As he entered the premises of the temple, the priest Pandit Gyandev Sharma beamed. ‘There you are! Everyone is waiting for you. I was about to start the prayers, but, nobody was willing to start without you. Hurry up!’ He laughed out loudly and said, ‘That’s the reason I rush here so early. It’s sharp 6:30 a.m. I am on time.’
He took off his slippers, kept them in the shoe rack. He went to the water tap near the temple and washed his hands and feet. He bent and touched the floor of the entrance of the temple with his right hand, and then brushed his right hand on his forehead and his head. He then went inside, sat in front of the idol of Lord Krishna, took his guitar and strummed the strings. The priest’s elder son Mohan, came with his cymbals. While he strummed his guitar and sang, Mohan played the cymbals to the beats and tune of the hymns. All the devotees were enthralled by the performance as always. Pandit Gyandev Sharma completed all the rituals of the daily prayers amidst the melody of the hymns. The devotees closed their eyes and clapped to the beats of the music and sonorous euphony. This is a daily practice at the temple. Without this wonderful hymn singer, Pandit Sharma never started the prayers. After every ritual was done, Mohan, Pandit Sharma and the hymn singer distributed the ‘prasad’ (devotional offering made to God). Everyone relished the ‘Prasad’ which was a dessert made of semolina and sugar syrup in clarified butter.
After all the devotees left, Pandit Sharma hugged the hymn singer and said, ‘You were extraordinarily good as always’. He smiled and said, ‘I learned from you. I am your disciple.’ Pandit Sharma laughed and said, ‘Where is my Guru Dakshina?’ (Guru Dakshina refers to the tradition of repaying one’s teacher after a period of completion of learning, be it academics or any other sphere of learning). ‘How can I forget? I got vermicelli pudding for you guys.’ Pandit Sharma could not hide his excitement on hearing the name of the dish. He said, ‘Go and give some to my wife as well. She has been waiting for you. By the way, I hope this dish was cooked by your mom and not you.’ He laughed and said, ‘I am a horrible cook. My mother made it.’
He went inside. Pandit Sharma’s wife was busy in the kitchen. When she heard him, she turned around, pulled his cheeks and said, ‘there there, I was waiting for you. Take this.’ She gave him a lunch box and said, ‘I have made rumali rotis and choley (soft flat bread and chick peas curry) for you. You are going for auditions today directly from here, right? Your mom would not have got time to make a full meal early this morning. So take this with you.’ He could not stop smiling. He gave the box of semolina dessert to the priest’s wife. She opened the container and smelled the sweet fragrance emanating from the container. She ate one spoonful and said, ‘Mmm, what taste! Love it. Tell your mom to share the recipe.’ He grinned and said, ‘Aunty, what if she says no.’ ‘Hahaha, the priest’s wife laughed. She would never say no to me. He too laughed and said, ‘I had better be going. The auditions will start in another hour from now. It has been my desire to be a part of a singing talent show. I hope I make it this time.’ She touched his head and said, ‘Lord Krishna is there with you. Seek his blessings and also seek blessings from the almighty near your home as well. You will surely succeed.’ Before leaving the temple, he joined his hands in front of the idol of Lord Krishna and sought His blessings.
At the gate, the driver was waiting for him in the grand Mercedez Benz. On the way, he got down at the beautiful mosque near his home and offered his prayers with due respect and diligence, before heading off to the audition venue. For Akram and his family, religion meant music and love. For Pandit Sharma and his family religion meant music and love. Hence both the families felt a close affinity for each other.