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When I was in India…

a letter from Kay Sexton

... I saw Buddhist devotees make a sand mandala. It took several hours of sprinkling coloured sand on the red stone paving of a virtually disused Buddhist temple outside Chennai to produce a huge, complex, multicoloured design.

Women pulled up their saris as they worked to avoid sweeping the sand out of its patterns. Little kids got many slaps (India being a place where the chastising hand falls often but lightly) if they approached too close. Buddhist monks from both India and Tibet mingled with the western chelas who'd adopted Eastern names and taken to 'the path'. Chai sellers did good trade, as did dark-skinned men with trays of paan to be chewed to kill hunger. It got hot, and hotter, and then cooler, the shadows were blue, then grey, then blue, then black: long, then short, then long, and the mandala grew by pinches and inches.

When it was finished it was more than a picture - it was a contribution to the shape of the universe, a contribution in which we'd all played a part, even the tourists like me. And when it was done, the monks picked up their little brushes and brushed it into a huge grey heap of spoilt sand.

"Where is the mandala?" asked the guru-monk. We sat silent, apart from the muttering of the translators - like mine - who were sharing this sermon with a few privileged tourists.

"Here is the mandala," he pointed to the heap of sand. "And here is the mandala," he touched his eyelids. "And here is the mandala," and he rubbed his fingers together as the monks had, to sprinkle the sand precisely from their hands, down into the picture. "One day our bodies will be bones. Then they will be dust. Then they may become the dust that makes the mandala. But we are the mandala already."

~

Literary Potpourri took one of the first stories I ever wrote. It has been a part of my life the past two years, as a publication and as a collective of people I've come to respect and like, although I don't know any of them personally.

When LitPot goes, it will not end. As long as we exist, we are LitPot. Thank you for choosing my work.

Yours ever,

Kay



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Pushcart-nominated Kay Sexton is an Associate Editor for Night Train journal. One of her short stories was a finalist in the 2006 SLS/St Petersburg Annual Literary Contest judged by Margaret Atwood; Sarah Hall (The Electric Michelangelo) chose her as runner-up in the ESSP short story contest in 2005, and Kay was runner up in the Guardian fiction contest judged by Dave Eggers in 2004. Her work is widely anthologised. Her website gives details of her copywriting and journalism; she blogs about writing fiction at blogspot, and has a regular column at Moondance.

Her current focus is 'Green Thought in an Urban Shade', a collaboration with the painter Fion Gunn to explore and celebrate the parks and urban spaces of Beijing, Dublin, London and Paris in words and images. 'Green Thought' has just finished showing at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, Ireland and is returning to London for an exhibition in May before moving to Paris.



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