Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Christmas Story

By Shevlin Sebastian

A couple of days ago, while standing near the St. Francis Church in Kakkanad, Kochi, at 7 p.m., while my daughter had gone for singing practice, I noticed a group of men milling around in front of the church. It was clear from their looks that they were from North India. They began talking among themselves. Then they looked at the church again. Finally, they walked towards three men standing around in a semi-circle and talking. They asked them something. The men nodded their heads, in typical Kerala style.

Then they took off their sandals, slippers and shoes and walked towards the entrance.

Suddenly, one man came back and took off his socks.

Then they entered the church.

I also followed them silently and stood at the entrance.

They went and sat on one of the benches.

The church was in darkness except for the light over the altar.

Like in all places of worship, where people come and say chants or prayers over a long period of time, there exists a certain spirituality.

I feel this deeply when I go to any place of worship, be it church, mosque or temple.

You will feel this when you go to the heart of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.

I am sure everybody feels it.

I then stepped away and stood outside.

After a while, the men came out and put on their footwear.

I resisted the urge to talk to them.

Why be a journalist all the time?

But curiosity dies hard.

The need to know gripped me.

I approached them.

I asked where they were from?

“From Meerut,” said Sachin.

So, it is the heart of Uttar Pradesh.

They had come for three months to do some repair on the main Doordarshan tower.

They had never been inside a church.

So they were curious.

So what was the experience like?

“It was nice,” said Sachin. “Can we come again?”

“Indeed, you can. Any time and all the time,” I said. “God is the same everywhere.”

They smiled.

We shook hands.

And once again, a small brick was added to the centuries-old edifice of syncretism in Kerala, and hopefully, for India also.

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