We decided to visit Balaji Temple, Birmingham this morning. Balaji holds a special place in my religious mind since childhood.
Tirupati Balaji is my parents’ Kuldaivat and hence we have been paying obeisance to him ever since I can recall my childhood. My first trip I remember, probably as a 9 year old girl when my brother had his head shaven(mundan). It was a exciting journey from Hyderabad to Tirumala in a train. We stopped at Tirumala for a break. I remember having the longest dosa at this place for the first time. Then came the exciting bit when we travelled in a jam packed bus from Tirumala up to Tirupati Balaji temple! The bus took such steep turns at every hooks on the mountain, It was fun and remember our(I and my sister’s) squeals at every turn. When we reached the main temple area and managed getting our accomodation..I strolled around the guest house. It was freezing then. I do not remember the month we travelled to Tirupai but it was winter for sure. It was cold and misty all around. And all we could here 24 hours was Capi! Caapi!! (Coffee in local) by young lads with kettles and clattering cups! As a little girl, probably with very little imagination then, I was captivated by the beautiful scenery around. I was very much into painting then and carried my sketchbook and paints with me. I had painted a lovely evening scenery in blues and greys with the yellow moon shining in the sky then:) I wish I could dig in my mum’s cupboards for that book one day! It probably holds lovely memories of a girl’s fancies! When we went for the darshan the next day, we waited for hours in the long queue…well kind of a long, multifold snake turns with thousands chanting Govinda! I and my sister stood on the metal fencing observing every thing we could. There was crowd full of men chanting Balaji, and women clad in heavy silk, adorning gold jewellery with yellow wet turmeric on their freshly shaved head, cranky children and ajis’-ajobas'(grannies-grandpas’) all looking forward to their darshan. We could hear the coins churning inside the temple. As we approached the main temple, the churning got louder and louder!! At one point, we thought we had approached the main idol, as we saw people peeping in. However, they were not peeping in to bow down to the idol, but to see the people churning all the coins donated by people to Lord Balaji! He is the richest of Gods!!! I have a little memory of the deepotsav that evening when the whole of Tirupati was lit like Diwali and Lord Balaji was taken around in a beautiful Palkhi. Amazing childhood memories.Yes, all this flashed into my mind as I walked to Balaji temple in Birmingham this afternoon.
My next visit was with my son to Pune’s Balaji temple. It was just an hour’s drive that we could visit this place. However, since we arrived in UK, every visit to midlands is never complete without this auspicious visit to Balaji. Well this visit was with a difference. I have a sore throat and feeling feverish. When we reached the temple, I wanted a hot cup of tea.
We knew that there was a snack centre at this temple which is open on weekends and open it was. ShreeFoods serve piping hot idlis’ vadas’, dosas’ and uttapas’.
We loved their masala vadas’ and I especially went for a second cup of tea to soothen my poorly throat. I met chirpy Seetha preparing dosas and catering to her customer’s needs and Gautam(her muh bola bhai) helping her with the same enthusiasm! Gautam manages this with his project at University of Stratford where he is doing his Masters in Engineering.
She and her husband, Sudhakar work during the weekdays and cater at this outlet during the weekends. It was in 2009 when IT worker Sudhakar and Seetha, who is in training, decided this venture. Shreefoods seemed to a be popular respite to those who miss South Indian food and of course to those like us who drive long distances to pay obeisance to Lord Balaji.
Seetha said, she is hard core foodie and enjoys cooking. Her husband helps with the shopping and they manage it all by themselves with a couple of helping hands from young lads like Gautam and another whom, I could not meet.
If you wish to visit Balaji Temple, during the weekends, please do not miss out this good as home cafeteria at the temple. You are sure to be served with a warm smile and if it is Seetha who’s at the catering end, you will be mersmerised by her lovely smile and shirpy chats! Well done Sudhakar qnd Seetha..you surely have managed transferring a mini South India right in the middle of United Kingdom! They have a facebook page as well, please check that out.
To find them: Shree Foods Limited
Shri Venkateswara(Balaji) Temple of UK, Dudley Road East,
Tividale, West Midlands,