There is a Perumal koil (temple) not far from my house housing several deities with Lord Krishna being the principal deity.I visited the temple daily in the early mornings and some days in the evenings too. Usually I stop at the main shrine to pray and walk around other shrines without stopping to offer prayers
.Let me come to the main character in the story. In the last two months I have been observing this elderly lady at the portico outside the main shrine away from the inner sanctum where the devotees enter for darshan and for theertham (holy water). She was not a hindrance to others as she stood in a corner. A frail old lady with silver hairs, good looking and in traditional nine yard sari worn in Vaishnavaite tradition, she was always seen devoutly praying to god with tears running on both cheeks. Her lips were always mumbling presumably praying for fulfillment of wishes. If there was no crowd, I have seen her also in conversation with god as if He was present before her. She would be staying for about 30 minutes and the priests took kindly to her as she caused no disturbance.
I would feel ashamed that I was not getting that much devotion and fervour as her and feel bad that my visit to temple is merely a ritual without the passion and hunger for god as she displayed. Gradually I grew acquainted with her and would greet her with a smile when she looked at me. But we never exchanged words. If I miss seeing her for two days continuously I would be concerned whether she had fallen sick. In a way I felt a slight change in me as I grew more devout seeing her and started praying to god for greater devotion.
It was then that I missed seeing her continuously for more than a fortnight. I was certain that she must have fallen sick. I didn't know whom to ask or knew where she lived. As I was in the inner sanctum one day with none else present, I asked the priest “Are you aware why the old lady is not seen these days.I used to see her daily without fail and her devout presence was an inspiration for me."
He laughed and said "You must be referring to Chellamma patti.I am surprised to hear that instead of the lord here inspiring you towards bhakthi Chellamma patti did. Anyway, why don't you meet her yourself? She is in the house adjacent to the Ahobila mutt in the same road hardly a furlong away and the door is painted in green color."
I was hesitant to meet her at her house but curiosity overtook my discretion.Afterall I was just going to enquire about her well being, I thought. The door was half open. I heard loud noise from TV.I called "Patti, patti" twice.There was no response as the volume of TV was high. I pushed the door and craned my neck inside. To my utter surprise I found the old lady sitting on a sofa munching pop corns and watching a popular Hindi serial Sasural Genda Phool in Star TV. What a different setting from the tearful lady in divine ambience of temple to this air conditioned hall with sofa set, carpet, showcase and a wall TV,I wondered. She did not notice me initially being totally engrossed with the show on the screen. When I coughed to draw her attention, she saw and welcomed me to sit by her side.
"what a surprise? I am happy to see you here. Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked.
No, I was concerned when I did not see you for long. I asked the priest. He just gave your address"
“Oh, oh, it is very sweet of you to have worried about me. I am fit and fine. Actually, I visited the temple daily to pray for the early marriage of my granddaughter. It was getting delayed and my daughter was worried. Luckily thanks to Lord Krishna her marriage has been fixed. Since my prayer has been answered, I have stopped coming." she said and laughed loudly.
The taunting words of the priest about my getting inspired by Chellamma patti instead of the Lord Himself came sharply to my mind.