One of my lasting memories from my childhood is of the smell of incense wafting through our home early in the morning. That was my mom doing her puja. Rain or shine, winter or summer, my mom begins her day with her daily puja. I’m one of those who has a small puja-ghar with all the requisite idols and photos but rarely lights an incense-stick. And yet, I think, I’m beginning to understand why the daily puja is such an incontrovertible part of my mother’s life.
A few years ago I started meditating. It was slow going, and I was beset by doubts (still am at times), and there continue to be days when I don’t meditate. But over time, I find myself returning to my meditation practise. Same goes for exercising. I don’t exercise every day. More like once every four or five days. And yet, despite going only once every while, I’ve seen the tangible difference in my strength and endurance over the course of the past year.
Even more than this increase in physical well-being, what my exercise sessions have done for me, is driven home the value of consistency. Suddenly, I see why my mom has kept up her puja practise for so many years. The clear, discernible differences brought about by the sheer consistency of my exercise sessions have made me look forward to my own rituals. I already liked myself better on days I meditate but this has made me see my practise in an all new light.
It’s made me think about my grandmothers, and other women of those generations. Maybe some of the things that baffled me about them were simply their brand of their own rituals and practises.
It’s also made me contemplate the “small” stuff— rituals that need not have any specific tangible benefit but still speak of comfort and peace, rituals that are a part of the framework of our days. Such as drinking tea. I wasn’t a tea-drinker for most of my life but I now brew myself a cup once a day and feel a sense of kinship with the friends, families, and legions of other Indians, for whom the gupshup, and the unwinding happens over the morning and evening cup of tea.
My husband, who’s also the official dishwasher in our house, has his own ritual—he either watches or listens to comedy shows or podcasts while washing the dishes, or more often than not, practises his own version of meditation by doing nothing and simply focusing on the task at hand. Then there’s my ritual of putting lots of oil in my hair the night before I plan on washing it. And my daily take-the-fresh-air-in walks, even if they last for only ten minutes.
All of which has got me wondering about the differences between a routine and a ritual, and the ease (or not) with which we can cross from one into the other. What do you think?
Note: I was inspired to write this by the Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. (And by meditation, and exercise)