Autumn of 1976

Every Wednesday all of us school kids are taken to a church for the Wednesday Mass. We all queue up in a line and walk a short distance to the nearby Church. Going to Church is a new experience for me. The Priest/ Father in the Church calls it the House of God. There is a statue of mother Mary with baby Jesus in her arms inside the church. I like this statue.

Inside the Church all of us are made to sit on the benches. We keep our hands together and sometimes even close our eyes. The father of this Church speaks in praise of God. He says that we are all children of God.

There is a section in the front portion of the Church where bigger children in flowery Gowns sing Hymns during every mass. They sing so well.

After the end of every service, the father would put a piece of white round edible item into the mouth of the students on the first bench. After that he would pour some liquid in their mouths from a shiny goblet. For the next mass, these students will be taken to the back row by the class teacher and next row of 4-5 students occupied the first row. This would ensure that these new students will get their share of white piece of food and the drink. It will be a few weeks to get my turn on the front row and to be able to taste the strange food and drink. I look forward to that day eagerly.

Recently we i.e. my Parents and my brother and sister, had gone to attend a puja function. My mother explained that we are going to a big Indian function. There will be Bhajans and Kirtans and that we kids must behave and sit quietly till these are over. After the Bhajans are over there will be Lunch for everyone.

The gathering at this event was the biggest I had ever seen. The men wore turbans and ladies were dressed in beautiful Salwar Kurtas. My father keeps his hair short and never wears a turban, my mom wears a Saree. I got to know that everyone was from India and the turban toting men were called Sardarjis or Sikhs. After the Bhajans every one was given sumptuous food.

At home, during the weekends, my father would light an incense stick and say some prayers to a small statue of Lord Ganesh. He would tell some short stories about how Lord Ganesh got the head of an Elephant and that he is the son of Shiv and Parvati. These stories are captivating.

Some weeks went by and finally it was my turn to sit on the first bench in the Church. I had learnt that the piece of food was bread and the drink from the goblet was wine. I was so excited. I had my hands folded but could not keep my eyes shut during the prayer recitals. Finally the Prayers and Hymns got over and it was time for the bread and wine.

Father came towards the first benchers. He looked at us and called our class teacher. He asked her something, after which my class teacher asked me whether I was a Christian. I didn’t know what I was as no one had ever told me about religions. I spoke Hindi at home and was from India, so yes, I guess I was different from other kids besides being Brown. So I answered that I was “Hindi”. My teacher then gently took hold of my hand and asked me to leave the front row and come with her to the back row.

I controlled my tears and spoke to Baby Jesus:

I believe in all the stories I’ve been told about your miracles and greatness. But I do not like the MEN. If we are all children of God then how can I be different and not get the food and drink being given to every child. I cannot have faith in the Father or his likes but I believe you can teach them not to misbehave like this. Thank you!