Posts Tagged ‘pastor’

I have managed to go to the zoo, visit the homes of three friends, assemble 11 gift packages, cook eight meals, battle my way through a mob, attend a birthday party and dance to Nigerian music – all within the space of 48 hours and am dead tired.

I had a lovely time at the zoo. I had gone to the zoo with family friends. I & the friends’ kid persuaded the 4 other reluctant adults to go on the lion safari, only to find out it barely lasted 10 minutes and the driver backed out of the safari as soon as we had spotted our first group of lions. It wasn’t a lion safari as much as a lion sighting; we only got a glimpse of the magnificent beasts snoring away to glory.

Kids these days are quite frail; and not made of hardy stuff, we had barely gone half-a-kilometer before the kid wanted to stop as her legs were aching. For me the 5-km walk in the Aringnar Anna Zoological Park was no deterrent, I was more than game to tour the place a second and a third time. Since my mother was working at the zoo for four years after I was born, my earliest memories are of touring the zoo again, again and again. I used to be fascinated with animals, my mother says, and never complained about the 5-km plus walk in the zoo. But the minute, I was out of the zoo, I would be crying loudly and bitterly for my mother to carry me. Since, my mother would be carrying too many things, including her office work and my stuff, she would refuse to carry me. My loud cries that my feet hurt often drew the attention of by-standers, who would advise my mom “to carry the poor child.”

Also since, I worked at the zoo as a volunteer, my friends feel it is hazardous venturing to the zoo in my company, as I can bore the hind leg off a donkey talking about animals.

But this time around, I got to see only a quarter of the animals in the zoo, as a majority of the adults & kid were not up to walking the entire stretch of the zoo and opted for the zoo train.

The other most significant thing was being harassed by religious fanatics throughout the weekend. I went to a friend’s child’s birthday party. I really enjoyed the first-half of the party as there was lots of good Nigerian music & dancing, good food and cool drinks going around and playing with my friend’s adorable and most beautiful kid (The kid talks Tamil fluently and it’s a pleasure to hear her talk. But ironically she doesn’t know a word in the Nigerian language). But then my friend had invited a pastor, who felt strongly that I should be going to church, the minute he heard I wasn’t attending church.

Many of my Hindu friends also get preached at for hours at an end by Christian pastors. I don’t know why Christian pastors make such a nuisance of themselves preaching the gospel to people, who are too polite to tell them they are bored and to get lost. Even when I was a Christian, I found pastors a nuisance, because either they were preaching to you to become a born-again Christian or because they want you to change denominations and attend their church.

Most Christian pastors go on this “conversion” or “re-conversion drive,” because they believe people will go to hell otherwise. So whether you like it or not, pastors keep expounding their doctrine for hours at length. But I hate it. I don’t see why pastors, who don’t care enough to take time to become my friend should care about my soul’s welfare.

My usual modus operandi with such conversion-oriented pastors is to just hang the phone or end the conversation. I have a few pastors, who are my friends despite my atheist beliefs, because they first took the time and effort to befriend me.

Since it was my friend’s birthday party and I didn’t want to make a scene, I had to listen to a monotonous monologue from their fiery pastor for more than three-quarters of an hour before I could make my escape.

Then I went home on the sub-urban train. I finally reached my neighbourhood only to get trapped by another set of religious guys. Due to the atrocities against Christians in Orissa, churches had decided to hold day-long meetings; as a result of which traffic was blocked for hours at an end and everybody got stone-deaf from the loud rantings from the loudspeakers on how evil Hindus are. I had to fight my way through a Christian mob, which had decided to obstruct the Choolaimedu main road to go home. And while I was trying to wedge my way around the crowd, I was getting dirty looks from those “holier-than-thou” Christians.

I have no problem with religious meetings; even less with meetings, being held to address social injustices. So while I felt the need for a meeting protesting the atrocities to Christians in Orissa, I saw no need for church members to block an arterial road in Chennai and make commuters also unwillingly join their protest. I also wonder why, the city police, which restricts all kinds of demonstrations or protests to god-forsaken, less-inhabited places like the Memorial Hall, gives permission for all religious guys to hold their meetings at whatever time, at whatever place and at whomsoever’s inconvenience.

Anyway because the police don’t mind religious guys screwing up traffic lines, I found another large Hindu gathering right outside my house. My street is a cul-de-sac and these guys had completely blocked off the road near the temple so that they could conduct a fire-walking session. I tried to battle my way through this solid mass of humanity. The crowd was rough, unruly and many of the men were drunk. I tried to get to the women’s only section of this crowd, only to get a lot more scoldings from them. Everyone thought I was trying to get ahead of the crowd, so that I could have a better view of the fire-walking and they fiercely resisted my attempts to get ahead. There was a lot of rough pushing and pulling, and I was being manhandled for the first time in my life. I met with better treatment than my neighbour, because I was a girl. My neighbour, who wanted to go home on his motorcycle was almost beaten up. I was shocked and somehow in the crowd frenzy (the loud music was stirring up greater passion) I was pushed right to the forefront of the fire-walking. If I had been pushed a little harder, I might have fallen right in the centre of the glowing coals. As it was I fell down and gingerly made my way home in a state of shock.

And it didn’t stop there. The whole week, these religious guys had been playing loud music the whole day. My neighbours, who are devout Hindus, were also highly annoyed as their sons’ quarterly examination was going on and their aging parents couldn’t go to sleep with the loud music. A young couple was nearly in tears the whole week, as their baby would cry the whole day because of the music and would not go to sleep. The music used to start at 4.30 am and ends only at 1.30 am; Giving three hour respite to those wanting to go to sleep.

Today morning I woke up again at the ungodly hour of 5.00 am to the tunes of “Udhaya Suriyan….Engal Udhaya Suriyan” as the local DMK cadres were celebrating Anna’s birthday. But political songs are a relief in a way, as neighbours can go and ask the organizers to turn down the volume. If it was religious songs, sentiments are high and people would be accused of offending God if they requested people to turn down the volume. Our house is hardly two-minutes from the Choolaimedu police station and the least the police guys could have done was to regulate the traffic. But no, they were too busy watching the show to do that.

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For a short time, I worked as a vacation bible school teacher in our area when I was 18. I was totally unprepared for the amount of questions the kids asked me…

For starters, we were reading the Nativity scene.

One of the kids ask me: How was Jesus born?

Me: Jesus was born in a manger. He was a really sweet baby and all the angels came to sing after he was born….

Kid stops me with: But how did he become God’s son? Did God adopt him

Me: No! No! God didn’t adopt him. He’s God’s son.

Kid: (Silent…in deep thought…finally exclaims) So Mary is God’s wife!

Me: (Feeling trapped) No! Well….. Mary is Joseph‘s wife. But the Holy Spirit visited her and told he she would become pregnant…And Jesus was born

Another kid: Out of an aeroplane? My mother says babies are dropped out of aeroplanes.

First kid: Don’t be stupid! They didn’t have aeroplanes then

Another kid: You are only stupid! You said Mary was God’s wife. Ha Ha

(More words! A fight breaks out. I untangle the two little, fighting furies and send them off to wash their face and drink a glass of water. I pretend nothing has happened and continue with the lesson)

Me: So Jesus was born in a manager with goats and cows, because they had no place to stay…

Another bright kid #3: How bad! Cows stink, they keep on shitting….We have a manger near our place

Kid #4: They don’t stink. We have cows. They are nice

Me: No talking in class.

(I proceed with the class, ignoring all interruptions. My bad luck, our pastor came to see how my class was faring and so did the two little warring heroes)

Pastor: So how is everybody today? What did you learn?

Kid #4: Jesus was very poor. His mother had no money to go to a hospital. So she went to a hotel. The hotel told her to go away. So she went to a cow stall and had a baby. Joseph helped her. Angels then sang “Happy Birthday.”

(I blushed red at this highly-coloured version of the Nativity scene. The pastor turned to the next boy)

Pastor: So why do we celebrate Christmas

Kid #5: Because its Santa’s birthday

(Severely embarrassed, I cringe)

Pastor: (In a patient tone) Christmas is celebrated because Christ was born on that day. That is why everyone celebrates Christmas……

From the next year, no one invited me to teach at the Vacation Bible School, and I have a strong feeling that this pastor was involved in the decision

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My favourite memories of church were the Community lunches and the potluck dinner.
The community lunches were prepared by the church members on the church grounds. The men made the biriyani (rice) in a huge vessel and the women used to cook the accompanying dishes on makeshift stoves. The men had to do the heavy work like stirring the huge amount of rice, keeping the fires burning, the women cooked the chicken….And the older matrons of the church used to order everybody about…
Me and the other kids would play nearby and then try to sample some of the delicacies. And everybody had a job – serving the food, laying out the drinking water cups, clearing the huge stack of valzha ela (huge banana leafs used as plates).
Its a pity that there are no more community lunches in my church. People want to attend service and then go home…
And then the potluck dinner on Christmas eve has just disappeared. Now the chuch hires caterers and buys the food. What a waste of money…

The potluck dinners were such nice occasions and an innocent exhibition of culinary skills. People would have the dinner after seeing the Nativity play.
It was a matter of pride for women to cook their best dishes and bring it for the Christmas pot luck. There was also gentle rivalry as to who could cook the best dish. I remember my mother would cook the spices and marinate the chicken the previous night.
There was one funny incident. One of our pastors during his sermon on the Sunday before Christmas had spoken about all the Christmases he had so far seen. As a kid for him, Christmas was about lamb chops and biriyani, which were his favourite dishes, he said….and went onto talk about how only later he had realised the true meaning of Christmas
That year for potluck dinner, we had about 30 different varities of lamb chops and biriyani….all the women had apparently felt it would be a nice gesture on their part to treat the pastor to his favourite meal….How all of us laughed.
I wish people kept up traditions…they are such nice things.

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