Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Innocence Lost

The steel box hurtled on, up and around the treacherous hairpin curves. Deep inside it I sat crushed between my mom and sis, and elsewhere seated were my other family members including uncles, aunts and cousins. I cursed my dad for forcing me to come on this trip, 'I hate bus traveling, it makes me sick' I had pleaded but to no avail.

I was about five or six years old when I visited the hill shrine of Malai Mahadeshwara. That was my first long-trip as far as my memory goes. The journey (changing three buses) was puky, tedious and strenuous, but arriving at the hill top pilgrim centre was exuberating; the lush greenery, cool weather and rolling hills every where around elevated my spirits as much as the thought that finally I was out of the steel box with eight wheels.

The exuberance of being in such a beautiful place turned to devotion when I went to have a darshan of the lord of seven hills. All grown-ups were singing paens of lord Mahadeshwara and his eagerness to fulfill the desires of his devotees. My young innocent mind was taking in all I was hearing. The faith of many a devotees there were convincing enough, but when I heard that the place was so holy that even the soil possesses divine powers, my innocent belief turned concrete.

After a couple of days, before catching a homeward bus I surreptitiously scooped a fistful of soil from the temple premises and saved it as a holy treasure with divine powers.

Returning home I tucked away my sacred souvenir with my other treasures which had toys, beads, coloured glass pieces, marbles, etc., and forgot. Returning from the school, a few days later, I heard that my favourite grand uncle had passed away earlier that day. The news was overwhelming. I sprinted to my treasure box, took out the small packet of sacred soil and dashed out of the house.

The hope was not lost yet, for I had the most powerful thing in the universe. I will certainly bring back my grand uncle from dead. I took the magical and divine soil in my hand, closed my eyes, started praying the Lord to reverse the tragedy. 'Hit ctrl+z,' I was pleading. In the heart of hearts I was sure that the divine soil has performed the miracle and I was glad.

As it turned out, I went to my grand uncle's place only to find him in the hall, lying motionless under a heap of garlands, surrounded by wailing ladies while men stood outside refusing to see each other in the eye. That sight shredded my faith. I lost my innocence forever.