chang was unceremoniously unstrapped from his pram, the bag of groceries was tucked in the bottom hole of the contraption and selvi was pulled into the depths of the hallowed ground. i raced towards the wood fire while selvi and chang melted into the background.
what i found cooking was sweet pongal, a dish made with rice and moong dal with copious amounts of ghee, jaggery, milk, nuts and raisins thrown in to bring out its heady sweetness. it was inviting, yes. was i invited to taste the morsel? no. the guardian of the treasure was an able-bodied 'Kannadian' Cerberus. and i was obviously no match for her. also, going by the impiety demonstrated so far, i had little hope of being invited for the repast. SO, off came the slippers, on came the hood, joined were the hands, bowed was the back. except that all the actions were misdirected to the wok of human weakness, the prasadam.
amidst all this selvi appeared and dragged me towards the deities in waiting, with an encouraging, "goo, goo, mamma," from the midget in tow. their 'darshan' was over and it was my turn to seek blessings. the first god looked like a cross between sri ramakrishna, shiva and a placid looking nagarjuna. he sat atop something i couldn't make out and did not look too happy with the world around him. the second was a lying kali. her body lay flat on the ground with her head raised above the body, ready to give blessings to all. the god is called sri muneshwara and the goddess is bhadrakali, apparently a very powerful avatar of the dark goddess. the priest was busy dusting the deities and performing the evening rituals. so although i sent frantic signals in telepathic morse code urging him to serve me the pongal, i was perfunctorily dismissed with the customary red tilak, a horizontal line of sandalwood and some foul tasting leaves. no prasadam.
this story, like every other, also ends with gomti, my maid, philosopher and guide. back home, she shared the 'sweet pongal' recipe with me ("not confused be the kara or unsweet pongal madam"), promised to make me some ("tomaro i make you madam. not worry.") and warned me not to go visiting temples of sri muneshwara, "the verry angry, nan-veg god". did i miss the 'nan-veg' chunks in the prasadam? blimey!