• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 12
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The Mundan

Sandalwood soap and flickers of LED light reflecting on black raindrops was enough to take him from the stark November-cold bathroom. The other world was a place of searing heat; it filled him. There, blue-skinned deities danced and he tried to dance with them; to meld into trees. The mirror sequins along the edge of Sapna Masi’s peacock-blue sari showed him stars instead of faces which glared at his naked toddler-body. Smoke rising from the havan itched the back of his throat, stinging his eyes until tears cascaded and trickled on to clumps of soft hair in his lap. And then there was the bright yellow turmeric paste, the consistency of toothpaste, slathered across his bare scalp to sooth the nicks of the blade; the odour of it made him retch. He jerked, nudging globules to the ground, staining his feet for days afterwards. His mother cloaked crisp white cotton around his shoulders. She whispered in his ear, drowning out the din of chanting and clanging bells. She said the tonsure was a liberation, that new hair would grow, appearing like blossom-buds in the spring, inching him away from the pull of the past towards the ultimate moksha. But then there were unfamiliar shouts along the concrete stairwell. He reached for his razor from the glass shelf above the sink, dragged it over parched skin and watched as coarse bristles scattered on icy porcelain.