I will first state, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT.
The story starts here:
I think i was about 10 or 12, and the family was performing our yearly anniversary prayers at the Paul Street Indian temple in Seremban. This is when my grand father would pay for the full service and subsequent food for all attendees. It was his part to give back to the temple and it's devotees.
Somehow on that year the prayers were a little bit more elaborate. Two hours of clanging bells, loud trumpets and throbbing drums was already making a very young and restless Me more agitated and impatient to get home and and get wrapped in the embrace of some Hanna Barbara cartoon.
We're suddenly ushered outside, the entire clan with garlands of flowers, incense and the like. As the eldest (and only) male grandchild I am thrust into the front of the procession. Two priests step up in front of me with more incense and some flowers ( i THINK its flowers. memory is groggy for all things pre - Millineium).
Someone thursts a flaming torch into my hand. The fire is held in a heavy brass holder. I am told to just follow the priests. The torch is heavy in my spindly arms, the flames are too close for comfort and the smoke is getting in my eyes.
Then we're off! We are to circle the temple 3 times while the priests chant to the gods. Every one dressed in white dhottis (is that what its called? any Indian people reading this blog? that white cloth that the men folk use to wrap around their waist like a sarong during prayers).
Round One - I am getting used to it. It's kinda cool having officially being allowed to play with fire. Chest out I begin to get an ego trip, heading up a procession of the family with a flaming beacon of fire.
Round Two - my hands now start to ache. The torch is just too heavy. My eyes are watering and the droning of the priests is now starting to agitate little Me.
Round 3 - I am now gripping the torch hard. Sweat is dripping down my forehead profusely. I start getting bored and look behind me at my uncles, I look to left and right wandering when everything will stop.
It does stop at that point.
I dont see the priests stop as I am busy looking at the cars on the road outside the temple.
...walk flame first into the now stationary ass of the priest in front of me.
After that everything happend so fast. I hear a yelp, voices are shouting, my little head spins to the front and I see the priest leaping around in front of me, with his dhotti clad bum now engulfed in angry orange, yellow, red flames, I am shoved aside roughly, the torch is grabbed from my hand, bodies run to the front to save the priest and I am left there standing alone in the hot crowded temple yard.
I have embarrased my family and i remember my face feeling hot from embarrasement (yes i only used to read that statement in books but its real. trust me).
My mum who loves me as only mother can came up to me after the damage control was done. It was not to bad although I dont know if the priest had any permanent damage to his posterior. She gently told me that I did not need to come to temple anymore for at least a month or two. I am not sure on whose orders it was but it was cool by me. I never could hold my attention during prayers anyway.
Months turned to years. Years turned to decades and here I sit. A misfit at 40, with dodgy principles and a love for that cold beverage a little bit too often. I am sure among all the priests in this country non has ever been set on fire before. So there, you now have a dark secret from Seremban's past.....