I sat down on the steps of the temple slowly supporting myself with one hand, a frown on my forehead. Almost unaware of it, I chanted the Lalitha Sahasranamam- a chant of the thousand names of the Devi- under my breath. It had become a matter of habit. Srimatha Sri Maharajni Sri Math Simasaneshwari…
“What is the matter, Anuradha?” asked a curious voice. A small child sat down there on the steps next to me.
I admired her tiny gold bangles. They jingled as she moved her hands to cup her chin, and the music they made was the sweetest sound I had ever heard. It was a sign of how disturbed I was that I didn’t think to ask her how she knew my name, or even to wonder at her easy familiarity with a woman over fifty years old. My friend Neelambari’s grandniece, perhaps..?
“It is my daughter”, I admitted, breaking my chant to answer her and resuming the chant immediately that I had spoken, finding it easy to talk to this beautiful child. Sometimes, adults asked too many questions. Chidagni Kunda Sambootha Deva Karya Samudhyatha…
Her eyes were bright. She tilted her head.
“So why don’t you talk to her?”
“Will she listen?” I wondered, worry lines creasing my face, murmuring gently beneath my breath.
“Will you know until you ask? When do we ever know?” She sighed, the sound so natural. Then her expression lightened and she laughed, a joyous sound. Her laughter warmed my thoughts. I smiled down at her… and felt, in the strangest way, that I knew her intimately. Udyath Bhanu Sahasrabha Chatur Bahu Samanvidha… As my lips moved almost silently to the chant, deep inside I felt the first stirrings of hope and a faint glimmer of a solution.
She seemed to sense the positivity.
“Now, stop calling out to me!”, she reproached and was gone in a trice, her long plaits dancing in the wind, vanishing around the nearest pillar, the sound of her anklets fading. For a long while, I sat there, mesmerized by her beauty. Then her parting words struck me.
‘Stop calling out to me?’
It was then that I realized my lips were still moving in earnest, natural prayer.
Ragha Swaroopa Pasadya Krodhakarankusojwala…