Monday, March 05, 2007

Pittsburgh Perumal

How to get there (for the rest of us without a car)

Bus 28X - Pittsburgh Airport - Oakland
Bus 67A - Oakland - Monroeville Mall
Cab - Monroeville Mall to Penn Hills(Temple)


EBS - Pittsburgh Downtown - Wilkinsburg Station (walk to opposite side)
79B - Wilkinsburg Station(opposite side) - Old William Penn & Jefferson
Enquire at Gas station and walk 2 miles

Arnold Schwarznegger was informed in the movie the 6th day that he had to protect a damsel in distress from the devil to prevent a calamity to happen at midnight. He laughed and asked, Midnight Eastern or Central time?

It does not matter where we go in the world, we should always remember that the presence of God is always with us. The further we go from home or family, the closer we should hold onto his hands to guide us along the right path.

When I left India for the United States facing several unknowns I checked out by visiting Tirupati and praying to my Family Deity Venkateshwara for safety and welfare of myself and family. When I landed in the United States, there was an overwhleming feeling of HIS presence and I was soon directed to visit him to Check-in officially in the US.

The Pittsburgh Perumal Temple is one of the oldest Indian Shrines in the US and is also suitable located in one of the most beautiful and hilly state Pennsylvania. Not knowing a soul over there and placing my faith completely in his hands, I landed in the Pittsburgh airport. When I was about to leave the airport I enquired one of the Indian co-passengers asking where I could find the Pittsburgh Perumal Temple and she had absolutely no idea and even confused it to be a Jain temple. Not discouraged I apprached the Tourism Information Centre in the airport and the lady there showed me the directions and even understood the place I was looking for and gave me directions by bus. The distance from the airport to the temple is 35 miles but I was able to cover it in just $4 which most people would not even dream of or tried. This happens purely by God's grace alone.

I got into the Bus 28x and along the way saw young and energetic college students of Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh universities make their way long. I was supposed to land in Oakland Mall and then take the 67A to Monroeville Mall. But I was soon confused where I was supposed to land because there was no indication of the stop and when I saw us going past an exit sign going to Monroeville Mall, I decided to get down and Oops the place happened to be Pittsburgh downtown.

Luckily I saw another Tourist Information centre nearby and I went in and tried to get my bearings again. She looked at me oddly when I asked her whether I was in Pittsburgh! Then as per the directions given, I got in the EBS and got down at Wilkinsburg Station and walked across the street to the opposite side. I waited for around 40 minutes freezing in the cold snow and wind ceaselessly chanting HIS name when the bus finally turned up. Initially the driver did not recognize the location I was going to but finbally got her bearings and dropped me off at the Old Willian Penn & Jefferson cross. There was a Gas station here and when I enquired they immediately guided me to the road to the temple.

From there started a 2mile hike with the KnapSack on my back. There was not a soul on the road and the hills were covered with snow. The wind was bowing along the trees and only my breath and footsteps disturbed the silence. The effect was almost like walking the portion of Tirupati hills after crossing Kali Gopuram and walking along the road before the next set of steps.

After what seemed to be a timeless journey, I suddenly saw the Gopuram of the Magnificient Structure across the highway. My heart felt a leap and soon I started running with the words Govinda, Gopala echoing in my ears. I crossed under the highway through a tunnel and emerged on the other side to a steep incline that led me to the temple.

I neared the temple door with tears in my eyes, panting breathe and beating heart. Then to my shock and grief I found that the temple door was locked. There was only one set of footsteps leading to the door and leading away from it. There was no one at all in sight. Rama, is this all your play? Why is it that you make a devotee suffer to see you? Can't you realize that I have no one in my heart except you? Right now you are the only one in my vision, my thoughts and you fill my whole being. Please let me re-unite with you.

I went around the temple twice trying to find an entrance and the third time I noticed a maintenance van parked near the rear. The person inside was asleep the first two rounds and in the third round he had woken up.

I asked him where the entrace was and he said that he did not know what happens up front but the service area was behind where some construction was going on. I ran inside, past the construction, past the materials, past the doors that marked no entry and authorized personnel only till I landed in what appeared to be a kitchen.

At last I found a smiling face. The cook greeted me warmly and guided me to an open entrance on the side of the temple which looked more like an office entrance rather than a Temple Dwaram. I blasted the people inside for keeping the Temple main door closed breaking the heart of Pilgrims who could come from far and wide. They apologized profusely and informed that the Temple door was opened only in auspicious times. I told them that a temple front door should NEVER be closed because no one has the right to stand between a devotee and the lord at any time or any day.

I went inside the temple and I saw Ganesh, Lakshmi, Andal and there he was, the player, the actor, the director of all the worlds. I had checked out of India in Tirupati and now I had Checked in Pittsburgh in the US. Now my official immigration was complete. I saw a Sathya Narayana Pooja had been performed and I received some fantastic Prasadam including Pongal, Kesari and Coconut Rice. Back in the Kitchen, I had some Curd Rice and then brought some Laddoo Boondhi Prasadam for my Guest House mates.

Soon it was time to leave because I had to attend a Microsoft event in an hour. There was no way I could jump three buses and still make it. Then a lady in the temple offered to drop me
off near the Sheraton because her workplace was nearby.

She went and changed from a Sari to Jeans and rubbed off the mark on her forehead (why???) and on the drive back she enquired about how India is today. I told her the United States is fast becoming the India I always wanted India to be. Spiritual, fully utilizing one's potential and freedom to follow one's dreams. While India is fast becoming the US that one sees on TV and dislikes.

I shared how girls there do not want to come to a temple and instead want to go to pubs, discos, nightclubs or restaurants while boys are increasingly seeking out peace of mind, going for meditation classes, Yoga and other things. She said that the Indian girls here are
different. They won't mind going out with you to a temple for the first time. After that (and she smiled) they will want the thrilling places to hang out.

I landed on time for the Microsoft event and completed a full day exploring both inside and outside. I returned to the airport in a cab with a young cabbie. He explained how he worked part time in a county airport and was interested in aviation electronics. I said, hey that's
great! If you focus a little more, you could go into NASA! He said true, but I love what I do and I am content with my life and my work and with the girl in my life.

What I have found is that people want more and more in their life but are increasingly unable/unwilling to give something from themselves in equivalent to get it. Once I realized this paradox, I found contentment and suddenly the world was less of a struggle.

Perhaps there lies the message from the trip to Pittsburgh.