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It’s 4:30 in the morning. The typically congested Dr Annie Besant Road is finally quiet. But if it is a Tuesday, walk a few steps and you come across a bustling scene. Long lines of devotees, children included, queued up for the Mangalwaar (Tuesday) darshan at the Siddhivinayak Temple. All around them, hawkers selling flowers, coconuts, garlands and other offerings for Bappa.
In this melee is a smiling face. Ushali Sarve (44) has been selling her wares at this spot for more than 20 years now.
“So much has changed here since then. Earlier, there used to be a garden, a subway and even a bus stop so that devotees could be dropped off at the temple’s doorstep. All that has changed now,” says Sarve, sitting alongside her husband, who has another stall nearby.
Despite the many years and the long hours, Sarve doesn’t find her job monotonous or tiring. On Tuesdays, her day begins at 2 am — when she sets up her stall with flowers supplied in the evening. At 3:15 am, the temple doors are thrown open, and from then on, devotees continue to flock to the temple, till it closes at 12:30 am the next day. “On Tuesdays, we don’t sleep. On other days, the temple is open from 5:30 am to 9:50 pm, so we can get rest after that,” she says.
“Our motivation to work is to educate our children. My elder daughter has just finished her final year engineering exams. My son is in Class VIII. If they get educated, they will earn money and keep the family happy,” she says.
Sarve believes she is privileged to have served at the temple for so long. “We used to be goldsmiths in our village in Ratnagiri, long ago. But then we ran into huge losses, everything was lost. It was Bappa who saved us. It is because of Him that we are happy today. He has taught us that if we work tirelessly, everything will fall into place,” she says.
Sarve and her family go back to their village whenever they get time off. But even then, Sarve makes it a point to visit other holy shrines. “God has given us so much. The least we can do is thank him for being so grateful,” she explains.