Ma spends over an hour praying every morning. She's got a small classified room on the first floor of our house in Allahabad that has limited or no access for others. As a kid, I'd always wondered what's her fancy about. I tried sneaking around, mock-squalled, mock-fought with sibling hoping to interfere with her morning prayer. Today when I think back, I acted in defense of being ignored (ignoring me is so uncharacteristic of Ma except when she's praying).
When I cried as a peevish kid, she would scoop me up into her arms. She woke me up with a gentle hug and prepared the most toothsome meal when I claimed I was hungry and did thousands of other things to make me feel special and wanted in her life. Considering her shower of affection at all times, I hated this time of the morning when she ignored me and everyone else around at home. No matter what I did to assume a place of importance during her daily ritual, I failed. Fifteen minutes into her prayer time, she would climb down, chanting verses and head to the garden to gather flowers for worship. Whenever I've been exceptionally unruly and disobedient that hour, she'd signal me to quieten while on her way to the front garden and that is all the attention I could grab. She would get back to the prayer room in five minutes with a basketful of flowers. Her favorites are hibiscus, jasmine, marigold and to top it all is the butterfly pea flower. We call it Aparajita here.
There have been times when she has been into an elaborate ritual when she has asked me to bring her flowers but I had to qualify her conditions first. I had to change out of my night clothes, bathe clean, comb back my hair into a plait, wash my hands and reach the prayer room in time to kneel, mumble a short prayer and run to bring back flowers for Ma. I loved my part and would look forward to these errands. Besides, this was the reason I was allowed access to the prayer room and got a chance to sit beside Ma and observe her. As I grew up and became less boisterous and more understanding (urban green chuckles), picking flowers for Ma more or less became an everyday affair until I moved out of home.
About Butterfly pea flower: It's a perennial species here, a very fast growing climber with cobalt blue flowers. They are decently hardy and do well in full sun (light shade in summers) and likes being well-watered. They are available in colors like white, light blue and lilac. Pinching the plant is a must to make it bushy. The plant fares well in a container, and makes for a great plant in balconies.
Years later, Aparajita (butterfly pea) is still so special, a tug at the heart. I'm not unruly anymore and I know how important it is to say our daily prayers. Ma has an aching knee now, can't sprint around like in olden times so she asked me to bring her flowers this time but not without her qualifying requirements (Ah! Mums don't change). While I brought her a basket full of her favorite ones Aparajita, I was reminded of my childhood days.
And did I tell you that I did not sneak into the prayer room any more? I walked right behind Ma to the room and sat beside her in silence, praying.