When he reached the cliff, he was close to debilitation and needed several minutes of gasping and huffing to come back to his old self. His children, both in the teens, were not the least bothered by the climb and instead, went on taking the well-shaped cobbles by the serpentine walkway and throwing them far into the canyon beneath. He ventured once to protest but abandoned, seeing the excitement in their spirit. For them, this was another occasion for jaunty adventure, that arrives once in a season. At the summit, the panorama was cloudless and bright and the sky was azure, and the rain that showered yesterday had mopped the valleys fresh. Every grime was scrubbed away from the front yard. On the side of the church, which was a blend of the foreign and indigenous architecture, stood several signboards in the local tongue and English, warning the guests to keep the site spruce. This is going to be a plastic-free zone in the future eras and is already listed as a national monument. Among the enormous natural boulders grew dense brambles and trees and the yellow flowers of Cassia fistula (Golden Shower, Indian Laburnum)at the distance gave the places a celestial tune…
The legend says that this was not the usual haunt of the saint many centuries ago. He lived in the small cave in the tiny range nearby and meditated and preached regularly his new religion. But on that special day of his passing, he was chased by the assailants and in an attempt to flee, he reached this mountain but was shot by one of the enemy’s weapons. But the legend varies…Finally, a monument came up.
He entered the shrine after removing the footwear, as it was the practice and his children accompanied him. There was a passage to the altar and on both sides, you see the depictions of the saints. And by the reredos, the relic of the martyr is kept for veneration along with the painting of the Madonna and the Child, he had brought with him from his country. The composition was reckoned to be done by a doctor who had contributed greatly to the faith. He kept silent at several instants in deep contemplation and reverence, and the air was quite solemn with pilgrims praying at several secluded corners. There were three masses- in the morning, noon and the evening.
By the other side of the shrine was a bookshop that displayed titles in several languages about the sacredness of the place and the cause to which the saints stood for. He bought a volume on the historical features of the site.
The children seemed famished and thirsty and pressed him for snacks, as the food packets he brought from the resort were consumed on the several stations of the tour. He proceeded to the only luncheon bar at the edge of the mountain and had to be satisfied by the scones of inferior quality and the bottled liquid that was of a new brand. With hesitation, he took those things, as the other tourists and folks. Many had brought the food parcels and are seen at private nooks under trees and emptying the parcels and then advancing with empty bottles to the drinking water tub…
Presently a fellow approached and chatted with him in the local tongue, which his children did not understand and he supplied the guy manifold replies and further engaged with him small conversation in the local tongue. His daughter who will be thirteen in the coming December went on staring at his face with great amazement by the style he spoke to him. When the person departed, as if in answer to her curiosity, he told her– ‘ I was born in this place’. She stood flabbergasted, but anyway not his son, who was in the pre-degree course and was hearing cricket commentary from his walkman. He continued- ” I was born in this city 48 years ago- To be exact, twenty-five miles from the place where we are standing now.” Then he told his tale in abstract- How his father and mother inhabited in this city before he was born, and after the independence of the country, when the separate states were created, his mother who was earlier in the British service, became an employee of the State government and how she accepted a transfer to the State of her mother tongue and took him along with her . He was only one and a half years old then. He studied in his native land while his father was hired in a newspaper press in this capital. But during each recess, he would revisit his father along with his mother and in those holidays, he gained many local buddies of his age and he used to converse that language like one amongst them. He even grasped how to read the alphabets and, yesterday he purchased a droll journal that was the rage of his youthful times [the founder editor, meanwhile deceased] and assayed to brush up his awareness in that semantics… But his son during this conference did not exhibit any awe as he had already comprehended this truth a couple of years ago when he had to fill up the application form for the Youth -Camp he attended then- in the column of his father’s birthplace, he wrote the name of this city. The memory further transpires him to the stories of his parents of which he had only second-hand data mostly narrated by his own mama….
His mother and father belonged to diverse religions and his mother was the only educated member of her whole line and she came to this city when she was in her twenties. In course of time, she met with a bus accident and she was alone on the journey. When the disaster victims were evacuated to the hospital, she was the only passenger without a kinsman. Suddenly a young guy came to her rescue, discerning that she articulated his mother tongue, and got her in a carrier to the hospital. He waited by her side and informed her kin in the hometown about the mishap. – That was about 18 hours travel from there- He got the gashed dame, drugs prescribed by the physician and also food and fruits. Then they parted. The young lad was a social worker and a member of the National Movement. He, at times, had to seek the aid of some families sympathetic of the cause, and when he was in one such house, he encountered again for the second time, the above-mentioned accident-stricken lady, [now hale and hearty] and she was staying with that family as paying guest. The association soon matured into a fraternity and culminated in the marriage. The lady, for fear of her kinsmen, had to marry in secret, as she was bold enough to do that with an utter stranger, but had already given him the pass- grade at the clinic itself, seeing his sheer kindness to an unknown desolate woman.
The young man was assisted by his younger brother, as both regarded each other hugely and in spite of the disapproval of the other members of the line, the nuptials took place. The younger sibling stood as the witness for the groom, at the registrar’s office. The young lady’s intimate friend, Padmini Jackson, and another friend signed as witnesses. That was the marriage of his father and his mother. There was only one contract between them- You follow your religion. I will follow mine. You should not interpose in my sacred credos as I will not meddle with yours. They did likewise, till the closing shutters were drawn…
The sun was getting hotter and now he got a phone call from his wife, and it befell that she was almost free and could reach if necessary, by evening. But he informed her that their joint trip could be made at some other season…That instant his daughter announced that it was time for the midday mass and while they were, discussing, the chapel gong chimed…Suddenly he felt emaciated by a concatenation of thoughts and reflected for a while how he was unbecoming of the profound love of his spouse and the angelic smiles of his kids, recollecting his recent days in Saarbrucken.
–[To be continued]