Previous Episode: Chronicles of musers – Zara
“Religious treatment on me? Why do I deserve that?” I thought to myself. “What sins did I commit? How should I stop my parents doing this to me?“ There were many questions on my mind with no answers at that moment. However, I knew that I could set myself ready to deal with this scenario if I kept my cool.
Our family practices mixed religions. Our ancestors were Hindu and our parents chose to be church worshipers. Well, there were various reasons to be converted worshipers. First of all, it was a booming religion back then in India, which brought a bouquet of benefits to the families who were converted. This was pretty much applicable to all converted families here in our region of India. One may disagree with my views, but can’t deny the facts. Besides, there is one important point I would like to mention – we celebrate all festivals from both the religions in a calendar year. The spirit of festivities brought us lots of happiness with no limit, though there were few conflicts on those special occasions of ‘what to do & what not do’ among us.
As a child I was introduced to religion, as well as church. I graduated from a missionary school which enforced many practices on the students, such as a mandatory reciting of the Lord’s prayer and a reading of the Holy Bible daily, just to name a few. The whole tenure I spent in Catholic missionary school left me, along with other non-christian students, favorably disposed towards Christianity. We often organized the pamphlet distributions, book fairs and functions that promoted Christian literary works and art. I had no doubts about our curriculum and non curriculum activities, as those were certainly designed in a way to inculcate Christian values in the students. I believed in God but never bothered with all of those activities being done in the name of God and religion rather, I participated in those works which I found to be fun activities that taught us how to be a social person via religion.
On a holy-day as per Hindu calendar, I was taken to our community church with a prior appointment. My parents thought my case had nothing to do with medical treatment but more about my state of mind due to unknown evil forces on me. I know it sounds foolish. What to do, we live in a gender biased society. Had it been a case of son, probably my parents would have been proud of him for his charm and the ability to change a partner as often as I did, because since childhood, we were told “once upon a time there was a king who lived with his two wives” kind of stories. Did you ever hear of a fantasy or mythological story in a vice versa version? No, you won’t be able to find it except in Hinduism. I’m glad there was a major mythological story around this baseline. This is one reason I’m proud of our ancestral roots to Hindu religion. There were neither enforced practices nor illogical theories in Hinduism. Only people altered the meanings of vedic scriptures and twisted to their own benefits. Overall, If I had to compare Hinduism, it is something like a chocolate chip cookie – a religion that mixed science and technology into religion and presented it to the human race to lead a peaceful life. One may find more interesting facts the more one researches. You may find this as a point to argue. However, I would leave it for another day to discuss.
I had to assure my parents that I could go by myself to the church and meet the priest to confess my sins. On top of that, my parents encouraged me to take part in this sacrament, as everyone is welcomed in this process at churches. On the same line, I didn’t understand how a priest could make my sins get nullified and make things right between me and God. The whole transaction appeared to me an unassured salvation. Personally, I feel there is no need of a priest to intercede on my behalf, because our faith in God establishes a direct link with God, irrespective of the religion. On the other hand, I doubted the impact of this pseudo process of salvation on me when there was no guilt of act in me at all. I recollected of what Oscar Wilde said once – “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”, because it’s difficult to tell the truth and admit that we aren’t perfect. In my case, I didn’t need a mask because I held myself solely responsible for all the acts I committed and I did not feel guilty about what I did. Hence, I sat quietly in my chamber while the priest on the other side waited for me to speak out.
I took a deep breath and said “Before I go further ahead, may I know your name please?”. The priest told me his name.
“David, I’m here because I wanted to make sure I obey my parents by taking part in this penance. I feel that my sense of freedom is at risk with the portrayal of me attending this service in the name of penance. I didn’t commit a sin. Since the last few years, I’ve dated a few men – from poor to rich and young to old. It was my choice to live life the way I wanted and neither did I cheat nor force anyone to be trapped in a relationship with me. It was a voluntary agreement from either of us. I have no regrets to what I did, I just want to live free when it comes to my personal life. As I see there is no sin in my doings, what penance do you recommend? Or would you recommend me a better way of doing it without showing it as a sin to others? “
The priest told me many things in a way how one should lead one’s life. I doubted if my parents biased his views before I came here. Because, this is what my parents have been trying to feed my brain since last few weeks. On the contrary, I found David interesting. My sense of interest began when I started to listen to him carefully and estimated his age could be around mid-thirties. I couldn’t see him, yet I imagined him how an attractive priest should look like. He sounded as soothing as a rain in the dense forest. He tried to explain to me with certain lead examples, and I was pretty confident in what he recommended. Maybe it was a matter of the experience he had gained. Nevertheless, I did not intend to quietly accept what a priest advised as a part of penance, even though this whole arrangement was for my good. Therefore, I continued to ask a few unanswered questions I had: “Did you ever feel too much to keep listening to people and their confessions? Wasn’t it painful to keep all those secrets people tell you and yet you were told to be quiet about it? Or, is it that you are blessed with this thing called Divine Amnesia !?!”.
He asked me one question in return with no answer to any of my questions – “Has God been number one in your life?”. I said, “It’s me in number one place in my life. I feel God never intended to be number one in anyone’s life for any reason. Even it wouldn’t have been a matter to God what position he has in one’s life”. I wanted to end this conversation with him before it got to a serious exchanges of views and statements. However, my sense of interest in him didn’t let me stop. Instead, I listened to him more curiously. Before we closed this ordeal with a prayer I said, “I’m a free thinker. If I can’t feel freedom here at a church then I don’t think there is any such place in this world where I could speak my mind. Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?”. I passed on my proposal with the venue and time.
On the other side, all that I could hear was silence. I went back home and tried to convince my parents over dinner that my penance went well at church. Eventually, I told them that I neither exploit nor being exploited and hoped they wouldn’t bother me on this topic in the future. In addition, I firmly conveyed a message of me choosing to live my life the way I like. At this point, I would not expect them to agree with me on time being changed over the generation and one could live the way they like. As any responsible child, I also assured them it doesn’t mean that I would leave my responsibilities towards them, and in turn, requested them not to mix our family’s pride with what I do in my personal life.
Big day arrived. As I proposed at the confession, I waited for him at Barista with no hopes of him turning up, yet kept my patience. The tower clock at the church rang six bells, and concernedly, I looked at my wrist watch to have a confirmation. After a few more minutes of waiting, a well dressed, clean shaven, neatly groomed young man in his mid-thirties entered the restaurant. I was pleased and relieved with David’s arrival, thrilled to see him in person. That was the first time I ever went on a blind date and waited willingly. He appeared a bit unsure and looked around to find me. Finally, he settled on me as I welcomed him and offered him a chair. The distress I had was gone as soon as I saw him. That was how our story began and the rest was history as we both flew to Bali for a short vacation before I resumed my work.
Today. It is three years, we are still together. I think I would like him to be around for the rest of my life, and now I have “HE & I” as the number one priority in my life.