Chapter no 28

Life of Pi

I loved my prayer rug. Ordinary in quality though it was, it glowed with beauty in my eyes. I’m sorry I lost it. Wherever I laid it I felt special affection for the patch of ground beneath it and the immediate surroundings, which to me is a clear indication that it was a good prayer rug because it helped me remember that the earth is the creation of God and sacred the same all over.

The pattern, in gold lines upon a background of red, was plain: a narrow rectangle with a triangular peak at one extremity to indicate the qibla, the direction of prayer, and little curlicues floating around it, like wisps of smoke or accents from a strange language. The pile was soft. When I prayed, the short, unknotted tassels were inches from the tip of my forehead at one end of the carpet and inches from the tip of my toes at the other, a cozy size to make you feel at home anywhere upon this vast earth.

I prayed outside because I liked it. Most often I unrolled my prayer rug in a corner of the yard behind the house. It was a secluded spot in the shade of a coral tree, next to a wall that was covered with bougainvillea. Along the length of the wall was a row of potted poinsettias. The bougainvillea had also crept through the tree. The contrast between its purple bracts and the red flowers of the tree was very pretty. And when that tree was in bloom, it was a regular aviary of crows, mynahs, babblers, rosy pastors, sunbirds and parakeets. The wall was to my right, at a wide angle. Ahead of me and to my left, beyond the milky, mottled shade of the tree, lay the sun-drenched open space of the yard. The appearance of things changed, of course, depending on the weather, the time of day, the time of year. But it’s all very clear in my memory, as if it never changed. I faced Mecca with the help of a line I scratched into the pale yellow ground and carefully kept up.

Sometimes, upon finishing my prayers, I would turn and catch sight of Father or Mother or Ravi observing me, until they got used to the sight.

My baptism was a slightly awkward affair. Mother played along nicely, Father looked on stonily, and Ravi was mercifully absent because of a cricket match, which did not prevent him from commenting at great length on the event. The water trickled down my face and down my neck; though just a beaker’s worth, it had the refreshing effect of a monsoon rain.

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