New Skin For The Old Ceremony
New Skin For The Old Ceremony: A Kirtan is Arun's debut novel, to be published by 404 Ink in 2022 (now available for pre-order). The novel follows four estranged friends who reunite for a motorcycle trip up the Isle of Skye, in the hope of coming to terms with how their lives have splintered since a transformative ride in Northern India fourteen years earlier. In their fumbling attempts to spiritually reconnect, expectant father Raj, recently widowed Vidushei, perpetually youthful Liam, and perpetually fragile Bobby test the limits of their friendship around campfires, on twisty roads, in unexpected Ayahuasca ceremonies, and against discussions of belonging, race, and identity.
A novel about youth, the ghosts of friendship, and growing up as a mixed-race person in a small but fiercely proud nation, the story spans India and Skye, seeing the characters exorcise past ghosts in order to face the present.
The form of this novel draws on the idea of a Kirtan - a Hindu genre of storytelling focusing on music, shared narration, and spiritual ideas. Kirtans usually draw on Vedic texts and music but Arun subverts the form by structuring the Kirtan in relation to tracks from a Leonard Cohen album, New Skin For The Old Ceremony, which the characters grew fond of during their time in India. The mashing up of form and cultural references speaks to some of the broader issues of identity and belonging which the characters discuss during their trip.