I still cant forget the moment I first glanced at her in the passing only to stop and go back to take another long glance. There she was standing tall in a red colored saree with a yellow border under an asbestos roof. There were others beside her sharing space with her but my eyes kept going back to her. Specially her bright luminous eyes, those beautiful hands carrying the burden of protecting her children, and the tired feet standing all day long for days together. Some say, being fair is a necessity for a woman to be called beautiful. I wish all those people would get a chance in their life to look at her to realise how wrong they were. Perhaps, the term beauty was coined just for her. I was so mesmerized by her form, beauty, her very being, I forgot everything else. My name, my husband beside me, in fact nothing made sense. At that moment for me, only two things existed – She and I. My husband had to nudge me twice to bring me back to the present and it took me a minute longer to get back to myself. I was so awestruck that I saw nothing but her while taking those first two pradakshinas. On the third round, my feminine instinct picked up the cupboard at the back which had a mere 3 sarees and that too not great looking. Nothing that could do justice to her. I tucked that piece of info safely in the bottom of my mind and went back to stand in front of her. This time, as I took in her entire form as I stood before her, I couldn’t help wondering if standing like that made her legs ache. As if on cue, the helper there told me to massage her leg while bowing down to take her blessings and that was how people usually prayed. That made me smile a bit and as I bent down to massage her legs, I got reminded of my mom back at home and how massaging her legs felt like I was massaging my mom’s. I was asked to give harati to her – another unexpected, pleasant surprise which I truly enjoyed performing for her. As I left for the day, I made a mental note to bring her a beautiful saree next time. I also worried a bit on whether she was looked after and taken care of properly as my eyes took in the dilapidated temple structure - so much open spare space between the roof and the compound. That said, I just couldn’t wait to come back to her. The next week flew by in selecting the right saree for her, buying bangles, blouse piece, haldi, Kumkum, and such things. We went on a Monday to give all those things to the caretaker there and instructed him to tie this saree on a Friday. He readily agreed and again as before, I didn’t want to leave and after leaving, couldn’t wait to come back. Friday didn’t arrive quickly enough and when it did, we couldn’t get there soon enough. On the way, I got her a strand of jasmine and few roses. Everything had to be perfect for HER! On reaching the temple, there were hardly a few devotees here and there and she was not adorned in the saree we gave her. I was again stuck by how silent the surrounding was and how alone she seemed to me. If only I knew!! The flurry of activity began at 9:30 as soon as the head priest arrived. And with him came a throng of the regular devotees. The priest had his phone connected to a Bluetooth speaker where he started playing songs that I never once heard in a temple and had listened to only in Indian horror films. Sitting atop a ladder stool, he performed various abhishegams – Kumkum water, haldi water, milk, curd, honey, sugar, water soaked with neem leaf….and the devotees were rushing here and there to hand him those things. A few others were wiping the floor clean of the abhishegam water. The rest started gathering things needed for dressing her up and getting her ready. And what a delightful process it was. I count myself lucky for being able to help apply turmeric to her hands and feet and tie bangles to her hands. A few tiny tots were rushing around helping their moms set things up for prasadam, and a group of elderly were silently cleaning the diyas to light the lamp. Huge bundles of flowers were brought in to decorate her, her hair, and her mandapam. The flowers I got for her were added to her bundles. She was also adorned with garlands of lemons which were brough in by one of her devotees. The floor was quickly cleaned and a beautiful rangoli was drawn. And in 2 hours’ time, she stood dressed in 4 sarees, bundles of fragrant flowers, beautiful rangoli adorned near her feet, and lamps were lit on either side. After looking at the magnitude of the devotion displayed by the devotees I realized how wrong I was in thinking that a pretty saree and a complete structure means to be well cared for. I was running late for my work that day but she ensured I stayed to see her in her glory. I did and I now know better. She was/ is owned by everybody – mom right, how could she not be. Here is a picture of her for your darshan – Some might feel that she looks terrifying but not to me. Never to me. I can only see a mom who is scaring away those negative thoughts and immorality away from me. She stands there like that to show that every girl child of hers has the same power within her. To stand tall and fight the wrong. The child just needs to realize that to evoke that power from within her. As I pen this down, I cant help but feel teary eyed. This has been one of the most profound incidents in my life. Kali – the one who controls the time. I didn’t really pay attention to the spirit of Kali until I visited the temple. I instantly felt that need to be with her all the while. I still feel. I want relief from this cycle of birth and re-birth just so I can be beside her. My husband and I discuss her a lot these days. I am now pushed to a stage where I am questioning my purpose in this life, thinking, and re-thinking about every action of mine, and trying to make sense of the material world around me. It’s been more than 5 months now and I am still enraptured, enamored by her. I hope your glimpse of her is as beautiful and profound as I found her to be. Om Kreem Maha Kalikayai Namaha!