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272 steps, and it’s way too early in the morning. 2/1/2007

I got up at zero dark thirty this morning.  Late for a meeting with some friends, because last night I was using an alarm clock that I wasn’t familiar with, and I had neglected to flick the tiny alarm switch at the back to the “on” position.  And it has become habit for me to switch the mobile off at night.  This is because the mobile number I now have, after the company switched providers, is a “recycled” number, which had previously belonged to someone else.  I have no frigging idea what occupation the previous owner of this number had, but for some reason, the phone will ring at the dead hours of the night, usually some young chinese girls asking for a certain person.  I usually just say “wrong number”,  and put the phone down.  But these young ladies don’t speak English, or any of the chinese dialects that I speak.  And my Mandarin is non-existent at best, unless you want to count asking bar hostesses the price of a bottle of Chivas.  So my phone is switched off during party hours, unless I’m expecting a call.

Moving right along, today is a public holiday, and happens to be Thaipusam.  This girl and her friend wanted to make a visit, and she asked if I would care to come along.  I said yes, in that I hadn’t been there in a while, and I happen to enjoy conversations (virtual or otherwise) with her, although today would only be the third time we’ve meet in meat space.  She’s very intelligent, highly (and expensively) educated, a medical professional, outspoken, witty, funny, musically talented, enjoys life, and is still single.  She is also photogenic and has a chest that stops traffic.  If you think you can measure up to this, and come away from an encounter with her with your brains (and teeth) intact, let me know, and maybe you can provide her with a distraction and some light entertainment.

Kavadis are a prominent feature of Thaipusam, carried by devotees as a from penance, and to fulfil vows made to lord Murugan.  They range in size from small milk pots, to large, ornate items, decorated with lights and peacock feathers.  Another from of penance practised, although this is very much discouraged by the temple authorities, is self-flagellation.

This usually takes the form of hooks or spikes pierced through the body, sometimes with limes or little milk pots attached to increase the weight, or rope restraints held back by an assistant.  It is said that if the penance is performed properly, and all the necessary conditions are observed, such as fasting, abstinence, and religious devotion, the devotee feels no pain, and suffers no injury or scarring.

I also met Shaolin Tiger at the temple.  He was busy taking pictures, and I hung out with him a while.  I stood there observing the crowd, and a sudden thought occurred to me.  I have never been a deeply religious person, although, as a boy, I observed all the things my parents did.  But, every time I came here previously, I could feel something.  A vibe, you could call it.  This morning, I felt nothing.  The nearest I could describe it would be like I felt like a tourist, an outsider.