The overnight coach arrived as dawn broke. I love to see a city start the day. The early morning light has a low romantic saturated tinge as if I am still dozing and dreaming of what I am seeing; never quite fully awake.
Especially in India, specifically this morning as I look at the first light of the sun on the pastel colours of the Gods beautifying the 170 foot tall Meenakshi Temple. I am certain there is a supernatural presence soaring above this temple.
A temple for a million devotees in reverence to Parvati and her consort, Shiva.
The bell rings, the temple priests chant, sadhus in saffron orange robes stretch out flat in prayer and the thousands of devotees – mothers in new sari’s and fathers stripped down to the waist with loin cloth tied up, holding children’s hands in expectation of reverence – together take the ritual of Puja.
These families have made the pilgrimage an annual holiday and wait patiently with a bowl offering first flowers, the symbol of goods that blossomed in us all; second fruit, characterises detachment, self-sacrifice and surrender, and finally incenses burning to symbolise the desires inside us. This offering is made to a burning lamp inside the temple which the priest circles about the family, and in so doing returns light to their souls with an offering to the Absolute. To answer their pilgrimage, the priest, the Gods servant, gives vermilion, the red powder, to their emotions.
I sit on a stone step drinking my first chai and simply watch.
I was wrong, Dr Jay does not have a wide girth, nor is he old. And his moustache is not so fluffy. However, he is very hospitable; he is kind and has empathy, he has one wife, one young son and loves dogs. But he does not have any donkeys! ‘Tomorrow’ he assures me, ‘tomorrow Mr Conrad.’
We talked some time about the donkey walk. He cannot fathom me out. He is not disrespectful but curious. And then Dr Jay returns to phone and make more donkey calls.
I return to the Meenakshi Temple. The light has become harsh, the air humid. Inside the complex the building breaths through it devotees in prayer at the many small temples. Incenses burning about the maze of dark stone warrens. I am confused, as if lost in a genie cave. The devotes create their own supernatural powers like the genie himself. I light a candle to my father and leave.