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“Very early in life, I had started to get a feeling that our religious and spiritual texts were in essence metaphors- for us to decipher and understand Life and how to make sense of the Universe itself. Those of us who struggle with accepting the concept of God-do so because we can’t seem find a good explanation for Him, an explanation that goes without recourse to authority (beliefs, texts or people). But then even science has many unproven theories and concepts and is yet to harmonise whatever we even know- what I mean is that, at least Religion and Scriptures unify everything to the concept of GOD, but Physics seems to have different theories for different things – like The General Theory of Relativity that explains the big world around us while Quantum Mechanics explains the world of Atom and Sub Atomic particles – but there is nothing yet that unifies them and like me, physicists all over the world are doing their best to figure the missing pieces (or particles)  of a unified theory- at the moment we just have esoteric mathematical concepts- sort of how the scriptures explain the formation of the world.”

“Dad! Less science and more story please!!” I spoke. And everyone nodded in the room.

“Yes. Yes. I’m coming to it. But as I have always told you Ashoka- just because we don’t have answers doesn’t mean that answers don’t exist. Problems have solutions- and man’s greatest asset is his need to explain things via his hunger for knowledge- be it creatively, or by conjecture or explanations. That more answers will lead to more question…it’s  just the nature of things.

“Daaaad!!!”

“Yes, Yes.  So, at first, I didn’t pay much attention to The Nataraja on campus. Because all my earlier engagement with HIM yielded no answers. Maa you always said that if I prayed with a sincere heart- he will come to my rescue. But I didn’t get any sense of that. My constant pleading to him here at Kashi, or my visits to him at other temples didn’t help me understand quantum secrets any better. I would spend a few nights and days at these temples- telling him about my thoughts and my work at the university- hoping he would grant me with inspirational knowledge- after all I was not just asking him, I had done a lot of work- I had very specific questions and not just ‘please help me God’ pleadings. But no answer came through. I was frustrated with myself and decided to stop chasing HIM.

But over the last one year- ever since the three new particle discoveries were made at my Lab, I had once again been inexplicably drawn to him. And this time, I thought perhaps he is ready to give me some answers- perhaps I can finally lead the experiments that prove some of  equations I have been building around The String Theory- addressing the concepts around the  foundational particles – which could then lead on to prove the existence of other dimensions! So, I tried to get this trip in place for you two, while I thought of going to where the Nataraja originally stands in that pose that we scientists liken to the theory. This Nataraja was all the way at Chidambaram!”

“Aiyo!” My Mother exclaimed! “We could have all gone there together – its roughly 5-6 hour hour drive from my parents place!! Why do this disappearing business?”

“And have you mock me seeing me talk to HIM!!”

“But I do that every day myself” Mother exclaimed.

“But I have never given you a chance to see me do that. Besides-this was almost too sacred for me- I had to go to HIM by myself, at least that’s what I felt.”

“Wait a minute Dad, are you telling us that, that you expected Shiva to give you the answer to some “String Theory” by actually physically appearing before you and saying: Here You Go Dr. Ashutosh, I’m pleased by you chasing me like this. Here is your answer, legibly written by me on a piece of paper- now go and save the world! Goodness Dad!! They don’t even do that in TV serials!”

While I said this with all seriousness, Daadi and Mother burst out in peals of laughter! And eventually so did Father.

“Yes, I suppose that’s close to what I was mis-expecting.”

 “But, what actually transpired Ashu, at the Temple” My Mother couldn’t contain herself. 

“Well for one, it is a gloriously beautiful temple dedicated to the Lord. Imposing in height and space. Everyday at 6 am I made my way via the narrow lane that lead up to the east gopuram. The many vendors along the way tried to get me to buy flowers and other offerings- but I had my study papers in my hand and those would be the only offerings I would be making- so I ignored them all. Except, the one where I used to religiously leave my footwear with. As I walked up to the gateway entrance, I kept marvelling the superstructure that was full of images Gods and Goddesses but in my mind I was waiting to tell HIM, my stories. Would HE listen this time? I kept thinking.

As I stepped into the temple…my mind was now focussed- I didn’t want be be distracted any more so I walked as fast as I could to the Chit Sabha and took my place in the queue for the Darshan. When my turn came- which was pretty quickly at this hour- I didn’t wait a single moment standing in front of him trying to speak to HIM, in my mind, and telling him of all the equational complexities I was facing. But I was quickly shoved aside by the other devotees.

After this darshan, I would make my way to the Shivganga pool and spend an hour or so spent contemplating by the steps.Then, I would go out to grab a bite at Valliappa’s and then head back to my stay at Lakshmi Vilas, to further mull and think.

I would then repeat this process in the evening. All the Deekshitars would anyways think I was some mad man- mumbling with papers in hand- but no one knew me there- so I didn’t care what anyone thought. I just wanted HIM to hear me.

To be honest- by the fourth day, I was already disheartened and disillusioned. I don’t know why I thought I would get answers like this. But faith is a funny thing.  On the fifth day as I sat by the pool after the morning Darshan, a Deekshitar walked over to where I was sitting. He sat down next to me and offered me some Brinjal Gotsu and Samba Sadam in banana leaf cup- telling me that it was from the temple. I found it odd to have received this prasad so early- but I didn’t ponder much on it. I thanked him immediately, and continued staring at the pool, with the prasadam now firmly held in my hand.

“You at least eat that please!” He spoke

“Aah! Yes, Yes.” I was still lost in my thoughts but snapped out soon.

“Why are you here, Son?”

I sized him up in a glance, he didn’t particularly seem old. 

“Son only you are…I am actually quite old, it is all these prayers to HIM that keep me looking young!” He guffawed.

“Aah! A priest with a sense of humour! I like that! I responded.

“So, why are you here?” He probed.

“To get some answers, like everyone else!”

“But why do you think you will find your answers HERE?

I was a little taken aback by this, so I looked at him searchingly.

“Why should he be HERE for you? He kept on.

“I don’t understand…what’s the point of a Temple, then?” I asked

“Why is such a learned man like you, asking such foolish questions? The Chidambaram Rahasyam should explain it no?”

“How does the formless aspect explain what I need to understand?” I snapped.

“That formless is telling you something no? It’s transmitting a message, no? But the question is -are you bringing your understanding to that message? Or that also HE has to do for you? He has already told you enough, no?”

“What? No! What do you mean?” I replied irritated

“The idea that Shiva and Shakti are present behind the veil is known- but they are not exactly visible to any eye, no? Something like those particles you study?”

“Hmm. So?”

“What did you do to find them?”

“We built the collider and through it found Higgs Boson, and others…”

“Whatever! What I’m trying to say is did you guys come to the Temple to arrive at your discoveries? Or were you sweating it out at your work place to get answers?”

“But…” I protested

“Son, the answers you seek, the inspiration you need- it’s all in your lab, at your study- and that is where HE will meet you- like he always has. It’s unlikely HE will help with the particular answers you seek, HERE. As I see it, He is where you are- so be where you should be, on the route planned out for you…that is the only place where you will receive your answers.” 

That rationale really struck me, I was deeply humbled. I looked at my own reflection in the waters of the pool and realised instantly what a fool I had been. It was also when a sharp shiver ran down my spine and my throat went dry…drier than a desert

“Wait a minute, how did you know about the particle study?”

I instantly looked up- but he was no where in sight! I got up and tried to look around for him…I went back inside the temple to spot him but to no avail. I didn’t bother to ask the other priests because I had no intent to reinforce the impressions they had of me.

Throughly shaken, I bowed at the vigraha of the Nataraja again and again and again before finally walking out. That evening, I also visited the Kali Amman temple- because electrons and protons. And resolved to meet them both in my Lab next.

I walked out to have my dinner of dosa and  copious amounts of kaapi and having finally eased my “hunger”, I made my way back- home, back here. Got swatted on the head by mother and will be in eternal servitude of my Wife and Daughter for the grief I caused them! 

Just as Father, finished chronicling his tale- Mother instantly threw the yellow-satin cushion straight at him, catching him totally off guard. Just like the answer the Deekshitar gave.

“You went all the way for Chidambaram Rahasyam?! You do know what the alternative meaning of that phrase is right?”

“What Ma?” I leapt in to ask before my father could.

“That there is nothing there!!” My mother exclaimed slapping her hand on her forehead.

Father let out a wry smile.

“But at least Dad now knows where to find his God.” I tried being helpful.

“It will be a while till I can put this behaviour of yours behind me…” Mother continued as I nodded in agreement.

“So, for next few millennia or so, let me figure out our vacations! Any suspicious ideas from you-will see my cast iron dosa pan getting magically charged and hurtling it’s way at lightening speed to you! Capiche?”

My father laughed. And for the first time – I sensed a storm subsiding within him.

The End.

( or is it 😉 )

 ***

**I offer this humbly at The Feet of Mighty Mahadev, as well as at The Feet of My Guru who inspires me everyday!

**This is a work of Fiction.

** I want to thank all of you who came with me on this journey and gave me your time. I am incredibly indebted to you from the depths of my heart. 

❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼

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