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Chapter 28
I loved my prayer rug. Ordinary in quality though it was, itglowed with beauty in my eyes. I'm sorry I lost it. Wherever Ilaid it I felt special affection for the patch of ground beneath itand the immediate surroundings, which to me is a clearindication that it was a good prayer rug because it helped meremember that the earth is the creation of God and sacred thesame all over. The pattern, in gold lines upon a background ofred, was plain: a narrow rectangle with a triangular peak atone extremity to indicate the qibla, the direction of prayer, andlittle curlicues floating around it, like wisps of smoke or accentsfrom a strange language. The pile was soft. When I prayed, theshort, unknotted tassels were inches from the tip of myforehead at one end of the carpet and inches from the tip ofmy toes at the other, a cozy size to make you feel at homeanywhere upon this vast earth.
I prayed outside because I liked it. Most often I unrolled myprayer rug in a corner of the yard behind the house. It was asecluded spot in the shade of a coral tree, next to a wall thatwas covered with bou-gainvillea. Along the length of the wallwas a row of potted poinsettias. The bougainvillea had alsocrept through the tree. The contrast between its purple bractsand the red flowers of the tree was very pretty. And whenthat tree was in bloom, it was a regular aviary of crows,mynahs, babblers, rosy pastors, sun-birds and parakeets. Thewall was to my right, at a wide angle. Ahead of me and to myleft, beyond the milky, mottled shade of the tree, lay thesun-drenched open space of the yard. The appearance ofthings changed, of course, depending on the weather, the timeof 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 Iscratched into the pale yellow ground and carefully kept up.
Sometimes, upon finishing my prayers, I would turn andcatch sight of Father or Mother or Ravi observing me, untilthey got used to the sight.
My baptism was a slightly awkward affair. Mother playedalong nicely, Father looked on stonily, and Ravi was mercifullyabsent because of a cricket match, which did not prevent himfrom commenting at great length on the event. The watertrickled down my face and down my neck; though just abeaker's worth, it had the refreshing effect of a monsoon rain.


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