The year was 1999. I had moved to Delhi as a new bride, carrying nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and a small wooden Mandir gifted to me by my parents, a silver Ganesh Murti and a picture of Thirupati Balaji. We moved into a house in Uday Bagh. The landlady was a formidable woman. On the first day as I stepped inside the house, I saw a big picture of Guru Nanak ji on the living room wall, draped with a golden silk shawl. I bowed my head and folded my hands in respect, it was a good omen, poised as I was on the threshold of a new life!
‘I hope you don’t mind the photograph being here’, the landlady asked.
’Not at all’, I replied, opening my eyes and unfolding my hands.
I soon settled into my new routine. Set up my Mandir in one corner of the small study. Every morning, after taking a bath, I would light a lamp and pray both in front of the Mandir as well as in front of Guru Nanak ji. His compassionate eyes seemed to follow me everywhere I went. I followed this routine every day for the two years that we lived in Delhi.
When it was time to move and packers had come to bundle our belongings, my last act was to dismantle the Mandir and pack it. The Murtis I carried with me in person. As the packers left, I sat down in the living room, now completely bare of furniture. The only thing that still remained was the photograph on the wall, of Guru Nanak ji, a slight smile on his lips, his hand extended in an Abhay Mudra and eyes filled with infinite compassion. I bowed my head and prayed again, much as I had done on the first day I had moved into the house.
The end was as auspicious as the beginning.
As we both stepped out of the house, I looked back one last time, only to see that divine half-smile again and walked away reassured. Once again, we were poised for a big change in our lives. We were moving to the US for some time.
Life continued in the US. Initially, it was difficult. I missed my family, friends, the easy comfort of being home. When I felt particularly lonely, I would pray in front of my Mandir, and invariably, I would visualise the photograph of Guru Nanak ji as well, and bow before him.
While in the US, I became pregnant with triplets. It was a risky pregnancy from the word go. I prayed often for the health of my kids. When I was in the 25th week of my pregnancy, I had to be admitted to the hospital for premature labour. The doctor told me, ‘your kids seem to be in a hurry to see the world’, then he turned serious and told us of all the risks that could arise from an early birth. I was given a medication that paralysed me from neck down in an attempt to stop the contractions.
It was the most painful and scary night of my life!
The medicine itself was like burning hot acid being poured into my veins, and then there was that awful, scary uncertainty of not knowing when the kids would arrive. At that stage, the medical team was struggling for their survival, not for their well-being or health.
My husband and I spent the first night at the hospital. He sat by my side in that pokey, windowless room, his tall frame hunched in an uncomfortable plastic chair, holding my hand tightly. The other hand was hooked on to the IV stand, medication getting into my veins, drop by painful drop. I was going crazy with pain, both physical and mental.
I tried to pray, to focus my thoughts on the Mandir at home, and then suddenly, without any forewarning, an image of Guru Nanak ji swam in front of my eyes. The same picture that had hung on the walls of my house in Delhi, the same compassion in the eyes, hand extended in an Abhay Mudra. I focussed hard and prayed like I had NEVER prayed before. Prayed for the life of my children, prayed for their health and well-being. Prayed for the family I was staking everything to have.
I stayed in the hospital for six long weeks, 44 days to be exact. My doctors had given my kids 48 hours when I was admitted, but they stretched that period to 44 days. In all the time I was there in the hospital, unable to move, I prayed often, to all the Gods I could think of. I saw two images often, the infinite serenity in the eyes of the Mother Goddess and the compassion in the eyes of Guru Nanak ji.
When the kids were born on the evening of 15th February, we decided to name my daughter Ananya Narayani after the Goddess and one of my sons, Arjun, both after the great warrior from the Mahabharat as well as the fifth Sikh Guru Arjun Dev Ji, who laid the foundation of the Golden Temple of Amritsar. The first outing of my kids was both to the Hindu temple of Dallas as well as the Gurudwara, where the Granthiji put a kara on Arjun’s right wrist after we told him the story. I also made a vow that when I can, I would take my kids to pray at the Golden Temple.
It has taken me nine long years to try and fulfil that vow! Going to Amritsar soon. It is the culmination of both, a long-held dream as well as a sacred promise!