The magnificent bronze bell hangs high. The night has fallen and the light of a hundreds of diyas is shimmering on it. The aarti starts. The temple echoes with the sound of a thousand prayers. The bells are resonating. They create a medley of tones, some high and some feeble. The whiff of burning ghee is filling the air. It is enveloping me all around. Soon, my mind wanders to another place, one I hadn’t visited in a long time.
Its 1999, and the sun is pouring in through the windows, turning the room a shade of yellow. The fan is ferociously running at full speed, fighting against the summer air. I am lying on my bed, awake but in no hurry to get up. Now, the fan is slowing down. Like every other day, my Mamma has switched it off in a last attempt to wake me up on a Monday morning. “It’s time!” she screams from the kitchen. I force myself to sleep again, trying to ignore the heat which the sun is forcing in, but all my attempts fail. It is a hot Monday morning with no fan, and that means that I have to get up.
I walk into the small living room, where the bright red radio sits proudly on the arm rest of my Papa’s favorite sofa. It is turned on at full volume. A loud bhajan is streaming from its small speakers, the one they play every morning. I do not like it. Why does he have to play it early in the morning?! Its already so hard getting up. I find him in the kitchen, where a small cabinet has been converted into a mandir for him. He is in his blue towel and is chanting the Hanuman Chalisa. There are fresh bananas kept at Ganesha’s feet and an agarbatti is glowing fiery red at a corner. The kitchen is smoky with the sweet fragrance of jasmine, which the exhaust fan is trying to throw out. Papa turns and he has a solemn look on his face. Without a word, he hands me a piece of the banana. The banana smells of the agarbatti too. I eat it greedily nevertheless. I wonder why he is so silent when he prays. There are no words, no expression, just a blank look. He doesn’t tell me why. I think I will never understand.
After my bath, I see him on his favorite sofa, humming along to the radio bhajans. He is skimming through the newspaper and sipping chai. He looks happy. “Come, have breakfast!” he says.
The pandits of the temple are marching round the temple. They each hold a bronze platter with a big diya on it. Round and round they go. At the end of the aarti, we are all handed the Prasad. With my hands full of sliced sweet bananas, I look up and see the starry night. And a smile spreads across my face. Life is good, I think to myself. I thank Papa. He knew that someday, I would understand it all.