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Now, as I lay in the tent, the caravan having stopped for the night and Mother’s snores keeping me awake, I wondered whether Kovalan and I would have a love-child or a drama-child. I was sure I would never quarrel with Kovalan. All our children will be love-children.

Chinnamma did not say how couples made love-children. The neighbourhood girls taught me that secret.

It started with an incident that turned my face red. It was an afternoon, and the adults were enjoying their naps. Taking the opportunity, Kovalan and I went to the river and frolicked.

His garment came loose. I gasped, and pointed and jumped up and down with fear. Some strange water creature had latched onto my poor Kovalan. In a flash, he covered himself with his hands and sank back into the water. He told me to go home. When I hesitated, he grew annoyed and railed. His behaviour shocked me, and I ran home in tears.

For many days after that, Kovalan did not visit and his absence broke my heart. It was also about this time he found a new friend, Anandan. Kovalan fetched him to meet me and we resumed our friendship. And we never spoke of the river incident.

When I shared my fears with the neighbourhood girls, they giggled and I grew up. No one at home associated the word lingam, the stone image of Lord Shiva, with such crass matters. For me the lingam was god. I also learned new words. Distasteful words. And I stayed away from the girls. But the thought of Kovalan’s lingam—it was safer to use this innocent word—evoked novel sensations. Embarrassing heart-racing sensations. I learned more adult things because of the boys.

Kovalan and Anandan scratched themselves below their navel and, wanting to fit in, I scratched myself there too. When Mother caught me touching, as she referred to it, she shrieked so loud that I feared a demon had possessed her. She ran into the kitchen and there was a ruckus.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

Continued on Friday: Demonic Possession