February 1995 to April 1995
The usual procedure to undertake the pilgrimage to Sabari Mala is to take permission from parents (if unmarried) and from wife (if married) before starting all the rites.
So as demanded by the procedure, I went to seek my father's permission to undertake the pilgrimage to Sabari mala. When my father listened to my graduation story and why I wanted to visit the temple, he enquired how many of us are visiting the temple. I was surprised by his question and told him that I am visiting the temple alone.
To this my father got upset. He told me that I do not realise what the pilgrimage entails. He said that I will have to travel throgh dense jungles and the trek was dangerous as there are very high chances of getting lost in the forest, if we do not know the right route to the temple. Finally, my dad said that he is willing to give me permission to visit the temple if I am accompanied by someone who has already visited the temple.
I did not know whom to ask. So I went and stood in front of the picture of Ayyappa that we had in our home. In my mind, I communicated with Ayyappa. I said "I am still not sure if I passed by your grace or if it was coincidence. Nevertheless, I promised to visit your temple if I passed and I still stand by my word. If it is true that you exist, I will make absolutely no effort to visit your temple. If it is true that you exist, you take me to your temple and bring me back to Bangalore". I left this thought toward the end of February 1995.
On 10th March 1995, I was returning from my work on my moped. I was travelling from Cunningham Road in Bangalore via Miller's Road. I had hardly passed the rail over-bridge near the Bangalore Cantonment railway station, a man on a motor bike wearing a crash helmet was following me. This man on the moto bike was continously sounding his horn, despite me signalling him to overtake me if he was in a hurry. By the time I reached Fun World (Palace ground), I was really upset with the biker. I stopped my moped to the side of the road. The biker stopped just behind my moped. He removed his crash helmet and I recognised that he was a ex-student of mine.
He and I went across the road for a cup of coffee. We exchanged notes about all the years that have passed by. While he was my student in Brilliant's Computer Center, he was in a relationship with a girl. So I enquired what happened to the relationship, is he married. This is what he answered "Sir, do not ask me about it. Our parents did not agree to our wedding. So the girl asked me to travel to a small village in Andhra Pradesh where she would join me and we could get married. I reached the village on the appointed date and time, but the girl did not come. I waited for a few days in the village without any sign of her arriving at the village. I had spent almost all the money that I had. One evening, an elderly gentlemen asked me what I was doing in the village and when I explained the situation to him, he gave me Rs. 1500 and asked me to go straight to Sabari Mala and then return home. I did as the elderly gentleman advised and returned home. Now I am employed with TVSE and I am very happy. I am planning to visit Sabari Mala this April."
I was glad. I asked him if he will let me accompany him. He was surprised, since he had always known me as an agnostic. Nevertheless, he said I can accompany him.
On 12th March 1995, I went to the Ayyappa temple in J C Nagar, Bangalore and wore the mala (took the oath to follow the austerities to visit the temple) and visited the temple in April 1995.
Even now, I was not sure if I should attribute this turn of events to coincidence or if Ayyappa was answering my prayers. This doubt was to be put to rest in November 1995. That will be in my next post.