The pujari who alone cares for the tiny temple in the village of Sirsali reached for his writing slate. "He doesn't speak" my friend Shashi told me (a common practice among holy men in India). The electricity was out and he sat on his charpoy (string bed) beside the inner sanctum that housed a four or five foot tall brilliant orange statue of the Hindu god Hanuman illuminated by candlelight. The pujari was a young and handsome man - a striking image with his long dreadlocked hair wrapped Shiva-style on top of his head. His richly oiled brown body was swathed in loose orange cotton.
He beckoned me over and began to write. I was astonished to see he was writing in English. "What place are you from?" he wrote. "Jaipur and Canada" I said. "Where are you from," I inquired, in part meaning how do you know how to write English. I half expected him to answer that he grew up in Mississauga (a Toronto suburb). The word Rishikesh formed on his slate. "Oh, I love Rishikesh" I told him, "I visited there, at the Gita Sandesh Ashram." Rishikesh, the site of the original Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram, is a tiny holy town north of Delhi where many westerners visit. From behind his gold rimmed glasses his intense eyes caught mine. Suddenly he spoke. "I was staying in a Shiva mandir (temple) in Rishikesh but I came to know that to find my enlightenment I had to devote my life to Hanumanji. So I am here." He returned to his slate and wrote "What can I do for you?" "I need only your blessing" I replied, feeling as if I had already received a precious gift, for in that brief exchange, his energy had sparkled through mine like a meteor shower on a hot summer night.
He stood and disappeared into the inner sanctum drawing a curtain behind him. In a moment he returned with a dish of prasad - "food that has been blessed by the gods". He broke off pieces of the sweet dough and gave some to each of us. It tasted deliciously like uncooked shortbread. We then said our namastes (goodbyes) and after sitting on the step a few minutes we rose and left the temple.
As we walked single file through the wheat field in the growing dark of the early evening, I looked up at the sky, crammed with stars as only a village sky can be. Thank you, thank you, thank you, I said in my mind. How could I forget even for a moment that everything is perfect and there is nothing to worry about. I am in good hands, I can relax.