It all started around the time of Ganesh Chaturthi, which had always been the family’s favorite festival. They had all put in extra efforts to make this year’s festivities happier, grander, louder as it would be Lakshmamma’s last festival. It seemed wrong to be celebrating a festival for that reason, but it seemed worse not be celebrating it either. Lakshmamma in the innocence of what ailed her assumed that her family was indeed very happy in life and were making a gesture of gratitude to the gods. She was thrilled to see the large Ganesha statue that had been brought for the year’s festivities. She helped as well as she could with cleaning the house and preparing the several sweets and savories. Her excitement was contagious, her happiness palpable.
It started exactly during the Mangala harathi. The whole family was gathered around the elaborately dressed statue, chanting the arati and as it rose in a crescendo Lakshmamma’s eyes widened, there was a brilliant halo emanating from the statue as the words of the Arati transformed into the brilliance of the diety’s form. The elephant god looked at her, his all-knowing eyes benevolent, his smile a personification of peace, his trunk waved at her and her family. Lakshmamma was speechless, she couldn’t believe her eyes, the gods had blessed her and her family. She swooned seeming to achieve nirvana on the spot. As she swooned a red balloon that was part of the decorations exploded and she distinctly heard the triumphant trumpet of an elephant in it. “Madhava! Did you hear that? The gods have blessed us! We are all saved, blessed we have been blessed! Lakshmamma exclaimed as she swayed and collapsed in the waiting arms of her daughter-in-law.
“Things are going to get weirder!” The doctor had explained to Madhava and
Sandhya as they sat wondering, how exactly that would be possible, “A tumor is growing between the areas of the brain that hear and see. And as it grows it is going to press on those areas. Your mother will see and hear hallucinations. We can only hope that they are good.” If they hadn’t both been atheists they would have seen it as the gods mocking the very simple Lakshmamma who had been ever so pious all her life.
When she woke up that day, Lakshmamma was convinced she was blessed and had divine sight. So that day when she heard the maid walking into the house and it sounded like the clinking of coins, she told the maid she would be making some wealth soon. The maid promptly bought a lottery ticket and as you would have it won the lottery. This news spread like wildfire and Lakshmamma found herself as the new guru of the colony. She was invited to people’s houses seeking solutions to their problems. She saw auras everywhere, heard messages in the wind, the backfiring of cars, and the barking of dogs. She prophesied with the passion of an evangelical priest and every single time her prophecies came true. She soon became a saint in their locality. Madhava and Sandhya had no heart to dissuade her and evidence were surely against them.
On the night of her death Lakshmamma called her small family to her “My time has come” she said, in a solemn voice. The doctor gave her a few months more at least so Madhava approached her tenderly and said “Don’t say that amma! You will be with us for a long time! She smiled a knowing smile “There is something wrong with me, Madhava, the Lord has told me so,. And the Yamadutas standing at the threshold of our house, tell me I only have a few more hours. So make the preparations that you should. I have had a wonderful life son, and I am going to meet my late husband in heaven, so do not cry for me. I am going to be happy”,
She turned to Sandhya, “And you have reason to be happy too daughter! Your womb is warm with life, my child, I can see it glowing from here! Promise me that you will name her Lakshmi!” Lakshmamma said closing her eyes.
She passed away peacefully in her sleep that night.
Nine months later, having tried unsuccessfully for 10 years, as Madhav lifted his newborn daughter Lakshmi, the ardent atheist couldn’t help but think maybe they had been blessed!