This year Wife decided to follow the pookalam ritual during Onam, creating flower-carpets for ten straight days. Every day there was a new layer, appended not to the previous day’s carpet but to a new one laid out with fresh flowers, and on the final day she ended with a ten-ringed pattern. I was assigned the role of petal-plucker: each morning I removed petals from different flowers (whose names I still do not know) and this practice acquired a meditative quality as I went around a flower, detaching the petals, observing for the first time their intricate curls and perfect symmetries, and it led me to believe that one could spend a lifetime observing the beauty of these forms. The petals, collected in bowls, were then picked up by Wife and arranged in circles at our doorstep to welcome, as tradition had it, the king Mahabali.
This simple ritual, repeated for ten days, left Wife feeling bright and chirpy in the mornings. Unlike me she is religious, and when time and circumstance permit she follows customs she learned from her parents. Such rituals, then, are connections to one’s past, one’s childhood; they are also connections to our communities, family and friends, and these days communities have moved online. So the ritual was extended: a photo of the pookalam was taken each day and posted on Facebook; some left generous comments, others were inspired to begin a similar routine.