Father Patrick was trying to sleep in the confines of his bedroom above the prayer hall. He was attached to a small Catholic church near Sealdah. Being in the vicinity of popular churches such as St. James’ (popularly known as “Jora Girja”) and St. John’s meant that not too many worshipers frequented his church. A typical day consisted of morning and evening masses, occasional baptisms, confessions and day to day activities of running and maintaining the building. Thanks to the torrential downpours since morning, even the routine activities had been shelved that day.
It was well past midnight when Samuel, his trusted aide knocked on his door softly, “Father, there’s a gentleman downstairs to see you”.
“At this time?”, surprise poured out of every word Father Patrick uttered. It was incredible that someone had braved this weather to show up at that hour. With mounting curiosity, Father Patrick descended the stairs to the waiting hall. The gentleman waiting on one of the benches stood up and bowed slightly. He was dressed in a black overcoat and stooped a little. He had a felt hat on which was covering most of his face. Despite the obscure features, Father Patrick could tell he was an elderly man who was deeply troubled.
“I am here for a confession Father”, the man spoke with a slow, measured voice. “You must be surprised to have a visitor at this hour but I had little choice. Whatever I have to say, it should be said now or never”
“This way please”, Father Patrick guided the gentleman to the confession box. Once they were seated facing each other, the priest patiently waited for the man to narrate his story.
“I have decided to end my life Father”, the man came straight to the point. “Life can only take so much hardship, the spirit can only endure pain till a point. I have reached my breaking point”
“I am sorry to hear this my son!” Father Patrick intoned in his calm, soothing voice. “I know at times the going gets tough and it seems all is lost but that’s just God’s way of making you stronger.”
“It’s easy to say that when you have only yourself to deal with. How do you preserve your sanity when your well-being depends upon the collective actions of thousands of people?” “I am sorry son, but I don’t understand what you are saying”, Father Patrick gave the stranger a puzzled look.
“Father, I am no human being. I am the spirit of the city which you inhabit. I have been portrayed as ‘joy’, ‘festivity’, ‘liveliness’ to everyone curious about Kolkata but THIS is my real state of being. I am scarred, battered and broken. I am sick of pretensions and hollow masquerade.
I have made up my mind. The spirit of the city dies tonight! I am what you construct and Father, everybody here has made me the phantom of a lost glory. I used to be a beautiful woman once, full of life with a spring in my step-but now, this torn, beaten up old man is what I have become”
Father Patrick paused for a while as he took this in. His oratory held at bay by this most unexpected revelation. As he closed his eyes seeking an answer, a voice inside him spoke up:
“Your spirit is what you make it, and you are a new man every day”
Father Patrick opened his eyes, “You see the rain outside? Do you think the rays of the sun will never touch these flooded streets again? People are not made the same my son-some make you a beautiful lady while others make you who you are now. But this transformation emphasizes the promise of change.
Just like seasons, with new people come new hope. Search for this hope in the many newborns who would define you someday.”
The spirit stared back, motionless, intent.
“You have seen more than three centuries, gone through so many transformations. This too will pass, maybe for something more glorious than you ever thought?”
The old man stood up, straighter now. He tipped his hat a little, “Thank you Father. I’ll wait”.
As Father Patrick walked up to the altar, he looked out of the window to see dawn breaking. The first sun rays inched into the church through the narrow slits in the window frame. The rain had stopped. Father Patrick knelt before the altar - “Amen to new beginnings!”, he whispered.
About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now.