As the month of Kartik draws to a close, the temple draws more people nightly. Thousands stream in to honor the Deities, light their diyas (small clay oil lamps) transforming the space into a fantasy land of flickering, bobbing dancing flames. But, this does present logistical problems. As this is a temple, shoes are not permitted inside. Many people simply doff there shoes ( or usually sandals) and leave them outside, where they are periodically swept up into disheveled mounds. Others, such as myself, opt for a more secure locale, and check them in. The sandal check room consists of a rectangular hole int the marble surface of the temple, surrounded by a waist high metal railing. SA man stands on a grate below you, his head coming about to crotch level. You give your shoes to him, he places them in a bag, gives you a claim ticket, and then hands them below to a subterranean storage area where they are stored. When you are ready to leave, you submit your ticket, this is handed down and the bag and your chappals are retrieved and handed to you. But with the crush of people, the system is definitely stressed! There are only two men on the platform both checking in and retrieving the sandals, and a few down in the Stygian depths where are sandals are sentenced to. The entire railing is a mass of people, jostling, yelling waving their tickets trying to get their attention, as more and more people cluster behind, pushing, trying to wedge themselves into to any micrometer of space that canI waited more. I had finally gotten the attendant's attention, waving as I did some coins to help him focus more. He took my ticket, passed it down. People pushed behind me, wedging me and wedding me more firmly to the metal balustrade that pressed ever more firmly into my abdomen (thankfully I have some padding there!) I waited, the attendant moved on to others having seemingly forgotten about me. People began to claw at me trying too dislodge me from my space. I waited more as the pressure from behind inexorably mounted! I tried and finally got the attendants attention, and he seemed to not recognize me. I began to remonstrate and he seemed genuinely surprised that I had not yet received my sandals, but disinclined to do anything! I envisioned walking back home, in the dark, as the power would inevitably be cut at this inopportune moment, limping my way trying to avoid, stones, craters in the road, glass, cow flops and the other usual debris and mess of the roads. I began to panic as the press continued behind me.."My chappals, my chappals" I cried whenever the attendant's attention began to waver and fix on someone else. The press behind me was unrelenting as others with mounting ipatience sought to occupy the space I was occupying. Finally I glimpsed my shoes disgorged from the depths of the storage room.What relief I felt as I clawed my way to the end of the mob and could breathe freely without someone's elbow trying to bifurcate my ribs!
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