A Day With Lord Ayyappa- Chapter 5: Timeless Moments

As she dusted her hands, she heard a grumbling sound. When she turned to investigate the cause of that sound, she found Shabareesh grinning sheepishly.
“Hungry!”
“What? You just had so much chaat!” she laughed much to his exasperation.
“Huh! So what? That was a while ago. After that, you made me run around and build this castle on top of that. So..” he shrugged, quite proud of his answer.
“Oh really?” Karthika smiled sweetly making him gulp. The next minute all the sand covering her hands were on his head!
“What the..” his jaws dropped open as he surveyed himself while Karthika laughed away to glory.
That was it. The next moment her clothes were splattered with more sand.
She glared at him but Shabareesh smirked widely, his eyebrows jiggling in a teasing expression. The duo stared at each other for a second. The next second they broke into laughter.


“We look like drenched monkeys!” Karthika exclaimed struggling to catch her breath.
“Well I always thought you were a cute little monkey!” he chuckled.
“Hawww! I am not talking to you.” Karthika stalked off.
“Hey! You only keep sending that monkey on WhatsApp!” he remarked falling in step with her.
“Shabareesh I never expected you to be such a tease!” she huffed.
“Oh come on that’s not just your job, I am more talented. And by the way, I am everything yet nothing. You only need to REALIZE.” he winked mysteriously and went ahead, leaving Karthika to her thoughts.

On their way home, she was lost in him. The flowers he touched lightly, bloomed with life, a smile always played on his lips. The smile that had never left her heart since the day had begun.
The driver of the rickshaw they rode back home was delighted at his company.

“Can I sing for you later?” she asked softly.
He had been busying caressing the tiny head of a myna that was perched on his shoulder as they walked to her home. Her request made him grin wide.
“Sureee! I am waiting.” His eyes shone with excitement.

Her heart almost swelled with happiness at that love in his eyes. On entering her home though her face suddenly fell.

“What happened ma?” he asked noticing her crestfallen expression.

“There is nothing at home to eat. And you’re hungry!” she whispered almost in tears.

“Hey! Don’t sound so sad. Give me anything with all the love in your heart, even if it is a simple fruit. That’s more than enough to satisfy me.” he said holding her by her shoulders gently.

“But I wanted to prepare so much for you!” Karthika cried.

“Remember, Sudama’s handful of puffed rice made Lord Krishna happier than the largest dinner banquet. Sabari Maata’s pure love, overflowing into those half-eaten fruits brought tears to Sri Rama’s eyes. Give me whatever your heart wills and time allows.” He wiped away her tears, reminding her of the stories of the Lord’s greatest devotees

Karthika managed a small smile and quickly went to the kitchen. With whatever little was available in the house, she began preparing a meal while Shabareesh stood by, observing her. No words were spoken. He could see how she poured all her concentration and devotion into the food that she was making. As for her, she had completely dissolved into the act of cooking, into the very love that was the key ingredient of her preparation!

After an hour, he sat down famished and eager while she served the dishes lovingly on a silver plate that she used to first serve food for the Lord. Today however she was mysteriously directed to serve Shabareesh. By now, her intellect had completely given up reasoning. It had accepted that whatever was happening was way beyond its comprehension.

“Ahh! What a lovely lunch and my favourite Chadachadayam [ I know it is difficult to pronounce! 😛 Made of jaggery, this variety of kheer is traditionally offered at Lord Ayyappa’s Pujas. It is considered to be his favourite. 🙂 ]

He chanted his prayer and dug into the simple yet delicious spread.

“Wowww!” he exclaimed in amazement. As he ate, very evidently enjoying the meal, Karthika was unable to contain her bubbling joy within herself. Tears of happiness made their way down her eyes. He glanced at her, blinking in unsaid assurance, a soulful smile playing on his lips.

“Get another plate.” He said.

“Why?” came the immediate reply.

“For once listen to me and get a plate!” he teased.

She frowned and followed his orders. What happened next stunned her out of her wits. Shabareesh served the food onto the plate, that silent smile of infinite love never leaving his lips. He mixed the rice with the sambar well, just as he loved it, made a cute little ball of the morsel and stretched his hand to feed her.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that her heart strained against her chest wanting to leap out in sheer bliss as he fed her. She shivered, wondering if each moment today was real or a beautiful dream? His serene smile, ancient eyes, unconditional love and eternal wisdom – it felt as if the Lord Himself was sitting there and feeding her. The moment felt timeless, as if she wasn’t herself anymore. As if she and Shabareesh were One, like the oneness a devotee revels in with her Lord.

To Be Continued…

A Day With Lord Ayyappa – Chapter 4: Building Dreams & Memories

Hellooo again! I know I am updating after 10 days, but please bear with me! I am trying my best to get into the habit of consistent writing. 🙂 Thank you so much for all the love and encouragement always! 😀

Karthika and Shabareesh have begun their magical day. Join them once again in this chapter. 😀

“The world needs more kindness and love. Don’t forget to smile at a stranger or a child. Don’t hesitate to say a simple thank you to anyone who serves you in any way.” Shabareesh said, his eyes gazing into the distance, as they rode in the rickshaw.

She stared at him, trying to comprehend him, his words. “Where are we going next?” The next minute he asked with a childlike enthusiasm.
She giggled and forgot her efforts to “analyse” Him. “Maybe I should just let go. These moments are special, not within the understanding of my poor mind. Forget it Karthika, too much analysis leads to paralysis! Breathe and enjoy.” she thought to herself.

“Hellloooo?? Excuse me, don’t get us lost please.” Shabareesh whined.
“With you here, can anyone ever be lost?” the words slipped her lips even before she could think.
He smiled mysteriously. “No.” his reply was even more perplexing but seemed absolutely right to her.

“We are going to the beach.” she smiled.
“What? Arey waah, quite a plan you have made haan!” He grinned.

Shabareesh loved the waters. He was always at ease with the peace that their depths offered. Thus when they reached, he immediately ran towards the sea and let the waves lap at his feet.
Normally Karthika would have laughed at this sight, but today she could only observe him, his antics with adoration in her eyes and heart.
They felt pristine, like a divine Leela.

She never knew when he had pulled her to stand beside him.
“Shabareesh!” she huffed.
“Hahahaahaha!” he guffawed.
Her irritation vanished. Her heart jumped in devotion at the voice of his laughter. It wanted to hold every precious moment of this close.
She could feel the beginnings of tears make their way down her eyes, when,
“Splash!”
“What the hell!” Shabareesh had caught her totally off-guard and splashed water on her while she was lost in another plane.

Scratch all those emotions. This guy!
“Hahahaahaha!” he laughed again and ran off.
“Shabareesh, you are dead.” Karthika screamed and ran after him.

“Wasn’t this exactly how I had visualised my day with Ayyappa?” Karthika realised as she caught up with Shabareesh.

After that cat and mouse chase, the duo settled down to build a sand castle.
Shabareesh observed her keenly as she built that little sand castle with total concentration, frown lines on her forehead and a smile etched on her lips.
“Never give up little one on your dreams.” He whispered firmly. Karthika looked up at him.

“Never lose this focus you have. Like this sandcastle will eventually fall away, challenges will arise on your path. Never lose hope. Just as you would build this again, keep building your dreams and working towards them. Let your Ayyappa’s names always dance on your lips. Trust me, even in the most difficult times you will find peace.” He smiled, helping her bring together the sand and cement the foundation.


Karthika couldn’t stop staring at him in awe. At a time when she was unsure of a path towards her goals, worried for her career and studies, unsure of her will to achieve her purpose, here he was speaking words that touched her very soul. To her it seemed like her Lord Himself was asking her to never give up, assuring her that He would always hold her safely.


” I will never give up. ” she said decisively as the sand castle was completed successfully. Her words made Shabareesh grin widely. His goal had been achieved.

To be continued… 🙂

A Day With Lord Ayyappa: Chapter 3 – A Dream Come True?

Helllooo! Sorry, I couldn’t update on Saturday. Here’s Chapter 3! I felt really happy as I wrote this chapter and the parts ahead, hope you enjoy reading it just as much. 🙂 Love and comments are always welcome! Happyyyy Reading! 😀

Back in the closed space of her room, Karthika sat down on her bed and took a deep breath and grinned widely.

“Ayyappa what is happening? I can’t stop smiling! Okay seeing Shabareesh after a long time and spending a day with him is one of my truest wishes come true. But this is something more than that. What I feel right now, the bliss and joy it’s..okay forget it! Like stop it Karthika. Don’t overthink. Just go with the flow.”

“Okay, what’s your plan, where do we go?” she asked him while adjusting her neckpiece.
“You tell me. Today is going to be completely your call!” He replied making her look up with a jerk.
“Are you serious?” she questioned unsurely.
“Of course.”
“You’ll do whatever I want us to?”
He simply nodded.


“What if I ask you to do sit-ups and run around this building?” it was her turn to smirk.
“Karthika!” He huffed cutely. “I can do the sit-ups, not sure about the running.” He added making her laugh.
“Chill chill. I’ll be back.”
She ran to get some Vibhuti and applied to Lord Ayyappa’s idol, closed her eyes and prayed, unaware that she was being observed by someone with the same amount of love she had for Him.


Opening her eyes she looked back at Shabareesh and saw a Vibhuti mark on his forehead. “You didn’t have that when you came in?” she stated confused.
He simply shook his head and smiled, “Figure that out later. Shall we leave?”
“Yessss! But where to?” she placed a finger on her chin, as if thinking hard making him smack his forehead.

She ignored him, looked at the idol and back at him. Something about the glint of timeless wisdom in his eyes and the kindness in his smile touched her soul like never before. Knowing not why, she decided to do all that with him, what she had imagined she would with the Lord.
“Cool. Let’s go.” she held his hand and they left for their first destination of the day.

……….

As soon as they stepped out of her home, the birds started chirping while the leaves of the trees danced to a gush of wind, while Shabareesh cuddled a small puppy. Karthika looked on, it felt like her surroundings were surcharged with a divine presence.
“Bye puppy, else you see that girl there? She’ll burn me down with her glares!” he chuckled earning a whack on his arm from Karthika. He went on to gently touch the trees and their leaves while two birds perched themselves on his shoulders.

Truth be told she was in awe, her heart seemed to want to burst with joy and reverence at his presence. And this was only the start of the day. She sensed he wasn’t the Shabareesh she had known for 10 years of her life, there was something else. She didn’t hurry, she wanted to live each moment with him.

As they left, the energy of these creatures seemed to droop when Shabareesh turned back with his smile, as if assuring them that He will always be there.

Their first stop was one of the most popular chaat stalls in the sprawling city of Mumbai. Karthika knew how much her friend loved chaat.

“Chaatttt!” Shabareesh exclaimed excitedly.
“Bhaiya inn ke liye ekdum tikha Pani Puri banana!” she giggled as told the stall-owner, knowing what was coming next.
“Nooo! Are you crazy? Bhaiya, medium Haan. Thiki waali isko Dena.” He glared at Karthika who burst into laughter seeing how much he hated spicy food.

As he gorged on the Pani Puri and a plate of Ragda Pattice after that, Karthika couldn’t help but keep looking at him. She felt she could do that the entire day, like these moments wouldn’t ever return and she wanted to capture them forever in the treasure chest of her memories.
Yes, he meant the world to her but..why did everything feel so divine today, almost as if the Lord Himself was standing beside her? Or was it because she saw glimpses of the Lord in him?

“Yummmm! Why aren’t you eating? This is so good!” Shabareesh spoke with his mouth full, distracting Karthika.
She chuckled and didn’t reply. When she looked at the old Pani Puri vendor, she was surprised to see his hands trembling and tears escaping his eyes as he finished serving Shabareesh. Suddenly she had lost all her appetite.

Shabareesh held the old man’s frail hands in his own strong yet gentle hold, looked at him, smiled and spoke with firm compassion, ” Bhaiya, Maine kabhi itni achi aur itni saari chaat nahi khaayi. Aapka bohot bohot dhanyawaad.” But there was more to these words, as if they meant to soothe deeper wounds hidden in the man’s soul, rewarding him for his hard-work.

The man had no words to say. He didn’t even try. Folding his palms together, he wept as Shabareesh held him.

After bidding goodbye to him, the duo walked along silently. She didn’t ask for any explanation, he didn’t offer any. Her heart felt full with the overwhelming sight she had witnessed. Yes, Shabareesh was an extremely kind person who could offer a shoulder to anyone in need. But what she had seen was other worldly, almost as if the Lord had conversed and offered solace to his broken devotee!

A Day with Lord Ayyappa: Chapter 2: Known & Unknown

Hellooo! Welcome back to Chapter 2 of A Day with Lord Ayyappa. 🙂 Once again, thank you so so much for all the encouragement and love! Means a lot to me. 😀

Before I begin this chapter I would like to share a realization that hit me this morning. Karthika, the name of the young devotee here incidentally also means the Karthikai month, which falls in November-December, brings the festive “Mandalakalam” dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, which is when devotees undertake the Sabarimala pilgrimage and there are constant pujas and bhajans going on. 🙂 I just chose the name because I liked it, didn’t realise the implications! Happy Reading! 😀

Willing herself to calm down, Karthika took a few deep breaths, got down from her bed and held her favourite idol of the Lord close to her heart, shutting her eyes tight.

A few tears made their appearance again along with a small smile as she spoke to Him, “Ayyappa, I don’t know what you were trying to tell me through that dream. All I know is I can feel your presence all around me more strongly than ever. That dream was divine. There’s nothing stronger than my faith in You, Ayyappa. Whatever you have planned, I know it will be beautiful.” A magical sense of peace took over her as she completed her words.


Placing the idol back in its place, she wiped her tears and composed herself. Next she dropped a good morning text to her parents who were away for a wedding. “Their eyes are going to pop out of their sockets when they see the time of my text.” she chuckled at the thought.
As the sun began peeping out and brightening up the sky with tints of golden orange, Karthika felt a surge of happiness pass through her body. She felt something she couldn’t put a finger on, but it was something she had never felt before.


Prancing about she lit the lamp at home and began saying her morning prayers.
“Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa.” she uttered applying holy ash on her forehead.
The doorbell rang. “Who could it be at 6:00 AM?” she wondered glancing at her watch. She opened the door to get the happiest shock of her life!
There at the door stood one of her closest friends with his characteristic high energy and beaming smile, Shabareeshan.


Almost two decades older to her but one of the closest people to her soul. After her parents, he was everything for her, from a friend to an elder brother. She had met him when she had volunteered for a camp and then on they had hit it off like long-lost buddies. Just like her Ayyappa, he knew everything from her biggest achievements, fears and dreams to the tiniest of joys.
“Good morning, ma.” He said when she still stood like a statue, not able to get a word out of her mouth.
“Shabareesh!” she squealed excitedly and crashed into his arms which enveloped her in a strong bear hug, his huge frame always made her feel protected.
Something felt different. Again. In a good way obviously. She frowned and looked up at him. She felt much more protected, happier and at peace than she usually did with him. His smile seemed brighter and his eyes twinkled with an unknown energy. Her mind couldn’t wrap itself around what was happening.

“Are you going to keep me standing outside your home?” His teasing voice broke her reverie.
“Uhh..no! Come in please.” she moved aside flustered.
“I have a surprise for you.” Shabareesh announced with a grin, settling down on the sofa.
“Really? Tell na!” Karthika urged him excited. Truth be told, that he was here at her home after what felt like ages, itself was a lovely surprise for her!
“Not so fast ma. Get me a glass of water first.” He winked. There was nothing like troubling his little friend!


“Not fair!” She exclaimed irritated much to his amusement and quickly got water for him.
“I am going to spend the entire day with you.” He said simply handing the empty glass to her.
“Oh..WAIT WHAT?!” she couldn’t believe her ears!
He continued smiling and remained silent, quite used to her over-the-top reactions.
“Don’t want me to?” He questioned with a subtle tease.


“No no wait. Like what even? Suddenly? Out of nowhere you pop up and say this! How am I supposed to react? Of course I want you to stay! I mean..” she kept talking totally taken off guard.
“Okay okay, calm down.” He chuckled and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, “Go, get ready. I am waiting here.”
She nodded and turned to go when something struck her. “How did you know I am free today?”
“Oh, don’t you know? I know EVERYTHING!” he smirked mysteriously.

Soooo, who is Shabareesh? Surely you should be able to guess the significance of this name too! 😀

Why is Karthika feeling different around him, when she already knows him? What happens next? Will Lord Ayyappa fulfill his little devotee’s wish or is there something else going on? Any thoughts?

Don’t forget to like and leave your thoughts! 😀

A Day with Lord Ayyappa

Hari Om! This story is inspired by an experience at a Global Youth Camp I had attended last year. In one of the activities we had to visualize a day with our favorite deity or Ishta Devata as it is known in Sanskrit. The experience left a deep imprint on my heart leading to this tale.

It will be divided in approximately 5-6 parts, I’ll be updating every Tuesday and Saturday! Do read, enjoy and let me know your feedback!

Lord Ayyappa

CHAPTER 1

Karthika brushed aside her thoughts as she walked her way through the famed Mumbai traffic to her office. While the traffic of this city was enough to break the resolve of the most patient person on earth, she endeavored to push her irritation aside and look around her. She smiled at the colourful bunch of flowers on the trees, the bright blue endless sky giving her a sense of freedom. She greeted the watchmen, the helpers and everyone else with a bright smile as she entered her serene work premises.


That was just who she was. A lively 21-year old with a pure childlike heart that always shone bright even in the face of difficulties.
As she sat at her desk, her eyes lit up when she found a pretty hibiscus flower at the feet of the tiny golden idol of the Lord who ruled her heart- Lord Ayyappa.
“Acha laga na beta?” the loving grandfather-like figure who took care of their smallest needs at office asked her.
Karthika immediately knew it was he who had taken those efforts to get the flowers for her Ayyappa.
“Thank You Kaka!” she grinned and thanked him softly as he laughed, patted her shoulder and left.


Turning back she stared at His idol. The Lord of her heart and soul, the reason for her existence, whose name never left her lips, who invoked nothing but pure and intense devotion from the innermost recesses of her Being- Lord Ayyappa was her Everything!
With that the lingering thought that had been troubling her since a while came back to life. “What if I get a day to spend with Ayyappa? What would it be like?” she wondered, her gaze fixed on the idol on front of her, as if asking Him to actually fulfill her wish!


She remained lost in these thoughts as the day passed by before Veda, her boss who was also like a mother and confidante to Karthika, finally asked her, “What’s wrong? You seem lost today.”
“It’s all the camp’s fault.” Karthika mumbled.
“What?” Veda was confused.


“I mean, they did this one activity there and I am stuck on it since I have returned. And it is only getting intense with each passing day.” she replied irritated, referring back to a  spiritual camp for the youth that she had attended two months ago.
“Which activity my dear?” Veda questioned gently.
“The one where we had to visualize a day with our favorite God, His form that we love and adore the most! And I literally painted a whole picture in my head of how my day with Ayyappa would be. It was so beautiful. Like ultimate bliss.” Karthika said wistfully, a beautiful smile adoring her lips and an intense longing in her eyes which reflected the innocent yet powerful devotion she held in her soul.

Veda smiled knowingly and shook her head, for she never understood what to do with this girl. She had a way of getting lost in her own maze and coming out of it the next moment as well.
“Why are you smiling Ma’am? I feel so distressed. I just don’t know what to think and feel!” Karthika said dejectedly.

Veda reached out and kept a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Never lose hope. Put your thoughts aside. When you stop thinking and simply believe with all your heart in your own pure Bhakti, you never know what can happen!” Veda winked and walked away, leaving a completely perplexed Karthika behind.


Late in the evening when she returned home after a tiring yet productive day, her mind relaxed as she went about her night routine with her lips constantly singing beautiful bhajans of the Lord. She did it unconsciously, as if it was the most natural thing to her. Sliding into bed, she said her prayers of gratitude and drifted off to what she didn’t know would be quite an eventful sleep.

………….

At around 3:00 A.M. Karthika’s land of dreams was invaded by a soothing light that felt extremely familiar, One that didn’t need anything to illumine it. That Self-Illumining Light illumined everything around as she looked on in awe. Suddenly she heard a growl on her left side. She looked in that direction only to find a majestic tiger inching towards her, his gaze fixed on her.


Strangely she didn’t feel afraid. On the contrary she found herself walking towards him and putting her arms around his neck, as if he weren’t a ferocious carnivore but a pet dog! He enjoyed that for a second before walking ahead leaving her staring at him. Almost as if he could sense her absence, he glanced back with his silent gaze asking her to follow him. The animal that all feared led the way for her. She couldn’t understand what was happening nor could she think about it. She felt blissful, that was all she knew.


A heightened sense of self-awareness enveloped her as the tiger led her finally reaching an ancient temple of stone with the inner sanctum made of glowing gold. Nestled in that inner sanctum with the decorated 18 steps leading up to Him, was the Lord of Her Heart- Lord Ayyappa, smiling in all His infinite beauty and glory.
“Ayyappa” she whispered with reverence.
As her gaze moved away from the idol, she found the tiger sitting right in front of the sanctum in complete surrender, beside a human figure. Karthika frowned. His build seemed highly familiar. He seemed to be someone she held close to not just her heart, but her soul.


Although she yearned to move forward and find out what on earth was going on, her feet refused to budge. She gawked as the familiar figure with the tiger walked and simply disappeared into the idol!
Tears flowed down her cheeks unknowingly, she couldn’t understand what kind of emotions she felt, but one was highly prominent: Devotion.


At this moment, Karthika’s dream broke waking her up with a start.
“Ayyappa!” she whispered again, in shock. Touching her face she could feel tears on her cheeks. Thoughts ran through her mind like a mad horse on loose.
“What was that dream all about? Who was that person? What is happening? Ayyappa?!”

To Be Continued…