Recently, my mother told me about my first visit to church. I was about 5 years of age and dressed up all cute and fluffy in a white dress. I had sat obediently next to my mother and even had my hands folded in prayer like she had instructed. I sat like an angel until the priest made his appearance on stage! His billowy gown had me completely mesmerized! All gold and white! She told me that I had sat with my mouth open for 10 minutes and then proceeded to walk toward the altar (with my mouth still open!). My mother had to hike up her sari and run double time in order to pull me away before I snatched the priest’s robes off!
A few years later, I decided that I wanted to become a priest! “No! Never a nun!” I told my freaked out relatives. They tried to convince me about becoming a nun by saying that they too are powerful and godly and what not. But one question of mine had them stumped! “Do they get to wear long, glittery gowns and stand on stage and eat wine and host?” Like I said stumped! The glory of wearing that gown was something else!
My late grandmother used to worry about me quite a bit and keep asking my mother to sprinkle me with holy water everyday! She was quite the religious fanatic you see and in India, well let’s make it Kerala, a woman priest is like saying “Put your head into the mouth of an untrained lion!” There was nothing ever so blasphemous in the religious world!
I recall how my grandmother used to shudder every time I said “Eniku priest avanum”*
* I want to become a priest.
I used to frequent churches just to study each priest and the way each one of them conducted mass. There was a priest who would gargle his wine down; there was another one who always sang like a tortured crow, there was yet another one who used to scream at girls who came to receive the host without a scarf over their heads. And I used to imbibe all their actions perfectly! For the sake of fun when my cousins and I gathered around telling tales, they would ask me to imitate each of the priests. “Imitate Joseph father pls!” “No! No! Father Dominic is more hilarious! Especially the beard stroking bit!” And so it went on! I had amazing fun imitating all these priests and the billowing robes was taken care off by tying together my mums golden saree and a white bedsheet. I tried to make a paper cap like that of the pope but I discarded it once my cousins started calling me a pirate scarecrow!
There came a time when I had actually learnt the entire mass and used to take mass for all the little cousins! It was quite amazing and seeing them kneel in front of me reverence was simply amazing! My grandfather used to be quite chummy with the church so we always had a stock of wine and host at our family house. I used to happily flick a bit of each and actually conduct the ceremony giving each my cousins communion! My grandmother would have lodged a stake into my heart if she had ever witnessed this! And thankfully we were caught red handed one day by my favorite aunties who stared at us like we were a satanic cult…post which she bent over double laughing. For some reason, even my scream of “Why can’t girls be priests???” didn’t elicit an answer from that laughing fox! I am so angry that day! But as she promised to keep the incident a secret, I went back to loving her again!
I gave up the dream of being a priest after joining catechism classes and kept flunking for each exam! I mean we study a ton at school and then study a ton at church! So I decided to end the dream.
I was all upset and distressed up until I saw Arnie in Terminator…heaven help my mother for what I decided to become next!