Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fire walkers

On Sunday evening I went for a walk. I could see that something was brewing because there were great scaffolds built across roads and women and men sitting on street corners making garlands. I wandered down to a temple nearby but nothing much happening, past another and I was invited in to see the the Kali in the middle of the building. I nearly went home and then thought I'd go to Kotturpuram bridge where there was a large shrine to Kali. There were crowds of people milling in the street. I stood at the back of the crowd that had formed a circle. A man beckoned me to come through into the circle after removing my shoes and he led me to a place to sit. It was a front row seat and I could see a pile of hot coals between legs. After a while two men began waving palm fronds over the coals, heating them up. And then everyone was standing, and me too, and calls for us all to sit down. No way, not when everyone else was standing. And then they came, men of every shape and size, some carrying babies on their shoulders. I couldn't see so I took photos with my camera held high.


in the night a monster a man spiked with metal rods walking trancing his way across the coals that monstrous heat but pain deterred in this place where the sacred and the jostling crowds meet the whole world begins to rock like a school of fish everyone moves at the same strange pace our faces scorched by heat eyes ablaze in wonder at this feat that should bring tormented cries as if a mountain were bleeding lava the blousy flowers of trees shrivelling the rain deferred while clouds gather at the horizon’s edge tomorrow will be wet


  1. What a great experience Sue - and I love the way you have translated the experience into the story. When I was a child I was mortified by these fire walkers - once a year they would come down to 'Lands End' in Bandra - I was always afraid that I would somehow be made to walk the coals! Of course this never happened..
    I'm really enjoying your Blog - and it looks like you have settled in well.
    Sanskrit is enough of a challenge - but Tamil as well??? Strength to you! Lx

  2. Thanks - the whole thing was such a surprise it took me a couple of days to take it all in. I can see how it would be scary to a child. The good thing about being familiar with Sanskrit is that the vowels operate in similar ways.