I have always been a reluctant churchgoer. I have no deep-rooted convictions. I believe, of course, in God, and those things we had most often heard in church, that there is heaven and hell – an ever-burning hell. But that’s about all.
For me, Church is a torturously boring place. When I was young, my brother and I had our tricks to sometimes evade this regular visits on Sundays. We feign ill more often.
My late grandfather was a very staunch believer. He chased us to Church on every Sundays. Once inside the church, we had separate sitting places. Children were made to sit on the floor on the front rows. Grandpa was a bench audience. Just before the sermon, we quietly crawl out of the door. We jump the compound wall, run home breathlessly, get into the house through the back door (back-door latch was easy to open) and watch Chandrakantha, a popular tele-serial in those days. Chandrakantha was more important and interesting to us than Church.
Though the church was not very close to our house, we could hear all the church proceedings over the loudspeakers. Just when the mass is about to get over, we run back to the church and get mixed into the departing crowd. We find our grandpa and accompany him home like two obedient kids.
But after marriage my sanctimonious wife drags me to the church. I know I cannot bunk Church, so I play a secondary trick. I wake up late on the day, spend more time in the bathroom and walk like a slug. It works to perfection that by the time we reach the Church, it is already full, and we are made to stand outside.
That’s whom you call an out-standing churchgoer. Outside the hall, it’s a great time-pass. Modern churches are like ladies’ clubs. It is a place of passivity where women thrive but men wilt.
On Sunday mornings, a chick-flick atmosphere prevails. Women flock to church to parade themselves, and men go for sightseeing. Parents bring their ‘grown-up’ daughters decorated in silk and flowers with an obvious ‘come-and-get-them’ message, a common pre-marriage live advertisement run in the church courtyard in our society. Whichever way you look at it, the world just outside the church hall is interesting and happening. And my worst fear was that someday I might get stuck with the boring and dull world inside.
That day came earlier than expected. When I shifted my home to a different part of the city, I changed my Church as well. From St. Sebastian to St. Anthony, the timing also changed. First day to the new Church, alas, I happened to reach there an hour before the mass. Needless to say, my wife was rapturously delighted. She fluttered through the church like a butterfly. And I was feeling like a babe in the woods.
With a couple of welcome songs, the mass started. We were seated in the second row. There was no way that I could run home.
The priest looked like a broiler chicken, fair and fragile, with his graying hair combed backwards. He had a very shrill voice, and it started piercing into my ears as I was sitting very close to a speaker.
It was time for sermon. Since it was election time, politics was the subject. He wanted the people to vote for Congress. Would not impress me. I’m a BJP sympathizer. For a Christian, it is sin to vote for BJP. A sinner, I’m, I started to count every passing minute on the clock. My mind raced to think through a way to escape this boredom. Just then, the cloud opened and rain came beating down. People crowded into the church to take refuge.
I raised my head and spoke to the man above, “Lord, what shall I do?”