Reverend Father Lawrence Marangodan was restless. He walked up and down the rubber plantation of the parish church while the parish priest, Reverend Father Daniel, was preaching a Charismatic retreat to the parishioners. The cries of ‘Praise the Lord! Alleluia!’ rose and fell like the frenzied waves in a disturbed ocean. Father Marangodan’s mind was even more disturbed. The spiritual masturbations of charismatic retreats could never ease his mind. Worse, he had just received a note from Reverend Sister Prarthana.
I need help. Benjamin is becoming a serious pain in the neck...
Benjamin was a boy in class three of the primary school run by the parish church and Sister Prarthana was the class teacher. Whenever Sister Prarthana’s heart longed for the proximity of Father Marangodan, Benjamin became a pain in some convenient part of her body.
Father Marangodan did not like what he called the spiritual masturbations of charismatic retreats. Otherwise he was a committed priest of the Roman Catholic Church, the assistant of Father Daniel. He wanted the church to be more orthodox than charismatic, austere rather than boisterous, more compassionate than exuberant. He liked Sister Prarthana’s approach. She cared for the individual children of her school. She patted their cheeks and ran her fingers through their hair. She threatened to beat them with the cane that was kept perennially on her table. Occasionally she would even threaten to shoot them or chop off their heads with an imaginary sword. Like in: Children, don’t force me to take out the pistol from the drawer or Kids, I have a sword hidden beneath my tunic.
Father Marangodan overheard her once and thus became her counsellor. “Don’t use such violent metaphors in front of children,” he said to her. He exhorted her to imbibe the forbearance and stoicism of Our Lord. “Always keep in mind the image of the Lord in Gethsemane.”
Sister Prarthana tried her best to keep the image of the Gethsemane in her mind. But the more she met Father Marangodan, the more Paradise kept invading Gethsemane. Instead of the Lord, it was Adam that entered the Eden of her mind and she was Eve there. She was troubled by the strange resemblance which her Adam had with Father Marangodan.
“Don’t let Satan into your soul,” warned the priest. “You and I are religious and our way is strewn with pebbles and thorns. Gethsemane is our only garden. Take the Eden out of your mind. Embrace the cross...”
“The Eden refuses to fade from my visions,” confessed Sister Prarthana days after she had carried out the penances stipulated by Father Marangodan.
Sweat drew Father Marangodan’s soutane close to his skin. These days the very sight of Sister Prarthana made his body hot and it sweated profusely. He wished Sister Prarthana did not have such beautiful dimples on her rosy cheeks.
Praise the Lord! Alleluia!
The chanting from the church brought Father Marangodan back to the present. Back to Sister Prarthana and her Benjamin-the-pain-on-her-neck and the dancing dimples on her rosy cheeks. Father Marangodan’s soutane was wet with sweat. The breeze brought down some dry rubber leaves on him. It cooled his body too.