The first instruction from my parents as I headed out with my cousin to collect my car was – “Get the poojai done on the way”. I was happy to accede to that order and told them so, as long as I was told which temple along the way would be open at 10 in the night. That day averted, every day after the car was bought was punctuated by “When are you getting the Poojai done.” I resisted all attempts, purely for some sadistic pleasure it gave me to ignore parents’ commands.
But then, multiple attempts to go to the University Quarters’ temple which, as everyone pointed out, was reputed for Vehicle poojais were futile as it was mostly closed. It was getting worse as my brother even started suggesting a whole list of temples to get the vehicle poojai done, starting with a Cicle Maramma temple in Malleswaram, a Gaali Anjaneya temple in Mysore Road, mostly with a smirk on his face. I asked him to shut up as I was sure my parents didn’t get the sarcasm.
Then one fine evening when I was working from home, I decided to pull my dad along and go the Quarters one and get it done with. We reached the place at 6PM and found it closed with a couple of old women standing around. I declared that that was it and I wasn’t getting any further Poojai or any such done for the car. On getting out into the slight drizzle, however, and asking around I found that the temple was open, just the gates weren’t. I waited for those to open too and asked the Poojari inside for the Poojai. Get some flowers and lemons, I was told.
I walked out to one of the old women who had taken station near a stall selling flowers and asked her if she was also selling lemons. She launched into an elaborate narrative about the nature of the monsoons in Bangalore this year and that she was forced to keep them ‘inside’. I looked around and realized that she was talking about the table kinda thing she was standing next to. After much deliberations I decided on 2 times the length of her forearm of flowers and 4 lemons which came up to an inflated 40 bucks. Deciding not to haggle with an old woman over 10 bucks in the rain, I paid up and ran into the temple with the stuff.
The priest, a young fellow, asked me to put the car keys into a plate with the flowers and the lemons. He took it in, did some Poojai inside and brought it out. Once out he did the usual Poojai with the Agarbathi, flowers etc, not bothered by the steady drizzle. At one point he gave me some flowers and asked me to pray and put it on the car. I wondered for a while what I should ask, and settled for a simple “Please let this be like my Honda Accord, and not cause me any trouble” which I felt was fair enough to ask, and not too demanding. After all, to expect it to bring me luck and shower me with riches might be stretching it too far.
He then gave me some more flowers and asked me to keep them inside the car. On the right side, he added. After an elaborate worship, which left me impressed about his work ethic as he didn’t do a mumble-jumble-sprinkle-here-job-over kind of job, he handed me the keys and the lemons. I placed the lemons under the tires, starting with the right front one and setting them down clockwise. I sat inside with the keys and put them in. They just wouldn’t turn.
I tried multiple times, they just wouldn’t turn. I looked up at my dad and saw creases forming on his forehead. This was definitely not a good omen. “He’s kept it in the rain for long in his plate, probably the moisture” I offered. He wasn’t so convinced. “Wipe it and try” he suggested. After some waiting around, where the drizzle was also gaining in intensity, he retreated back into the temple. I wondered if it was to pray more or because of the rains. The guy sitting in a battered Indica waiting for the Poojai next offered to help and got out. Just as he was approaching, I laughed and explained the problem to him and noticed that the keys turned. One of those things, where you do it a particular way by instinct and can’t do it properly on concentrating I guess! After crushing the lemons (my favourite part of vehicle poojais) I went in to the temple for normal prayers. He handed both of us inch long strings of jasmine as Prasadam and we left after paying him a 100 bucks. Not knowing what to do with them I gave my dad my share of the flowers. He promptly set them in the car.
We reached home driving through the rain. Once parked I started my protests. “I am not leaving any flowers to rot inside the car. The windows will be up and they’ll just fill it up with fumes” I rationalized. He looked at me amused. “Put them with the other ones on top” he suggested. Both of us seemed pleased with that arrangement and a quick compromise. I cleared all traces of Poojai from inside, firmly settling them out on the bonnet. Outside the car was a different problem for a different day, something I could also trust the Monsoons to help with.