Once when I told my friend, Ghee Varghese – a skinny guy, evidently no ghee, but a very fat believer – that God created the world in six days and nights while living on cola and candy bars and on the seventh day when he went home, he found out his girlfriend had left him, he rebuked, “Joshi, it is a sin to joke about God.”
Like my friend, my father also thought I should stop my sinful talks, and turn the spiritual way.
So, he sends me to a pastor in a nearby town.
The pastor greets me with a broad smile. He is dressed in black and white, shirt tucked in, and a matching tie hangs by his neck. He looks like the marketing executive who came to my house the previous day to sell water purifier. Unusually I’m also dressed like one, minus the tie. He shakes my hand and waves me to a plush seat.
After enquiring about my whereabouts, he asks me what he can do for me. I tell him I’m looking for spiritual enlightenment. His eyes twinkle. “Brother, you have come to the right place,” he declares. He calls a name, and a beautiful girl (could be his daughter) comes inside the room with a plate. New to any places like this, I think she is going to serve me food. “Offerings,” the pastor says, “Do not count your notes. Remember you are giving it to God”. I don’t have to count as I only have one hundred rupee note in my wallet. I close my eyes and put that in the collection plate.
“Let me explain about the various prayer meetings that we conduct…” he goes on to explain that they have special prayer meetings scheduled for sinners, possessed and the sick. He asks me which category would I belong to. I wish there were more categories to choose from. “Sinner,” I respond with hesitation. “Good. We have special prayer meetings for sinners on every Friday evening”, he says. “Brother, Jesus is your friend. He will forgive all your sins. You only need to know how to get his blessings.” It seems there is a trick to get it, and this man’s going to help me get it.
He asks me to kneel for an instant blessing. I do. He sprinkles some water on my head and mumbles some prayers. After five minutes I’m told that I’m blessed. As it turns out, it is only a preliminary blessing before the Grand Friday Blessing Fest.
“Brother, do you know where God is?” he asks. Because the question sounds too philosophical, I don’t want to answer. I smile and say “I will give you an answer when I visit you next time.”
I step out of his room and walk towards the exit. He comes running after me and thrusts a pamphlet into my hand. He says, “I’m sure you would want your name to be announced on Friday.”
The brochure has a list of various prayer meetings with time and date mentioned against them. Sinners meeting is at the top. And there is a special note at the bottom of the paper. It says: Donations above Rs.1000 would be specially mentioned in the notice board and donations above Rs.5000 would be announced in the next prayer meeting.
My thought goes to the marketing executive who was trying to sell the water purifier.
Salvation for Rs.5000. Two years guarantee!
I walk away, never to return.