We visited a temple in Stuttgart last Sunday – our first temple visit in Germany. The chance came when my wife learnt – while talking to a relative – that they were visiting this place; she immediately jumped and expressed her wish to join. Me, the chauffeur, had no choice but to agree; absence of religious inclinations do not play a role in such decisions.
It was a thirty-minute drive to the relative’s place (where their six month old baby greeted me with a warm, wet feeling as soon as I carried him), and another hour to the temple (which was prolonged further by the exit we missed in the middle of a conversation). When we reached our destination, it was around seven in the evening.
The street was in the middle of what seemed like an office district, with tall, closely spaced buildings wearing a deserted look (it was Sunday, I told myself). The temple itself was in the basement of an office complex: an open area with pillars in between, it wore a look of a car park hastily converted into a place of worship. Despite these initial impressions, the place felt like a temple. I was filled with the same sense of devoutness I experience when I enter a temple in India. The melodies playing on the speaker were loud yet soothing; it somehow felt calm and familiar.
While the others were offering their prayers to different gods, I took a look around. Apart from us there were only a few other people. Mantaps – crude, but patched up with colorful paint – had been erected at different places, each hosting a different murti. On some mantaps rough figures of gods were carved out of the cement structure. The place was clean and well maintained, however. It appeared to be the result of dedication and commitment towards building all this and keeping it going. Funds were clearly lacking, but devotion was not.
After aarthi, teertha and prasada, we proceeded towards the exit to collect our shoes. There, my wife struck up a conversation with a lady who seemed to be from the family that managed the temple. After a few questions and answers in Tamil, the lady said something that made my ears turn alert.
“Would you like some vadas?” she asked.
I felt my tongue turn wet. My wife hesitated, but even she couldn’t hold herself for long; she nodded. The lady passed on a word to a temple caretaker, who soon returned with a large plate of hot vadas. He packed them neatly and handed the packet to us.
The drive back was faster. There was little conversation, and we missed no exits.