“Yes, And” to the quest and the balance this universe maintains

Udaya Pillalamarri
4 min readJan 16, 2023

I woke up Christmas Eve morning, in Chennai, with a strong urge to visit Kerala. I was visiting India for a week over the holidays, in Chennai with extended family after 10 long years, and all I could think about was getting on a plane to see Kerala. I cannot tell you why the calling was so loud or the need to go there so certain. However, I managed to get the last room at a resort in Trivandrum within an hour of waking up and hopped on the first flight out the next morning.

Kerala, or God’s own country, is absolutely stunning and beautiful. Lush, biodiverse, coconut trees aplenty, the environment gave me a sense of tranquility with every breath I took. A cuckoo bird welcomed me with its clear, melodious song right outside my hotel room and promised to not leave me alone while there. After a lovely stroll by the beach, I started planning for places to see around the region and learnt about the presence of Sri Ananta Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

One of the oldest Vishnu temples in India, Padmanabhaswamy temple is documented to be at least 3000 years old and truly majestic in it’s architecture. The locals described a positive energy within this temple and let me know that its not always easy to get a darshanam (sight of the deity) there. Still, there was no doubt in my heart and I knew with certainty I would try early next morning.

My father always says, “antha mana manchike zarugutunnadi”. “Everything that happens (or has happened), happens for your own good”. It’s very hard to hold faith in that, especially when your heart is full of pain and grieving a love so profound that some days it’s truly hard to breathe. The next day, as I got ready to leave for the temple, my thoughts were steeped in the knowledge that there are no guarantees in life. The only certainty promised to me in this life, by this universe, is that change is inevitable. With a blistering migraine, gratitude journal in hand and determination in my step, I entered Sri Ananta Padmanabhaswamy temple few minutes before sunrise and waited.

Crisp, morning air met my lungs while my feet walked upon the stone covered pathways around this aalayam (temple). Men in black dhotis chanting hymns, women in simple white sarees and many tiny lamps greeted my sight. With my visit to the inner sanctum delayed by two hours, I decided to sit in a quiet corner and ruminate on my life these past five years. About a love deeply meaningful and unexpected, a home unlike anything my heart had ever known and the events leading up to it’s loss. About my failed marriage, the want to re-build anew from those ruins and the hurt I’d caused so many people as a result of my actions. Tears dotted my journal as I grieved openly and wrote in silence.

Stripped bare of any ego or feeling, all I could offer to the universe was me. With my failings as an individual, my sense of self developed over many experiences and a willingness to accept all that had been, yet to come — I sat there experiencing a peace deep within that had eluded me for many years. I was a stranger, having no knowledge of the language nor customs. Yet, in that very moment, I felt accepted for who I was and ready to accept unequivocally everything in store for me. A priest, curious about what I had been writing, decided to talk with me and upon further discussion I discovered my name had been written in this temple ages ago. The meaning of my name is “sunrise” and they take my name at the break of dawn every day during the first morning prayer.

“In the end, I’ve come to believe in something I call the ‘physics of the quest’, a force in nature governed by the laws of gravity. The rules of quest physics goes something like this: If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth seeking journey either internally or externally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared most of all to face and forgive some of the most difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you” — Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

As I drove away, after my darshanam, I couldn’t help but but wonder at some cosmic level my visit to this temple had been foreordained. The pain in my heart lightened and in it’s place a tiny hope for tomorrow started to bloom. I had this realization that I was not alone, the universe had my back and to truly experience this life I must learn to let go with kindness and forgiveness.

I strongly believe in love and the powerful force it is. Yes, I may not have my person beside me but I’m grateful for the time we had together and would have it no other way. We all want things to stay the same because of the comfort of familiar and change is scary. However, what I know for sure is if you’re on a path that doesn’t serve you — it is absolutely ok to stop in that present moment and begin again. I am reassured that ruin is a gift, it is the road to transformation.

So dear reader, the game is afoot and the quest is on. There is a world to discover, people to meet and experiences (good and bad) to encounter and learn from. Every day is precious and I continue to forever be a work in progress.