Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rituals- Reassuring and comforting

Carrying out routine tasks like cleaning, cooking and tidying can be, not just relaxing, but therapeutic. However, more importantly there are rituals which one gets used to, routine things which become a source of reassurance and comfort.

Everybody has memories of such rituals which evoke nostalgia.

I remember the awe and wonder, with which we marvelled at the tape recorder, when it arrived in our house in the 70s. All of our voices were recorded and played back to us. One of the things I remember listening to on the tape recorder, was my grandmother (nani) chatting to her brother from the village. It was a long conversation about the crops, the trees, the relatives, the friends and the neighbours interspersed with events, conversations and people from the past..

Nani, as we knew her, at the time, was a bustling busy woman, feeding us pancakes, ghee parathas, puris, phirni, halwa, nimki, thekua....etc. We always saw her going from one chore to the next and if she was sitting down, she was usually cleaning a leafy vegetable like spinach or coriander or cleaning rice or pulses before the age of polythene packed clean grains; or she would want to oil my hair (she could not see the vanity behind flying dishevelled hair) or oil massage the child's leg closest to her, one she could get her restless hands on.

Therefore the unhurried pace of the unwinding, relaxing and happy conversation about everything which nani, a child bride, had left behind in the village, was indicative that it was a ritual, she obviously looked forward to. It was something which made her feel connected. The memory of the conversation which somebody had recorded makes me wonder how much we took her for granted and how little we knew of her dreams, her wishes....

Similarly I always remember my parents' morning tea ritual. They woke up early. Their attire and their early morning chores differed depending on where we were. Mummy graduated from sari to  salwar kameez, while  Papa stopped wearing pyjama kurta and graduated to t-shirts and trousers when we moved to Delhi. Both were avid gardeners and hence either we had a big garden, which needed tending to, with some help or just some potted plants. We always seemed to have a dog or two dogs who needed to be walked (for some time we had an unmanageable three)

But they had at least two if not four cups of tea in the morning, while juggling the gardening and dog walking. Initially our live in help, with ever increasing words of protest and reluctance, would obligingly continue to make additional cups of tea but soon a truce was reached.

For a long time, tea was made and kept in a flask and then mum and dad kept pouring it and drinking it. My mother an otherwise Type A personality with routines, to do lists and watches which had to be correct to the second...synchronized with the radio and later the television; strangely, did not find the early morning tea ritual, something which she would class as a waste of her time, something she would want to do without. It was a comforting and reassuring thing that we all saw until Papa passed away....morning spent in each others company drinking numerous cups of tea.

Having just read about the devastation which wars and weapons cause in Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns" I realise how comforting a simple ritual like having a cup of tea with someone can be.

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