God is Love
I woke up by five o’clock in the morning.It took a few seconds to realize that I was in a cottage in Padmavathy guest house in Tirumala and not in my flat in Hyderabad. Rani was ready by then for the darshan of the Lord.
“Get up and get ready. By six we ought to be in the queue. My brothers and parents had their bath and are ready in the adjacent cottage. Delay on your account.”Rani said.
“I told clearly I won’t enter the temple.”
“I have not forgotten janaab Saif ! If you finish your ablutions I will go for darshan in peace. Otherwise, my thoughts hover around you only.”
“What do you mean by stressing janaab Saif? You wanted to convey sarcastically that I am a Muslim and so refused to step into the temple and you remember well that.Right?”
“It is a fact. Truth is always bitter.”
“Yes. I am a Muslim religiously following tenets of Islam.”
“That’s what I have been saying mahaashayaa!”
“From the beginning I made it clear.That I will come to the hills but won’t enter the shrine.”
“No one insists on your entry. Still there is half an hour time to leave for darshan. If I can take care of you in that period, some satisfaction for me as your wife. According our Hindu dharma shastras husband is God incarnate.” she said.
Experience in a year after my marriage taught me that compliance is better than vain arguments with her and so sneaked into bath room quietly.
After brushing teeth and bath slipped into the dress Rani gave and sat for a while, when her parents arrived there.
“Rani, shall we start?”Her mother asked.
“Just a couple of minutes, ammaa.”
“Rani, isn’t abbaayi coming?” she asked looking at me still seated comfortably.
Rani did not respond. Nor did she repeat the question.
What a culture! None could match them in understanding others without embarrassing. Even Rani…
“Reaching the hills is on account of merit accrued in your earlier birth. The Lord will bless you!”My father- in- law spoke.
He speaks frugally. That too meaningful, enlightening words.Hence, my utmost regard for him. I believe that there won’t be a greater philosopher or seer.
I never addressed him as maama garu but preferred to call him sir.That reflects my regard for him.
Raja and Paramahansa lead the way.Their parents followed them.
Rani halted a while, before joining them.
“You are well informed and intelligent .Just answer me. Who is Allah?”
“Allah is God.”
“Nothing. Just God.”
“Same for Hindus too.God is one. Infinite. Shapeless.Nameless.Call him with a million names.He is the one. Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent. I am sure, if at all there a divinity , it won’t be different for Hindus and Muslims.If a stone is sculpted as Ram he is called Rama.In Anjaneya swamy form he is called Anjaneya.Krishna’s figure is called Krishna. Applying vermillion marks on the formless stone makes it ammavaru. That’s all. Stone is one. Shapes aplenty. Myriad experiences. Everything is in our manas. In us.”
“Be frank in your expression.”
“Core of all religions is the same, though they appear diverse. Endeavour to elevate a man .Showing the right path, inculcating love, compassion and humanitarian outlook. Other than that, terms like our God, your God; my religion, your religion divide people , create conflicts and politicizie issues. Not harmonize. At least educated ones like us should do well to think beyond barriers of religion.”
“Have you forgotten that we agreed upon not to accuse nor influence one another as regards gods and faiths.”
‘Don’t misconstrue hastily. I am not asking you to forsake your faith or god. I too won’t forsake. I only say that there is no need to be stiff. Instead of getting fixed in a framework of rigidity and tradition, slight flexibility lends life. Then, there won’t be scope for misconceptions and conflicts.”
Rani kept the door ajar and left.
After what she stated sank in, locking the door I joined them shortly.
Though Rani was quiet, I noticed a twinkle in her eyes.
There was a quaint glow on my father-in-law’s face.
We joined the queue. Chanting loudly “ Venkata Ramana Govinda…Srinivasa Govinda” devotees were moving slowly.
Rani offered pranaams devotionally on Lord’s darshan.
My father-in-law was enthralled and stood there for a while.
“Move on…move” attendants of Devastanam pushed him.
I controlled myself.
I told Rani after we emerged from there, “Why do they push like that?Look, maamagaru has come from a long distance. Stood in the queue for more than three hours. Can’t they be more humane?”
“Yes, pushing him is bad. If not alerted, won’t every devotee stand eternally looking at the graceful Lord? How about those thousands of devotees awaiting their turn in the queue? Three hours that we waited there may turn into thirty hours. No wonder if it takes three days also for darshan.”
She was right. There was always a valid reason in what she says.
“Having travelled this far ,why not visit SreeKalahasti?” said maamagaru.
Rani looked at me for my response.
“Your wish,” said I.
“Will you also come?”Rani asked in excitement.
“Why not?I am with you,” I replied.
Maamagaru performed puja for averting ill-bodings of Rahu, Ketu affliction.
After supper in Tirupati , we reached our cottages by night.
“I am so happy today,”said Rani stretching by my side.
“Is it for the pleasant darshan you had?”
“That’s one reason. Visit to Kalahasti is a bonus. From a long time I wanted to visit that place.Remember, we have gone through lessons about Kalahasti and Bhakta Kannappa?
Sree refers to spider ,Kala is serpent, hasti means elephant …Do you know why they named me Naga Rani? My parents were childless for a long time after marriage. There was not a temple unvisited by them, nor was a God that they did not pray to. Finally astrologers’ concluded that due to nagadosha they remained childless. A big snake was sighted before conceiving me .They vowed that the child born will be named after him and he left the place.That’s why I was named Naga Rani.”
As I was silent she her self continued.
“Such a story for my name. Tell me why you were named Saif ?”
“I don’t know.”
“Leave it. There is another reason for my immense happiness.”
“For your visit to the shrine in deference to my wishes.”
I said nothing.
“I have supreme self-confidence that I can convince anyone with my argument. Had I studied law instead of B.Sc , I would have shaken the high court with my arguments.”
“I entered the temple not on that account. Another reason is there.”
“Is it so? What might be that?”
“My love for you.’
Rani was silent. After a few moments she said.
“You are right. Though your God and my God are different , our religion and God are the same. That is love. Despite several differences, people are bound by affection only on account of love. There is no greater God than love.”
[Original Story from Rani Gaari Kathalu in Telugu by Syed Saleem.
Translated from the Telugu by Dr T.S. Chandra Mouli.]
Syed Saleem is a poet and fiction writer in Telugu.He won several awards and honours for his creative work. He was selected for Kendra Sahitya Academi Award for his Telugu novel Kaaluthunna Poolathota. The story chosen here is from Rani Gaari Kathalu, a novel in the form of sequential stories, an experiment that was highly successful. He is a high ranking official in Income Tax department
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||Nice article Sir.||