Saturday, August 11, 2012

Smorgasbord of Rituals

Habit is not mere subjugation, it is a tender tie: when one remembers habit it seems to have been happiness.
--Elizabeth Bowen

Often inadvertent actions slip into unknowing uniformity and turn rituals, but these everyday rituals define us, comfort us and bring a certain order to our lives. I'm not the paragon of self-discipline, and I lack a structured life. Yet certain rituals have osmosed into my life, and remained.

Coffee and Crosswords
I nearly barfed in my mouth when I first tasted jasmine tea served in the lilliputian cups by a stand-in-Chinese waiter; but the taste (or the lack of it) grew on me and this aromatic concoction is on my table every morning now. It’s a part of my morning ritual which includes the following:
  1. Fumbling under my pillow for my phone to check for any messages, hoping for some earth-shattering good news only to find BSNL/Pizza Hut/Tata Photon spamming my inbox.
  2. Two minutes of stupor as I struggle with the decision of acquiring a little more sleep, and as testified by my family this is the most dangerous time of the day to approach me. Civility is clouded by sleep and primitive instincts of violence are sharp.
  3. An unnaturally long walk (or so it seems) to the sink to brush and floss and being startled every time by my the sight of my hair that could nest an Emu.
  4. Drinking jasmine tea (and this time in a cup made for adequately sized humans) in a desperate attempt to replace the caffeine in my veins.
  5. Sitting cross-legged on the divan in the verandah, leafing through the morning newspaper to check the headlines and the crossword, and inhaling lungfuls of recommended daily intake of fresh air.
  6. Dragging my reluctant feet to the study desk where tattered MCQ books lay awaiting me.
 This routine has subtle variations once in a while to include coffee; and on the days I’m charged up about fitness (usually brought about by reading a new issue of Prevention Magazine) it includes an early morning swim/a walk/half an hour on the stationary cycle which on other days serve as a clothes hanger.

Assault of My Eyes
I don’t eat carrots, or spinach. And I read ALL the time. My hawk-eyed parents make sure I study enough hours in preparation for that elusive AIPGE seat. Then I read the books on my ‘to read’ list just about every where; on the pot, while I ‘inhale’ my lunch without taking my eyes off the book, on my way to the gym (on my way back from the gym I usually lay motionless and breathless on the back seat of my car), while waiting in a queue, while waiting for perpetually running late friends (I’m sure they say the same thing about me), at dinner as my parents threaten to snatch the damn book away and in bed before I drift off to sleep (in a 'dontiya do' position, which only Assamese readers will understand!).  Once a month I switch off my phone, shut my door, put on a pair of comfortable pajamas, assemble a variety of snacks, get in bed and spend the day in a marathon reading session. But my eyes have miraculously survived this assault so far and been at a respectable -0.25D all these years (I made the ever-obliging and surprisingly mild-mannered ophthalmology post graduate trainees check my vision quite often during my internship).

Notebook Porn or Life's Witness
I have a notebook fetish. I hoard them, especially the tiny ones with faded yellow pages. I keep a journal even though I am erratic in maintaining it and absolutely love the diaries from ‘Rubber Band’, with their unassuming black cover and smooth white pages with rounded corners. There are doodles, poems, even limericks and declarations of love and of despise interspersed among the mundane details of my day. Every night I furtively glance around for spies lurking behind curtains and sneak out my diary from its hiding place to jot down a brutally honest account of all that I feel, which would lead me to trouble in the courteous world.

Get Me Tokyo!
Recently the armchair traveller in me has been harboring a fascination for Japan and try to watch at least one of the following shows on NHK World every week: “At home with Venetia in Kyoto”, “Takeshi’s Art Beat”, “Somewhere Street”, “Cool Japan” or “Tokyo Eye”. I watch a movie every weekend, mostly world cinema, courtesy of the heaven-sent torrents. I will watch “The Red Violin” tomorrow.

The Secret Life of Monica Geller
Every fortnight I go through an obsessive compulsive cleaning spree that is almost meditative. I neatly fold clothes in my wardrobe and arrange them according to colour, I air the books in my library and the shoes in my closet and clean out disk space and back up the files on my laptop. This particular ritual is equivalent to a spa visit and rejuvenates me.

Of Talking to God And Not Telling My Therapist About It
I’m neither an atheist nor overtly religious. I rarely visit temples, and send my reluctant mother as my proxy to any religious ceremony. I have grown up watching my parents take their wet slippers off after bath, stand in front of the tiny ‘mandir’ at our home, light up a few incense sticks, bow their heads and pray with a devotion so pure that awed me even as a child as did the ritual’s unfailing regularity. I try to replicate such ‘proper’ prayers only before examinations and they are shamelessly need-based. But I have an informal talk with an unspecific and omnipresent ‘God’ daily while lying in the dark and awaiting sleep. I relate the events of the day and point out (for future consideration) how things could have been better, express gratitude for all the good things in my life-acquired ones than those given unasked-and repeated reminders to make sure that the coming day goes without any mishaps for my near and dear ones. I carry a tiny Ganesha idol in my bag everywhere I go. That’s all the religion I have.

The Rest
  • Being the sole custodian of birthdays in the extended family and undertaking the task of wishing them every year.
  • Saving up for winter, the season of books fairs.
  • Playing cards with my parents on rainy evenings and listening to Pa’s uproarious anecdotes.
  • Late night phone calls with my best friend (she does the calling up, I can’t afford hour long international calls) to share the comical indifference of our parents to the idea of marrying off their daughters who will always be 20 year old in their minds.
  • Making perfectly round and spicy omelettes on the rare occasions when I lose my way and end up in the kitchen.
  • Writing in stolen pockets of time.
  • Putting up a Christmas tree (remnant of a missionary school education and overdose of Christmas movies) every year.
  • Packing my suitcase two days before a trip and staring at the clock in a vain attempt to make it move faster by sheer will.

What are the rituals that govern your life?

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