Act-III: A Confrontation
Rev. Francis Dorai did not skip a single beat as the motorcycles roared into the churchyard, and except an imperceptibly quick glance at the three intruders shuffling into the last row, he showed no reaction. Rev. Dorai, ‘Father’ to most of the villagers, was adept at dealing with irritants far larger than three youths barging in. Divine coincidence, he thought with a wry smile, as he was reading “thattungal, kadavugal thirakkapadum” (“knock, and the doors shall be opened”) to his congregation just as the three walked in.
Father Dorai recognized all three youths, and while he continued with his sermon, his mind was furiously trying to come up with some reason for their appearance here. He knew Madasamy Mudaliar well, and could claim to be the only Christian who could walk into the Mudaliar household and come out with all his limbs intact, and thus had a strong feeling that Ramaiah and his friends weren’t here to listen to “Kelungal, kudukapadum” (“ask, and thou shalt receive”).
Father Dorai was well respected all through the village, in spite of, or rather because of, his colourful past. He still retained the athletic build from his younger days as a champion kabaddi player and boxer, but God knows he had abused his body in his youth. Regular rounds of alcohol and the occasional ganja, till one day he had lay drunk at the toddy shop while his mother died of a heart attack in their hut, gasping to see her only son. He buried his past along with his mother, took up doing odd jobs for the church and eventually, a kind priest counselled him to dedicate his life to Jesus and the community. Whether he thought this was a way to repent, or saw a chance to probably save other misguided youth through example, we would never know, but he jumped at the chance. And three decades later, he was still preaching the word of God, as he saw it. His was a sane voice which had calmed tensions while the neighbouring villages burned during the last communal riots.
Father Dorai followed Ramaiah’s line of sight, and this time, he paused mid-sentence. There was no doubt which girl he was intently staring at, and Father Dorai immediately realized the consequences of her brother Jacob finding out the presence of the three youths. He made a motion of clearing his throat, coughed a bit, and announced, “Sorry my friends. My throat seems to be giving me some problems. So, can we continue the sermon later and proceed to the choir?”
“Ulagathil ulla arputhangal, ellam padaithathu Avan thaane” (“all things great and wonderful, the good God made them all...”), the choir began. Twenty voices were going full blast, but Ramaiah heard only one. A hundred people sat in between, and Ramaiah saw only one. Julie was blissfully unaware of the pair of eyes intently staring at her. And so was Ramaiah. Father Dorai slowly made his way to the last row, motioned to him to walk with him outside, and asked him “what brings you here, my son?”, fully knowing he wouldn’t get a honest answer.
“Father, I came to listen to the choir. You know, the songs are very nice”
“My son, I used played kabaddi with your father. Ask him, and he’ll tell you no raider could fool me. I may be old, but please don’t insult my intelligence.”
“Forget her, my son. You know the history. No good will come out of this.”
“Father, I am willing to die for her”
“The problem, my boy, is that twenty others will die for no fault of theirs”
“In that case, Father, I’ll kill myself. I cannot live without her”
“I suspect you have been watching too many movies. Go home, think about your family, think about your father...
“What the hell are you doing here, bastards?” Jacob’s voice boomed from the church entrance.
Father Dorai turned and fixed him with an admonishing glance “Jacob, I will not tolerate such language in my church!”
“You please stay out of this Father. I’ll deal with these high caste bastards. Won’t allow us near their temple, and have the temerity to walk into our church! And you, you forgot the thrashing I gave you last time? You do have some gall walking in like this!” Jacob thundered, and a landed a hard slap across Mayandi’s face.
Ramaiah rushed forward, and with a practiced upper right, had Jacob reeling to the floor. Jacob immediately flashed a knife, which was promptly knocked out by a kick from Bangarappa. Ramaiah drew his aruval (sickle) from his back in rage, completely tuning out Father Dorai’s scream ”Stop it you fool”, when he caught sight of Julie, fear in her eyes, clutching her friend’s hand tightly, silently pleading. He threw away his weapon, turned and jumped on his bike.
As he rode away, he cast a quick glance back, and was rewarded with the sight of beautiful moist eyes, filled with gratitude, and he hoped, love.
(to be continued)
PS1: Yes, yes, I know. I have been extremely slow in taking this story forward. Two reasons. Work, for one. Two, I had no idea how long this will take when I started. I did not have the complete story mapped out in my mind. So, please bear with me while I squeeze out some free time and try to wrap this up. As quickly as my bosses will allow me to.
PS2: Note to self: think twice before attempting ambitious stories. Stick to PJs and puns and all will be well.