And in what a way!
When I was nine years old, I was in the fourth standard in a village school in Killyanur in South India. My class master was Susai Maria Das and he was my hero. I adored everything about him; the way he talked, the way he walked and his interaction with us students.
I came from a well-to-do Muslim family in the same village and everyone in and around my hometown revered my grand mother.
One day, I was surprised to see my teacher and his brother-in-law (who also happened to be our family tailor) in our house.
They had come to invite our family to attend the wedding of my class master. I was thrilled beyond words and was sure that my family would go.
My mom said that the master had come to invite my grand mom out of respect and we would reciprocate by calling the newly married couple to our house for lunch one day. But we would NOT be going to the wedding.
At that time I did not understand the significance of her firm refusal to attend the wedding. Later I realized that the wedding was in a church and Muslims did not frequent a church.
But my mind was made up. Some how I would go to the wedding, which was taking place in a nearby village 4 Km away.
My only aim for the next few days was to witness the wedding of my favorite teacher and ‘shake hands’ with him.
The wedding day dawned. It was a fine day. I remember that well even after so many years. It was a Sunday and a holiday and I was ready to go.
I was dressed in my home clothes, a lungi and shirt. I did not dare change into better clothes, or even don a pair of pants, as that would have given the game away.
My father was away in Singapore at that time and it was kind of easy to hoodwink my mother.
Mind you, I was only nine years old at that time and my perseverance surprises me now.
The church in the next village did not have a proper concrete building. It was more like a garage. The wedding was taking place outside in the grounds under a ‘shamiyana.‘
Only the bride and the groom were seated in chairs. The rest of the congregation was seated on the floor. I quietly joined them and sat at the very last row. I was tired and perspiring but exhilarated with a sense of achievement.
Soon people began to notice me and they started to whisper and giggle among themselves. A lonely frail kid in a crumpled lungi must have looked out-of-place at church wedding, where everyone was in his or her Sunday best.
I could not see what was taking place in the very front, as I was in the last row, and every head in front of me was obstructing my view. I fidgeted this way and that. Suddenly I found some people kneeling.
I thought they were doing so to have a better view of the ceremony and I followed suit.
I witnessed my teacher’s wedding, kneeling down on hard ground and I was filled with happiness and pride.
It was only some years later, on seeing a Tamil film about Mother Mary, I realized that people knelt down in churches not to see what was happening in front.
But to PRAY!
I will not elaborate on what happened next, on how the groom’s brother-in-law (our tailor) was surprised to see me alone or how I slipped out again without partaking of the wedding feast.
Suffice to say that I was jubilant with just this thought as I walked again the 4 Km back to my village.
I had attended my mentor’s wedding!
And I had shaken hands with him on that special day!
Story By: Talha Rahman, Chennai.