Lata was the quintessential Indian house wife. You know the one who is round, sweet and benevolent. The kind of person, who holds the family together. The person upon whom everyone comes to rely. She was utterly devoted to the well being of her family.
She was a beautiful lady, with big black eyes, round and chubby face, and a smile that could light up the world. She was around 5 feet 2 in height, wore comfortable cotton saris, gold bangles and a round red auspicious bindiya always adorned her forehead.
Lata was set in her routine's mould.
Never did she complain and always felt thankful.
She would get up early, have a bath and then head straight to the kitchen. It was never without a bath that she would enter her kitchen. She entered her kitchen with reverence. It was one of her "karam shetras", her work place. Lata always gave importance to how she felt while cooked. A frustrated cook would cook a frustrated meal, she believed. A meal cooked with love and peace would generate a similar feeling in the one who consumes it.
Whatever she prepared was prepared with love, care, beauty, positively and reverence for God. At times she thought about the happy faces of her children and husband while cooking. Other times she chanted while cooking. She usually chanted the name of her favourite God, her isht , her Hanumanji. She ensured that cooking was a happy and fulfilling experience for her.
The first few chapattis she rolled were the "offerings". She prepared the first chapatti for the cow, the second for the dog, one for passerby, and another as bhog or offering for god. Early in the morning, she prepared food for breakfast and lunch, packed Tiffin for the kids and her husband.
Her husband Vipul, would raise the children from sleep, make them take a shower, ready them for school and then proceed for his bath. Lata was grateful for the little help received from Vipul and rewarded him with smiles. But then, she smiled often. She smiled to her husband when he played with the kids. She smiled to the kids when they were naughty. She would even smile to the passersby.
Lata would get coffee for her husband and pour milk for the kids. She would then inspect the children's uniform and school bag. After inspecting and making sure that all is well, she would drop the children to the school bus pick up point. Her husband waited for her until she came back. Before leaving for work he would say sweet nothings to his wife. Also, he never left without kissing her on her lips.
Initially Lata had chided him for his morning transgressions, but with Vipul equating love with worship and edifying his feelings for her, she had relented and actually looked forward his morning kisses.
After her kids and husband left, Lata indulged in her Pooja , her worship routine. She would then eat her meal. She would often turn on the radio and carry up the home. She would then go to the temple.
By the time she used to came back home, her kids were back. She got busy feeding them, making them do their homework. In the evening she relaxed for an hour and she read her Sunderkand (chapter from Ramayana which is majorly about Lord Hanuman). Sunderkand was read daily without fail, no matter what. May it be illness, travel or calamity, there was never a day she had missed it. For her, the Sunderkand was the most beautiful piece ever written. Whenever she went through the text, vivid imagery flashed through her mind. Sometimes it would be Hanuman tackling Surasa, other times it would be about Ram negotiating with Sagar, the sea god.
What Joy, what beauty the text would bring to her !
Her face shone bright, she grew more beautiful, more at peace with herself.
By the time she finished her SunderKand, it was time for Vipul to get back home. They would have their tea together and Vipul would fill her with his day's activities.
Dinner was prepared while Vipul spent time with the kids. The family ate together. Vipul and Lata, tucked the children in bed and then retired for the day.
Lata was set in her routine's mould.
Never did she complain and always felt thankful.
The temple in the vicinity, to which Lata would visit almost daily, was a beautiful one. It had white marble flooring and the steps were wide and open. The tall Shikhar (conical roof) looked majestic. The temple was surrounded by a lush green garden. The place was serene.
Discourses on spirituality and soul-searching were often held in the temple. Lata loved these sessions for they bolstered her faith in her Sankat Mochan (the absolver of maladies) Hanumanji. She knew that faith can move mountains. In dire situations, she was her family's strength and her strength was her faith. When Ajaya, her elder child went through serious illness, Vipul expected her to be low. But NO! She was all charged up. She spent sleepless nights finding more about disease, followed doctor's instructions but never for a moment seemed tired or negative. When Rahul, the younger child, had almost failed in French, she had tried to help him too. She did not know French but sat alongside him trying to understand the language's nuances. She was the moral support for Vipul when he was going through a low patch at work.
Her jest for life, her enthusiasm rubbed on everyone she came in contact with. She was always this simple, uncomplicated and happy. And no one expected her to change.
Until that day.
That day, as usual she had carried out her daily chores and Vipul had left her with a hurried kissed. She had left early to listen to Baba's pravachan or discourse. Baba signified the strength of devotion and stated that anyone who reads the SunderKand with devotion for a prolonged period would get Lord Hanuman's darshan (visit by God in his Human Manifestation).
Is that even possible?
Echoed Latas mind.
Lata started a dialogue with herself in her mind
My Lord, my savior, my strength, the Brave Hanuman.
Is is possible he will give me Darshan. Oh then my the purpose of my life would be fulfilled.
However, if indeed Hanuman gives me Darshan, what shall I say to him ?
Sing glories to him, Of course.
What if he tells me to ask for something in lieu of my devotion? What shall I ask for then?
Good fortune for my family ?
A good marriage proposal for Ajaya?
A promotion for Vipul ?
Good grades for Rahul ?
But these they would achieve in any case, for they are hardworking and deserving.
No, I would not waste the opportunity.
That evening Lata sat down to read her Sunderkand but she had different feelings.
She was reading mechanically and was lost in thoughts of the Great Hanuman requesting her to ask a boon. She was not her natural self that day. Her husband noticed and asked if she was well.
She smiled faintly. She could not tell Vipul. He would mock her.
She served dinner and got back to thinking.
How about a Midas touch?
What if whatever she touches turns gold?
No but that would bring down the value of gold.
What about the other things?
She could ask Lord to enhance her beauty. She knew her husband loved her but who knows he might get attracted to some other lady at work someday. Men are like that.
She got up the next morning, still lost in irreverent thoughts. She spent great deal of time styling her hair in different ways. She missed the temple Pravachan that day and went to shopping instead.
Washing machines, Microwave ovens, stylish dresses. Oh, the market had so much to offer !
Lata reached home just in time to receive her children.
What if I had a maid and chaffeur. I could well, groom myself, watch movies, shop and do so much more.
Lata suddenly felt tired and listless. She started questioning her way of life. For the very first time she felt sorry for herself.
Vipul came back home and waited for their tea time but the tea never arrived.
He called out to Lata, asking for tea.
Cant you make it yourself? I dont remember having you made tea for me EVER.
I am not your slave.
And she started crying.
He husband was perplexed, unaware of her sudden outburst.
His Lata was not like that. Something must have happened.
But his consistent pleas and queries fell on deaf ears.
Lata had nothing to say.
Was she going through depression?
Did she want another child?
Was she over worked?
Contradictory thoughts clouded Vipul's mind. Communication had never been a problem amongst them. Lata was the more expressive, more intuitive of them. And he relied on her.
Nowadays he was afraid of even speaking to her, lest she become most upset. Anything he said or did, irritated her even more.
Vipul was an agnostic, a non-believer, but still with time, he had come to admire Lata's devotion towards her God. For the first time in his life, Vipul felt like asking his wifes favourite God to help him understand whats wrong.
Lata went in a cocoon. She stopped meeting her friends, stopped going to temple, and stopped smiling altogether. She who had never judged others, now tried to observe people with an intention to find out what they had but she didnt. She started comparing. She started complaining.
A trend which was soon to be followed by her children and later, her husband.
Days passed without Lord Hanumans anticipated Darshan.
One of those days, Lata completed her Sunderkand without enthusiasm, and touched it to her forehead.
The day was sunny. Lata thought about pulling the dried clothes from the clothesline.
As soon reached the other end of clothesline, she saw the most bizarre sight.
On the folding bed, in the veranda, was huge Monkey covered with white hair.
The sheer size of the Monkey overwhelmed her and she gave loud shriek.
In the next instant HE was gone.
It took a few moments for Lata to get back her senses.
Another few minutes to register everything that had just happened.
Had she just been visited by Lord Hanuman?
And pray what she did?
She gave a loud cry. Is this how one welcomes their beloved?
Because her mind her been cluttered with nonsense. Nonsense is all that she could offer.
She had nothing else to offer to her Lord.
Lata cried and then laughed.
She got what she sought. She was not seeking manifestation of God but manifestation of desire.
And desires are fleeting, garbed and misleading.
She then, cried a little more. The tears were cathartic, they cleansed her soul. These were the tears of person who found herself.
Even in his fleeting visit as Human Manifestation, Lord had given her the greatest gift.
The gift of self-realization.