I dodge a white projectile headed for my shoulder. Darn birds-they always try and ruin whatever you’re wearing. I slip on my chappals and sprint to the car bobbing and weaving as I must in order to preserve this clothing. I slam the door and mutter a quick prayer and bid my grandparents goodbye. Today is my rite of passage-at seventeen years old I am a man today. Swirling colors of earthy brown, fresh green, royal purple and fiery red fill my window and I am overwhelmed at the smell of spices in the air-everyone is getting ready for breakfast-yet here I am speeding toward my judgement day. I adjust my mundu and see the gleaming temple-hundreds of boys my age lining up to receive their blessings from the gods. The line reeks of sweat as hundreds of young men are forced into small rooms filled with overpowering incense and several burning lamps. I am unable to focus on my own prayers with several of these young men shoving against me, screaming into my ear and spitting on the ground near me. After exiting, I wrap myself with a traditional shawl and wait in line to see one of the priests in the temple.I pass the time by reading the ornate scriptures on the wall which tell the tale of five great princes who banded against five hundred of their cousins and fought to serve the lord for rulership of the Kuru kingdom. My name was called-I vaguely remember some pats on the back and best wishes but I focused on the dark room that I was about to enter. I sat down only barely able to make out the priest’s face under the light of a singular oil lamp. I see some shifting and the priest finally throws some water at my head and tells me my fate. I walk out-squinting to allow my corneas to adjust to the well lit world. I am both ashamed and proud.Happy but regretful. Excited yet wary. Everyone is waiting with anxious faces-I tell them what they want to hear-my future success so on and so on but I keep the exciting bit to myself. That, I figure, will unravel itself as time progresses.
I return to my grandparents and relay the same message to them and prepare myself for the sadiya-a feast in celebration of the coming of age. Piles of dosa, chutney, sambar and other curries are placed before me but I can only contain so much. A chorus of disappointment echoes as I leave the circle and wash my hands. As the music and laughter dies down I excuse myself for a walk. As I duck past our gate, I head into the thicket that marks the beginning of our property, surrounded by luscious pink hibiscus flowers and groves of mango trees glistening from the morning dew, abundant with beautiful golden mangoes dripping nectar from the tops of the trees. I silently walk in circles around a particularly fragrant tree, until I hear someone shouting my name. It is time to go my father tells me. My grandparents are sad to see me leave so soon, but I assure them I’ll be back very soon. Bending over to touch their feet, I ask for their blessings, which they happily give. As we say our final goodbyes, I clutch the one thing that the priest gave me- a string. I excuse myself and put the string over my shoulder-I have joined the ranks of thousands- I have been marked a warrior.
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