Aai used to go to the temple every Tuesday. She’d carry a silver thali with a silver diya, the wick was rolled from a fluff of cotton she kept in her sewing box, and dunked in ghee, waiting to be lit; she also carried a fresh coconut and flowers, usually marigold, but at times a soft hibiscus, to offer to the Gods, along with her prayers. On Tuesdays Aai didn’t ask for anything, no matter how great her need. On Tuesdays her worship was selfless, pure.
In the old days, when she was much younger, Aai would wake up even earlier than her 5:30 weekly alarm to prepare Prasad, an offering of sweetmeats, before going to the Temple. The aroma of ghee and sugar would embrace us, discreetly nudging out sleep and replacing it with a ferocious hunger. Later on, when her knees and bones grew indignant, Aai replaced the elaborately prepared sweets with chunks of white rock sugar. She never once complained over the slow creeping changes that forced her to alter her ways.
Aai was always back home from the Temple in time for breakfast. She smelled like sandalwood and her smile was serene. After she had offered the flowers at the temple, she’d pick one up, sprinkle it with holy water and carry it back home. She’d press the soft, cool flower against our closed eyes, chanting a soft hymn. On Tuesdays I always felt invincible. Maybe it was the full stomach, stacked with rich, homemade sweets, or maybe it was Aai’s prayers. Tuesdays were always the best days of the week, better even then the weekends, when we could sleep late.
I was barely out of college when Aai passed away. The grief made a workaholic out of me, but her blessings and prayers always ensured me and my sister led good, full lives. Years later, when I was married and pregnant with my first daughter, I keep thinking of Aai. I’d flip through old family albums and remember long forgotten details; I’d remember the sound of her tinkling laughter; I’d remember a joke she had shared; I’d remember the Tuesday morning aromas and catch a hint of hibiscus in the air.
My daughter was born early on a Tuesday morning. She had Aai’s brown eyes, and as I’d find out later, her laugh. That morning, exhausted but content, as I held my new born daughter in my arms, I knew it was time to revive Aai’s Tuesday morning ritual.