The beliefs and traditions of a culture are quite often represented by their perception of nature.
From where I sit, this plant of Tulsi towers gracefully over the whole landscape in my backyard. Colorful earthenware inscribed with spiritual symbols, customized especially to grow the Tulsi comes is all shapes and sizes. I had bought mine few years back from a potter’s little boy in New Delhi and carefully carried in my hand all the way to New York. I consider it a sort of a personal focal point of traditions, rituals and memories that we carried over that day. I reminisce how families back home would flourish around a tulsi plant and how it would be the essence of a day’s activities.
It reminds me of my mother who’s apartment balcony reflects a lustrous shade of green from a huge Tulsi plant.
It takes me to my dad who gently harvests a mature leaf or two from the bottom of the pot each morning and infuses its herbal properties into his cup of chai.
It brings back a fond image of my bhabhi pausing briefly to say a prayer while lighting up a small lamp each evening by the Tulsi pot in her beautiful garden.
I think of my sister who waters and tends to her Tulsi with devotion each day, repaints and refurbishes the bright red pot on all festive occasions.
My father in law’s gentle voice echoes in my thoughts. He reminds me each year to bring the pot indoors at signs of first frost in NY. Tulsi is auspicious, always keep it close, he says.
Nothing they do is staunchly religious, monumental or extravagant; just resounding bits and pieces of rituals and traditions that echo from ancient Hindu scriptures abundant with references of spiritual and medicinal significance of Tulsi, aptly named The Holy Basil.
It is often these understated and silent traditions that we build in our families that keep us grounded while uplifting us at the same time. We identify with and define who we are by the rituals of our own family. It also serves as a sort of infallible time stamp for our children, just like it did for us. They will be able to arrange the years by looking back at these family traditions.
Give them something to string the phases of their life beautifully, year by year, one small tradition at a time.