Today was like a new pair of fancy designer jeans. I got everything done and looked good doing it. But everything was a little awkward, like new jeans not yet stretched. Tasks felt tight, a little uncomfortable, and I was aware of every moment (and not in a Zen-like way). I should have known the day was going to be like this, judging by the way my Tuesday Kali puja went.
Usually I am up before the household so I can get some exercise and spiritual practice in before the needs of others take over my attention. This Tuesday was Veteran’s Day, so both of the big kids were home from school. We all slept in (7:45 am is sleeping in!) and I got to devotions much later. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited until after breakfast and my morning cup of tea….
Because the kids were up and I know that Kali likes the kids, I invited them to join for me puja. I thought this might be a way to minimize interruptions – “Mama, are you in there?” “Mama? *knock knock* Are you doing puja? Can I watch cartoons? Papa said no.” And so on.
The baby, who was miserable thanks to her immunizations the previous day, was definitely hanging out with me, as I have not been able to stop touching her for more than five minutes. My middle child also decided to join us, after she decorated the altar with Duplo blocks. I prepared for puja: collecting supplies, doing some light cleaning, gathering fresh water. I sat down flanked by both girls and began to get started.I couldn’t get the incense to light.
I got a corner of the charcoal going. Incense began to burn. I censed the entire shrine and said my greetings. The baby began to fuss. I shifted her in my lap and then her big sister decided this was boring and left. And then came back. And then left.
I made the quickest kala I’ve ever made.
The baby pooped. About five times. Hey! She was much happier now!
I began the formal puja.
The incense stopped burning. While trying to get it going again I burnt my thumb. Pretty badly.
Son decided to knock on the door to ask me to read to him.
I realized I’d forgotten some prayers, so I did them out of order. When I thought I’d finished I realized that I’d forgotten an entire section of my ritual. I quickly did that section of things, ending the ritual for a second time.
It was the least “holy,” most hilarious, and seemingly ineffective puja I have ever done. In fact, it was so bad I apologized. Twice. Once right afterward and once later on in the day when I remembered just how awful the puja was. Oh Kali, please forgive me. I am so sorry for that mess.
I hope the gods have a sense of humor.
Thankfully, next Tuesday I get a chance to make Kali puja again. And do it right.