Labour of devotion

In the quest to have darshan, lakhs of pilgrims are born everyday.

Being in the queue complex of the Venkateswara temple of Tirumala is very akin to being a fetus in a womb.  Once you enter it, several things happen at once. For starters, just like a fetus that is imprisoned inside a womb over the period of gestation, you too have no control over your life.

Second, there’s no place to go but forward and at a pace you can’t dictate. You can flail your arms, you can turn around in a very confined, small circle, you can move your lower limbs very slightly – and then, take position again.

Then you wait for labour to begin.  And it does. In the early stages of the queue, just like the first contractions of labour, it happens in fits and starts. There’s a mild push, you’re propelled forward and then you wait for the next contraction to begin.  There’s no saying when it will because it’s still early stages of labour and there’s a long wait ahead.
Just when you think nothing’s happening, there comes along another thrust, a slightly stronger one and then one more and then another. Each one more painful and uncomfortable than the other because you’re being forcefully taken towards birth.

Sometimes there’s reverse labour too because the lady in front of you decided to squat in your path to nurse her infant. You look around desperately because you want to be born fast and there’s this sudden obstacle ahead of you - almost like you wound your umbilical cord around your neck. But you wait and count one to ten and back again to overcome the panic that’s come over you.  The subsequent contractions have much more strength and by now your limbs hurt from the pressure that’s bearing down on you from the hordes behind you.

Inching forward after myriad contractions, you’ve finally come to the door of the sanctum. And that’s when things come to a head. Suddenly, before you know it, you’re at a point where you find the hordes descending on you, behind you, around you, urging you to push hard or you’re going to be left behind. With strength you didn’t know you had, you take a deep breath and heave down. You use your head, body, limbs and put all the energy you have into that final shove that’s going to help you take birth.  

It seems the womb like protection you had around you as long as you were in the queue has suddenly forsaken you as you feel yourself propelled into a large space. You look up and see the sanctorum ahead of you, dimly lit by oil lamps, the glitter of diamonds that encrust the idol dazzle your eyes, and you see the idol itself, dark and mysterious. Silent and powerful – knowing that in the quest to have darshan, lakhs of pilgrims are ‘born’ everyday. They have traversed the womb like queue, they have waited till it’s time to be born and now, when they are born, they’re going to go back feeling blessed and reborn.

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