L n me are nebors now.

Puri, sabji, chutney, kheer, juice, barfi, they keep coming.

L -> M : this has more ghee in it !!

I dont care. I pity L. So many rounds of serving.. Gulabjamoon, rasagulla, rice, sheera. I am still devouring it. takes me back to the indian restaurant, buffet. Do they serve so many items and we feel blessed after the lunch there!! I keep staring at the idols. I dont see the God, but am sure he is right there !! I see people modestly saying no to any further serving. But they keep coming. Just when i think i had enough, i see two three more coming. I am subdued.

L-> M: i am done. I cant eat more. I have to find a trash can now. M -> L : The God is giving.

After a few minutes, i am stuffed to the brim. I am tired, but the sevaks arent. They keep approaching with a smile on their face, and a part of the cullinary pallete in their hands. It doesnt get over. 25 years and i havent had enough !!

Almost everyone has resigned by now. Some have discovered family gatherings out of the prasad while seated. Some have convenietly started flossing over their sons and daughters in law, businesses and college, Sprint and Canada.

Almost everyone is retired (except those still enjoying the family gatherings), the sevaks now take the prasad. I wonder how could they hold their hunger for so long.

There is no glow on my face, nor am i seeing any divine light. But i am feeling something different apart from the heavy stomach. Having drenched in the shower of the divine bliss, albeit for a few hrs, i m feeling humble. I m feeling like a meek chocked for words. Am i purified ?

Well it's not new for me, it's happnd a few times at different temples. But everytime i exit a temple, i drop it right there before leaving. I keep staring at the Idols. But i cant find any strings of association with the Lord. i still keep staring for a while, trying to capture the image with my own lenses. There is an urge to surrender to the divine form, but the material self is trying to jibe the sailing boat of thoughts. The eyes are focussed, but the mind isnt.

Again, we are feeling suffocated inside the hall. L & me take seats on the stairs. The Dark blue sky is embellished with twinkling silver.

L -> M : We can see moons of Mars (or something similar) M -> L : Why should we bother.

The Daanveer Maharaj is doing Jap, closeby. He enlightens, looking at the sky : Everyone is celebrating the Birth of Krishna. We are lucky that He appeared in our universe rather than theirs.

Sometime later, L & myself compare the sq feet areas of the plot with those in Bangalore.

We start back after a few minutes. The engine vrooms. We carry from where we left. Deals, followed by few words of praise over dinner, I-470, I-435, the gentleman boring us over his sons, we discuss it all. No one talks about God/Krishna. Deja vu for the nth time.

Within 15 minutes we are home. It's around 3 am. With the alacrity of a child running home after wining a medal, I call home. Trying to weave my feelings into words thru the approaching webs of sleep. After a few minutes we discuss about my brother, my dad, the pooja the next day, icici and citibank, etc. I start my laptop, still no urge for sleepping, chat with a couple of my new found friends for a few mins. Soon half asleep, try to run through the moments of heavenly bliss, i cant revive them, i do remember everything though. Trying to see the Idol of Lord thru my closed eyes, its blurred, hazy, oh i dont see it at all .. am i in dreams .. i remember no more.

Next day i loosly mention about my experience to my friend and tht i wanted to Blog over it, but now i have given up. She tells me to still go ahead, may be it wud be useful for others. I argue, i know what happens, no one learns anything. 2 mins and end of blog, end of story. I know cos i am no different.

I still decided to go ahead. Not for others, but for myself. Even thought of disabling the comments, just didnt want anyone to make fun of it, but let it go. I do remember everything, but i remember so many things. So before i forget what i should be remembering, i am framing it here, so that i will be humbled everytime i drop in to this space.

[Source Blog]


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