Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shopping Spree and a Trip to the Guruvayoor Temple, New Jersey


With all the accommodation issues I have been going through, a trip to the Guruvayoor temple in New Jersey was the best blessing I could ask for. It was a chance    message from my ex-colleague, Vijai who reached out to me on Facebook that made this trip possible. 

In between, I was down with a traumatizing allergy and was hunting for a doctor, who accepts my insurance coverage. Vijai has been in the United States for over three years now and knew how to get around. He helped me identify the clinic that was in my network. This was a timely help and yet again, another work of God. As they say in Sanskrit, Bhagavan, manushya roopena ( God takes the form of a human to help out). In our lives, I am quite sure we have experienced this truth time and again.

Vijai invited me over to his house for the coming weekend to meet his wife and child. He also planned to go to the Guruvayurappan temple, which caught my interest. I have been missing my regular temple visits in the USA and had already missed a Shirdi Sai Baba temple visit earlier. That weekend, the early morning welcomed me with heavy thundershowers. As I gazed out of the window wondering if I should make the trip, I decided in the spur of the moment that I shall go meet Guruvayurappan. The travel was cumbersome, but not tiring, since I had to change three trains. I had to take an Inbound train to Centre City from Primos, change trains at the 30th st station to the Trention Transit Centre and from Trenton, take the NJ Transit train to Metro Park Station. The entire journey took me 1.5 hours and since I had a pass that took me upto Trenton, I only had to pay for the last leg which cost me USD 9.00. On weekends, trains are scheduled an hour apart which adds to your travel time. Nevertheless, the journey is does not make you sweat.

By the time I reached NJ, it was lunch time. So we postponed the temple visit to the next day and instead decided to have good home made Andhra food. Lunch comprised a delicious gravy made with lentils and spinach, spicy tangy garlic rasam, finely chopped carrot curry, poppadams and spiced buttermilk. I craved for home made food, especially the lentils and aromatic rasam. Anitha  made my wish come true without even asking for it. I ate to my heart's content and blessed my hosts, Annadhata Sukhi Bhava (giver of food, may you be happy).  

We later headed out to KOHLS where I shopped till I dropped, picked up some lovely footwear from SEARS (but promptly forgot to pack) and headed home a few dollars lighter. I decided to forgo the heavenly puri and potato baaji that Anita had prepared for dinner and instead stuck by the garlic rasam, which had captivated my senses and my stomach. 

The next morning, we drove to the Guruvayoor temple, which had recently celebrated its Kumbhabishekam (A temple ritual that is believed to homogenize, synergize and unite the mystic powers of the deity. Kumbha means the Head and denotes the Shikhara or Crown of the Temple (usually in the Gopuram) and Abhisekham is ritual bathing. Source: Wikipedia). Hence the timing was excellent. Hindus believe it is auspicious to visit the temple within 45 days after the Kumbhabishekam has been completed because of the positive energy generated by the rituals.

The joy of seeing one of my favourite diety is beyond words. I used to religiously watch the Guruvayurappan serial on Asianet and then by His grace, I was able to visit Him him in Guruvayoor, Kerala, along with my mom on her birthday. To come face to face with Him again in a different country was humbling. My mother has been a huge influence in imbibing spiritual values in my family. In the face of insurmountable difficulties, you can find a shelter under His sky.  It is a beautiful temple, which also included Sri Venkateswara (seen in the picture), Satyanarayana Swamy, Sri Ayyappan, Hanuman and the Goddess. We spent some time praying and meditating for a few minutes. It was a calming and mentally satisfying experience. I felt much better and believed that everything happened for the best. 

After having some prasadam, we headed out to Mirchi, a south Indian buffet spread. However, my appetite had not kicked in and I just managed to take a small bite of each variety. The desserts were too sweet. If only they had balanced the richness and the sugar, it would have certainly been more enjoyable. Anita and Vijai enjoyed their non-vegetarian fare and ate heartily. Himai, their 4 year old son, was busy eating ketchup and kept us entertained. The food had begun to work its magic and we headed home for a good afternoon nap.

I woke up after an hour, had fresh, strong coffee Anita had made and got ready to go back to Philly. I had a lovely weekend with the family, more so because I was meeting Vijai after seven years and we had hardly interacted so much during our EK days. They were lovely hosts and I have promised to visit them before I headed back home to Chennai. 

I also have to remember to get the rasam recipe from Anita without fail.

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