I woke with throbbing pain behind my right eye, the premonition of a raging migraine for later in the day. I powered on, hoping the pain will go away. By mid-day, the light from the screen, the smells from cooking, the sounds of my children happily playing all clashed, clanged and reduced me to tears.
I popped a pill, downed my food and surrendered myself to a nap. A blissful three hour stretch of time I cannot account for. When I woke, the raging pain was a pale imitation of its worst self. I treated myself to a strong cup of coffee and opted to make a simple dinner of curd rice and leftover avarakkai kootu.
The children complained but inhaled the rice. I rinsed plates, eyed the still running dishwasher, made a quick trip to the mailbox and returned with packages.
The girls crowded around their dad. One sitting on his lap, her stubby leg over her other leg. Another leaned on his shoulder, her frame contoured to fit with his. The third sat on the sofa above, her legs resting on his back. All three were glued to the TV where a YouTuber was taking them on a tour of street food in Mumbai.
This is a new ritual in our home. Every evening dad and girls sit and watch food videos. They award points, aww and ooh in unison and laugh at exactly the same parts. Most days I am in the study, reading, browsing, writing and carving out my pocket of happiness.
A friend shared this article on rituals on Twitter. It struck a chord. In fact, it resonated so much that I shared it on my social media feeds. I have the rituals that make sense to no one but me. I chant the Vishnu Sahasranamam every day as I walk on my elliptical. My voice rises and falls with the cadence of the women chanting alongside me on the phone. I revel in how the words feel, the depth of the sounds emanating from somewhere in my abdomen, rising and finding form outside of my being.
Each day, I step off the elliptical filled with something akin to peace. A sense of contentment that stems from deep inside me. A feeling that has no relationship to religion considering it is prayer.
Every single morning as I walk to my chair in the study before I start my work, my eyes search for the Tanjore painting of Lakshmi that amma gifted me. Her form is compassionate, her eyes benevolent. Sometimes I nod. Other days, I fall at her feet. Most days though I blow an “I love you” to her.
These are trying times. We are still battling an adrenaline rush. We will emerge from this traumatized in different ways. Rituals help to create predictable spaces, our personal pockets of happiness. It brings order when everything else seems beyond our control. It puts us in charge for a brief period of time, controlling our narratives, creating an oasis, an illusion that all is well.
What are your rituals? What brings you happiness in these uncertain times? What is your pocket of happy?