An excerpt from the book Naked Beneath The Midnight Sun by Kamalini Natesan.
Late evening, everyone congregated, this time around a cheery fireplace. Stories were exchanged, some true, some fiction. Suchu, energized, recounted Indian fables with renewed confidence. Time and again her mind wandered to the mountains and her gang. She missed them.
They must be well ensconced in the igloo by this time. Would they be missing her? she wondered.
Before she went to bed, Alf and Bea spoke to her about a tradition that they followed at this time of year; a sweat lodge was created, and what it was, they did not elaborate. All they said to her was that it was a symbolic centre for the human body, which, via the method employed, would merge with its spiritual counterpart. Suchu was dumbfounded, and her curiosity, reignited. How exotic! She acquiesced heartily to partaking of the experience. Yet another surprise!
The following day, well before her friends returned from their little adventure, Suchu was invited to remove all her clothing and enter a tiny hut. Blankets and cloths thickly covered the hut. Timidity got in the way and she could not get herself to remove all her clothing. She asked if it was okay to keep her underwear on. No. So she was given a cloth to cover herself just before entering the hut, and told in no uncertain terms that she would have to drop it, just before entry. Rattled but obedient, she entered. Nudity was not something she had gotten accustomed to, except in the dimly-lit saunas. It was pitch dark inside but for some glowing embers. Some large, hot stones in the centre of the lodge emitted both light and strong heat. Six persons were just about right to fit in the given area. A cup made of bone, filled with scented water, was passed around, and each person would fling a spoonful of water onto the heated stones, which let off steam and turned up the heat. The hut got unbearably hot with time. Some humming and chanting reverberated and turned up the exotic quotient of the experience. She chanted Om every time she received the cup of water. Thirst and discomfort gradually overcame Suchu. Groaning aloud was not an option. Was this therapeutic? Steadily the entirety of the experience took on a spiritual character, as promised. While the group may have only spent a half hour in this dark and mystical space, Suchu saw her entire life pass by: her birth, her early childhood; her parents, their growing discomfort with each other; her own discomfort, her wish to travel, closing herself into her own space when she could not handle her parents’ squabbling; her friendships and the manifestation of her need to run. She was startled at the clarity of the vision, living it as the images moved across a screen inside her. Had she passed over to another realm altogether? Sparks flew time and again from the stones, whose heat rose and fell in turn. She was transported back to her present by the incantations that grew louder, drone-like, stringing along seamlessly. An emotional vacuum was created, one was as if suspended in time. Suchu wasn’t moved emotionally by what she had seen in herself, a spectator of her own drama, yet the experience within the hut that had propelled this motion within had moved her after a fashion.
Sparks flew time and again from the stones, whose heat rose and fell in turn. She was transported back to her present by the incantations that grew louder, drone-like, stringing along seamlessly.
Quite abruptly, the little door of the tiny hut was ajar, and light entered the arena, cutting the darkness of the womb. The cover was lifted, and Suchu’s trance, snipped. There was someone unfamiliar at the door, with a jarring voice, announcing in Norwegian that the Time to emerge into the Light was here. It was very ironic, and Suchu, although faint from the experience, felt like laughing loudly. What drama!
Suchu felt both a rush of relief and regret. This truly special experience had left her empty. She felt a high, and as she emerged, the earlier sense of shame vanished. Her body, exposed to the sudden onset of bitter cold, minus ten, was seized. As she stood on unsteady legs, feet in the snow, arms outstretched, palms facing upward, she breathed in deeply, gulping down air in quick bursts, even as she suppressed the urge to chuckle.
“Cover up!” she barely heard someone shout out, and even as she was made conscious of her unclad body, her head swam. Suchu collapsed upon the snow, hapless yet euphoric, a faint curve of a smile upon her lips as she fell in slow motion.
Image Credit: Kamalini Natesan/Olympia Books
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Excerpted with permission from Naked Beneath The Midnight Sun by Kamalini Natesan, Olympia Books.