When I finished watching the movie “Spot Light” I could only think of Father Alexander, a priest who I have met a few times- that was long ago. More still, of whom I have heard quite a bit- of his sensational exploits and intriguing escapades.
“Spot Light” tells us about the cover up and intrigues that is the culture within the Catholic Church. That doesn’t mean that prelates of other denominations are angels in pristine white. The autobiography of the catholic nun, Sister Jesmy , titled, “Amen” narrates in detail the abuse and utter violations that was inflicted on her while in the nunnery and which eventually gave her the courage and will to castaway her ordination. Devout Catholics would abuse her and call her renegade, an apostate and a charlatan hoping that would safeguard the sullied name of the church. The difference here in this country is that mendacity and unsavoury conduct inside religious abodes, be it a Hindu ashram a Christian Seminary or a Madrasa will be covered up by the authorities and the whistle blower will be hounded.
The hamlets and villages in the mountains in the Western Ghats have always fascinated. More than a quarter century ago they were picturesque beyond words and laid back places, where often one felt time seldom moved forward. Where the weather was always cool & pleasant and electric fans were a strange and wasteful invention even at mid noon in the months of April and May.
When one drives up into the mountains and hill country in Kerala the ubiquitous cross graved out of wood or concrete beckons you like detritus monolith radiating a powerful evangelical image and sorcery. It is in one such hamlet that Father Alexander foraged as the custodian of the local parish and the sole mediator between the mortals and the Lord up in the heavens.
He was stout, may be 5’ feet 7, wheat complexioned, pretty large forehead and bald plate with remnants of hair on the back of the head. He was always clean shaven, his forearms where thick almost grizzly like and with dark hairs. His eyes, I felt glinted with cunning. The fellow seldom wore the frock outside church, wearing it to only on occasions that demanded his priestly interventions such as the holy mass, prayer congregation or other religious functions and duties. That meant when one saw him in the village market in his trousers and slacks he would pass as just another guy. He was a speed demon behind the wheels and not many those days owned a jeep. He sped across the sharp bends in those mountain roads and the narrow stretch of roads crisscrossing the verdant tea bushes raising halo of dust behind him. God fearing folks, both labourers and the more affluent stood respectfully by the sides letting him whizz past. After all, this guy was the sole mortal who could petition and intervene for them with the saviour and his dad cocooned in heaven. That automatically gave him priority in their life’s and their personal or family affairs. It also assured him the head table at every dinner and feast in homes in the parish. And father Alexander was a regular guest of honour at the prominent houses in the village.
I often thought that the reverence he was shown by folks was nauseating and condescending. Well, that is what would happen when you have intermediaries between you and your creator!
Father Alexander was quite indulgent when it came to food and he relished meat, be it from the bovines or fowls. I heard the story that the Father also relished wild boar and deer meat. He had a coterie among parishioner who would fetch him meat of exotic animals and jungle fowls even though hunting those beasts was banned. There was a hushed statement murmured among parishioners that the priest loved exotic spirits and voluptuous women.
Indeed that was the truth. Such worldly munificence as sumptuous exotic food &wine and patronisation alone did not make the world of Father Alexander turn around. It was a known secret in the parish that he had liaisons with a couple of women folks in the town and I guess his flock surmised that was a divine benefaction bestowed on him and they would turn a blind eye to such escapades!
The few occasions I have had with the guy were over dinner and the intervening prelude when he was feasting on some imported spirit arranged by the host, he seldom picked conversation with me. Neither did me. Indeed, it was a case of mutual dislike even without speaking much. He would sit like a Noble in grandeur and hold the other guests in conversation, moderating their opinions and closing the topic with his assertion and opinion. All that while also relishing the patronising of the host and his wife. I would sit watching the group and would wonder about the King-size life of a catholic priest in such remote villages. I have exclaimed to myself what splendid rollicking life they have.
Father Alexander showed the gamut of his priestly powers when he churlishly refused to give Holy Communion to my wife for she wed a non-Christian. Though she was taken aback a bit by the prelate’s arrogance she understood the frivolity of accepting the holy sacrament from a dissolute person as he. Worse still Father Alexander without batting an eye used his writ and powers to send my father-in-law back and forth a dozen times from the faraway place he then lived and refused to give the baptism confirmation for his son who was to be married soon. The justification the man gave for his conduct was that the daughter married a non-Christian. That was the depths of Christian hypocrisy, piggery and prudishness.
The last I heard of this guy was he was ensconced in some church in the Coonoor hills and had moved in with a Muslim woman and was in live-in-relationship with her. That was some years ago and I ‘m wondering if he continued to be harboured by the Church or whether he lives on even today. However when sleazy stories of Christian priests and their exploits are told I muse about this guy Father Alexander who lorded over a flock of gullible folks in a picturesque village surrounded by verdant forests and vast acreages of tea bushes; where time almost stood still and life was ethereal like!