The houses propped themselves up from the snow, apologetic of their existence, battered by the snow, guarded by the lifeless tree trunks. They came in white, blue, grey and even lavender with abandoned trampolines, swings and frozen ‘soccer’ balls in their backyards. Some stood close to each other gasping for air – melancholic and deserted.
She sat at the window – head resting on the glass, sleeves of her leather jacket lying on an open book on her lap, eyes staring out at the gloomy landscape of leafless branches, lifeless houses and ‘whiteness’ passing by. “Approaching Riverside” announced the mechanical voice. Few got out, no one got in, the journey of the ‘whiteness’ resumed. She kept staring out. The lady seated behind her made a phone call.
“Hey Tracy, this is Amanda. How are you?”
“Listen, I was speaking to David this morning and he was saying that he read in the obituary that Ellen Smith had passed away.”
“…yeah I thought I should let you know…”
The conversation drifted away. She blinked and made a solemn pledge to pray for Ellen Smith as a cemetery passed by her window. Her eyes didn’t emote. She closed the book. An hour later, she stood up to get down.
It’s been nine years since she had lost someone dear to her. Every year on this date she grieves the loss in her own way. This year she took a train in the North Burlington Santa Fe line and travelled 50 miles west of downtown to a temple.
She is now a part of the ‘white picket fence’ dream!
The way we choose to grieve our loss is up to us. For some we may notice glum in everything – the battered houses or lifeless yards. For few, grieving could be pushing it to the farthest corner of their minds. The occasional flipping through the old albums, family gatherings, a moment passed by in remembrance – and we move on. Does the memory get dusty? Do we really move on from our loss? I read in books and watch in films that one must ‘move on’. I don’t know if that’s absolutely necessary. Can we not keep our loss and pain close to our hearts just as our triumphs and carry on with it as our strength? Does moving on mean shutting it off? Forgetting it? Or letting it go completely?
Sri Venkateswara Swami temple rose from the ground like a colossal building – standing tall amongst the picket fences in a land thousands of miles away from the origin of Hinduism. A number of deities dotted the temple. The sound of the Hoover (read vacuum cleaner) criss-crossing the wall to wall carpeted floor played in background.
“The Aarti is for free. You will need to buy Archana from the counter”, said the priest.
At -2 degrees the priest had his woollen vest on. “Ah! This onsite posting takes its toll on the priests too,” she wondered (not aloud). Imagine the level of onsite support and problem solving that is required.
- From a land of spanking clean temple floors to carpeted floors – the challenge of maintaining the sanctity and purity of the temple premises (without using water).
- The on-demand Aarti and Aarchana to perform. (Devotees drive for hours to come here. It’s not like there’s a temple in every corner!)
- Improvising on the priestly attire to endure the climate, the list could go on...
“I’ll opt for the Aarti,” She smiled.
Two hours later, armed with a banana, a flower and some almonds as prasadam, she walked out in the rain to catch a bus back to the railway station. A Good Samaritan stopped his car, “Can I give you a lift?” he asked.
She came to the temple to remember someone lost forever. She went back with old memories and new ones – where people still stop to offer help and picket fence fails to segregate people’s ways of life. “Will the houses still look gloomy on the way back?”