I’ve never been a regular temple goer, but having spent a decade growing up in Atlanta, I always had access to a number of Hindu temples. As a child, my parents took me to the temple, or mandir, on the various religious holidays – Diwali, Holi, Shivaratri. I was generally overwhelmed by the experience — an immense number of people milling about, the cacophony of children running around and screaming, and the general sense of chaos that seemed to pervade the occasion. Unlike my mother, who genuinely reveled in the colorful and lively festivities, I was always anxious to leave.
But occasionally, when I just needed a break from the craziness of life, I would run off to the temple on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, when I knew it would be free of noise, smells of food, and throngs of people. I would just sit there for ten minutes, generally with my eyes shut, blocking out the world around me and taking solace in the silence and serenity of this holy place. And then I’d leave, taking with me a little bit of calmness that I hoped would last me until my next visit, many months down the road. It was quick and simple, and worked well for me.
When I moved to Manhattan about four years ago, finding a nearby temple was the least of my concerns. I was busy contending with the daily stresses that go along with living in this city – subway delays, Time Warner cable outages, crazy neighbors fighting at 6 am and then again at 4 and 10 pm. It wasn’t until my second year in the city, when it even dawned on me that I didn’t have easy access to a Hindu temple. The only one I knew of was the Ganesh temple in Queens, and it isn’t readily accessible from the subway. Plus, I’m too lazy to make the trek – even the mouth watering dosas at the temple canteen aren’t luring enough. Instead, I tried to find that solace through other means – walks in the park, yoga classes at various studios, attempted meditation at home. But the park had too many distractions, the vinyasa flow classes were too sweat-oriented, and the cell kept ringing at home. My attempts to recreate that feeling were well intentioned, but largely futile.
I had all but given up hope, when, by chance, I heard of the Broome St. temple – a Hindu temple in the heart of SoHo, only 20 minutes away from me. How was it possible that as a Hindu working for the Hindu American Foundation, living in downtown Manhattan for four years, I had never heard of this? It sounded too good to be true, so I paid the temple a visit in March and was astounded. There, in the midst of Bloomingdales, Topshop, and Gourmet Garage, lays a peaceful Hindu temple on the second floor of a building on Broome St. I was so thrilled to have found it (even more excited to learn of the yoga classes there…more on that later) that I’ve been back quite a few times and always look forward to my next visit. And like I was able to do at the temples in Atlanta, here too, I can very easily block out the madness of Manhattan and just be…me in a quiet temple in front of a beautiful murti of Ganesh.