That evening, when I was getting ready for the wedding reception , she inspected my new diamond earrings with as much admiration as a shudh shakahari would show a wedge of barbecued beef. ” What is the use of such adornments if the Hridaya is not adorned with Daya and if the Manas is bereft of Shanthi ? Pieces of charcoal , worthless. ! “
My dear husband’s gift for our last wedding anniversary ! Worthless charcoal ? …..All the warmth , marital bliss and abiding affection that it represented went up in smoke. My face fell, almost resembling hers.

By the third day, I had become edgy but cautious . I quietly put away the very expensive hand embroidered table linen from Kodaikanal as i didn’t want her to accuse me of Moha , lobha , kama , godknowswhatelse and make a figurative bonfire of my vanities . And I hid the album of our wonderful vacation photos that was lying around as I could do without suffering through the ” tvaghatita ghatanaa pateeyasi maya ” dirge in HiPhi(losphy) from the saturnine senior. But I was unsuccesful in dodging the compulsory education she was bent upon imparting , in the fashionably esoteric kalisantarana- muktika Canon . I was also expected to prove I was paying attention, by raising doubts and seeking clarification. Just to save my skin, I shot off through the hat : ” If the Mind is both the Creator and The Creation of the Mithya Jagat , what I Seek, Introspect about and ( may) Realise , with the same Mind, would also be Mithya, isnt it ? ” She rolled her eyes to Shambhavi Mudra with such sanctimonious hauteur and indignation that I was almost vapourised.

That very evening, my friend had to call up , on the landline of all things, to deliver the hot news that Prabha was dating her ex- husband, just when eagle-eyed, snake-“eared” auntie was sitting bang beside me ! Inspite of superhuman restraint to keep my voice flat and uninterested, i giggled under my breath over a salacious detail and auntie promptly ticked me off that my ‘mooda mathi’ should realise samprapthe sannihite kaale nahi nahi rakshatigossip karane. Suitably chastised and spiritually terrorised, I slinked away from the scene, leaving Auntie to lecture my cornered husband on the necessity of cleansing our chakras.The clueless man was heard promising earnestly that he would get his muddy car tyres washed ASAP.

Fourth day dawned with the welcome news that Auntie was taking a day trip to Ranjangaon Ganpati. Unexpected holiday from seriousness ! I exhaled, let down hair and had a decadent choco sundae at Inorbit Mall .When Auntie returned that evening, bathed in a golden glow of beatitude from all the Holy Merit earned, she chided me gently for not showing any interest in pilgrimages : Love of God, Bhakthi, was the only kind of Love that deserved to be called Real love, all the rest was just emotional barter , she declared with self assured loftiness. 

Dismissing the love for kith, kin and kitten as something enslaving ( bandanam) and elevating the love of God as something noble ( bhakthi) is peculiar logic to me.The emotion of Love and the elevation of spirit it causes due to the release of dopamine into the system are purely internal affairs, having nothing to do with the object it fixes on, god or grandma. Infact, its my firm belief that loving God is very easy compared to loving the person next to you. God is created by humans as we want God (He, She or It) to be . God never nags, argues, snitches, complains or gets dyspeptic . Whats not to love ?! If God popped into my home, ran a critical finger over my greasy kitchen counter and slammed a no-star review on it, I’d be too cut up to offer even one of the shodasha- upacharams, bhakthi notwithstanding. But, God doesnt do social visits these days. Nicely encased in stone or metal and periodically doused with milk and honey, God sits static and inert, a perfect object for our easy affection which, we tell ourselves, is Divine Love.