Prayer Room Memoirs

Leaning on the door frame, she stared into the room that bore witness to some of the most precious moments of her life. The memories were so vivid, stored as pristinely preserved images in her mind’s eye.  She still remembered the day she first moved into the house as a new bride, happy but slightly overwhelmed by the prospects of a new family . “With one match, light the wick ma. May you bring as much brightness and prosperity into our family as this sacred lamp does” said her mother-in- law a few seconds after she had stepped into her new home. She chuckled at the remembrance of how young she had been, still untouched by the world or weights of responsibility. Eager to please, brows furried in concentration, she had prayed to the Gods above that she wouldn’t drop the matches or do anything untoward, something quite likely considering her naturally clumsy disposition. As the flame burnt brightly, she had breathed a huge sigh of relief and then, the rest of her life began to unfold.

The room acted as the backdrop for the infamous Thala Deepavali* couple shot ( which everyone had oohed and aaahed over for days together…lakshanam/tejas* filled,smiling faces + new saree/veshti combination always resulted in newsfeed domination!). It acted as the recipient for every single food item she prepared with lots of love on festival days. Aah..how many kolams* had been drawn in that blessed room. How many job applications, home loan agreements, first salaries and exam results had been placed at the altar for blessings of the Almighty! How many times had they taken blessings there from the elders before embarking on important journeys, before making important life decisions? It was where the days of each and every member of the family started, and ended, for what was life without frequent reminders of our higher purpose?

As her offspring made a dramatic entrance into their lives, slowly but surely, the room began to take on a whole new dimension. It was no longer just the place where she could spend hours in blissful meditation. It was no longer merely a place of prayer. It was now a room where she would ponder about how best to maintain her inner peace amidst the spiralling chaos created by her adorable little toddlers, who seemed to be running on pools of limitless energy. It was now a room with an added disciplinary element, a naughty corner of sorts.”Vaishnavi, go and sit in front of Bhagawan* and think about what you have done. Once you feel truly sorry about your mistake, you can come out” she would chide, trying her best to maintain a serious expression. Of course, she would peep into the room on the sly to watch what her little brat was up to. The cute conversation between the child(now extremely sorry about her mischief)and the Krishna statue was not to be missed. In fact, there had been times when she had run to call her husband to come watch!

As the kids grew up, the room resonated with the sound of the tanpura which was used to tune voices, tablas, harmoniums, mridangams and sitars. Countless hours of practice was completed in the confines of those four walls. “Happa! How many instruments do you want me to put manjal*, kumkumam* on? I can’t bend down for that long di” her grandmother had said during the Saraswathi puja*. They were a musical bunch, indeed. She smiled as she remembered the numerous times she had bribed the kids with promises of trips to the park and ice-cream if they promised to chant 108 Gayathri mantras in that very room,  daily. They would thank her for it later, hopefully.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her father and husband, who were carrying an assortment of tools and wood pieces into the room. Navarathri* was approaching and the Golu* was due to be put up. For reasons unknown to her, they had decided to go with an elaborate nine step structure. Time to make an exit, she thought. The construction ability of the men in the house was less than enviable, to say the least. There were bound to be a few mishaps. She rolled her eyes as they rejected her suggestion to perhaps, try and make a simpler version and wished them luck. They were going to need it.

What are some of your cherished prayer room memories? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Thala Deepavali( first festival of lights celebrated as a married couple), lakshanam/tejas (divine radiance), kolam( rice flour design), Bhagawan(god), manjal/kumkumam (turmeric, vermillion), Saraswathi Puja ( day where homage is paid to books/musical instruments ), Navarathri( nine day festival where the feminine principle is worshipped), Golu ( step-filled structure filled with various idols and dolls).

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

 

 

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Tamizh New Year Adventures!!!

Kausalya Supraja Rama Poorva Sandhya Pravartathe Uthistha Narasardoola Karthavyam Daiva Manikam*….. The smell of incense wafted through the air, amidst the fragrance of the tremendous ghee content present in the javarisi payasam* offered as naivedyam* in the prayer room. Patti* had already heated coconut oil and camphor in her prized kuli karandi* which she had apparently inherited from her great-grandmother.  She gently applied this oil onto my long tresses while simultaneously delivering a dose of scolding. “Thala la ozhunga ennai thechuka matela? Yen ipdi thalaiya viruchu potundu pei madri sutharel?” “Patti, neenga mattum ipdi solrel. Ellarum enakku  Koonthal Azhagi nu per vechirka*”. The oiling was complete and Patti gave the hair one final brush through. Amma walked in with the new panchangam*, freshly anointed with sandalwood and vermillion. “Where is everyone? I’ve been calling everyone to come to the puja room for the past twenty minutes!”

En Kaadal Sikki Mukki Thikki Vikkethu, Kumari*…. Appa emerged from the bathroom with an enraged expression on his face. “Who is playing all this kandraavi* on New Year’s day? Sailu, how many times will we have to talk to you about this?” “Yenna, be happy that he is at least awake at this time. Remember last year….?” Amma came to the rescue of her precious son, as usual. Eventually, everyone settled down, much to the relief of patti, who looked like she was about to blow her fuse at any moment. She could never understand why so much hoo-ha was caused on festival days in this household.  Of course, as the resident chamathu kozhandei* of our family, I cause 0% of this hoo-ha. Naturally, 100% of problems are caused by my brother, who due to some misfortune, believes he is God’s gift to mankind and has the freedom to do as he pleases.

No festival day is complete without a family photo in which we are all dressed up in our finest sarees and veshtis which will most likely only ever make a re-appearance during Navarathri* several months later. Obviously, the photo will be sent to all relatives and family friends who will gush over how big I’ve gotten and tell amma to dhristhi sutthi podufy* me.

Anyway, New Year’s day or not, the practice of oiling and plaiting my hair is a regular occurrence. I have a natural hair product collection that could rival any modern day girl’s makeup collection. Almond oil, bhringraj oil, coconut oil, amla oil, shikakai, gingelly oil etc. Let me tell you that washing hair that is way past your hip is no easy feat. That stuff is time consuming. Not to mention the drying process. But, it is such a therapeutic thing to brush out your hair, such a comfort to have your head massaged by your paati and no doubt, a great joy to have sambraani* waved under it to have that heavenly smell lingering about in your hair all day long.

I used to wonder why all Indian women had such long hair and it was only recently that I found out that it wasn’t just about the aesthetics. Hair is inextricably linked to energy and the Kundalini and that is why many saints and holy men place their hair at the very top of their head. This leads to a higher perceptibility to higher order thinking and actually aids in spirituality. Staying away from cutting your hair regularly also means that the energy your body would utilise to regrow your hair continuously, can be better used for spiritual enquiry! Keeping hair tied and not letting it hang loose is also an aid in conserving energy. So as much as many of my friends and family members would like me to “layer” my hair and “get with the times”, I think I’ll stick to my long hair thanks. Nothing more beautiful then a long, neat braid with some jasmine flowers in it :p

Happy Tamil New Year to all my readers! How will you be celebrating today?

Glossary: Kausalya supraja…..= line from a morning prayer regularly played in Indian households, javarisi payasam= sago sweet dish, kuli karandi= steel, curved spoon naivedyam= food offered to God, paati= grandma, Thala la ozhunga…= won’t you put oil in our hair properly? I don’t understand why girls these days walk around with their hair loose looking like ghosts, Patti, neenga….= you’re the only one who says all this, everyone calls me the one with beautiful hair, panchangam= hindu calendar, chamathu kozhandei= well-behaved child, En Kaadal….= line from a love song, Kandraavi= nonsense, Navarathri= festival, dhrishti sutti podufy= removing evil eye, Sambraani= frankincense 

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing are solely due to the fact that most of my exposure to the tamil language have been from my TamBrahm friends (I am not one). Happy reading! – Divya