Coming back after Aadi
It has been quite some time since I have passed by this way. I have been busy of late; trying to fix the travel arrangements for the U.S. and the U.K. and still a long way from tying them up; taking the widening corners of my eternally hot, growing city on Minnal everyday; scrambling to finish my Panos Fellowship on time, handling my chartered accountant and tax; playing Stickcricket and getting good at it; and a million other things that could not really bear elaboration here.
But something happens that forces me to pick up the stylus again. In the Tamil month of Aadi we have just passed, given to wanton religious fervour, some parts of Chennai go crazy. I have nothing against people who practise their faith personally, quietly and even fervently: I do not try to understand their belief or what drives them. Yet, when they spill their religious sentiments on the streets like they do during Aadi, then I'm forced to take notice.
I mean, can you ignore a young girl who turns the bend in the road to appear suddenly in front of you, a sharp instrument going in through one end of her turmeric-yellow cheek to appear out of the other. Just beyond the bend she had just turned, there is a bed of smouldering coals, right in the middle of the road, cordonned off until the fervent are ready to walk across it.
Can you even fathom what goes into this kind of self-inflicted torture? They tell me the devotees hardly feel a thing. Maybe that is true. Maybe it is not. I surely know that when I see them traipsing across the burning coals, I feel my feet burning and that little one-third trident seems lodged painfully in my cheek.