I was up early this morning. I had been thinking about the realities of a Graham Green novel and wanted to see the old colonial priest preach to his congregation.
I wondered across from my home stay. The sun had been up an hour, even if it was still before seven. The worshippers solemn chanting rang out from the Basilica like a range of unerring prayers, not dissimilar to the rhythm of Hindu chants, gay but of a fastidious fashion, ringing out from the high voltage speakers flooding the immediate area of the Basilica with a calling from the Christian God.
Some way off a minaret had beaten the priest and had called their own faithful sometime before sunrise.
In their wisdom, or easy going nature, I am certain the Hindu’s considered the hour outrageously early for serious contemplation.
Let us not forget the synagogue. Were the Jews already setting out the market stores and collecting rent before making their own thanks to God? It crossed my mind as I removed my shoes and sat down in a pew.
The Brasilia priest, wearing a vivid green frock with gold braiding, (he looked impressive and high ranking) stood on the high altar, and with red captivating eyes preached, maybe lecturing, in Tamil into a microphone above the piped chanting. A large bible the size of an encyclopedia sat open on its own open teak stand ready and waiting for the priest to read from the scriptures.
People came and people went. It was a good size congregation. They paid their respects, made their prayers, touched their idols in the form of paintings, statues, and the cross. Soon after my arrival, a queue formed when the priest offered bread and wine. Then the service was over.
Outside the serenity of the Basilica hell had broken loose across India. The promise of the new bank notes in the ATMs, banks and post offices had not materialised. With the failure to distribute the new notes, the ATMs stayed closed and queues formed around banks and post offices by the hard-working people the government does not want to help by making their money void.
At nine o’clock the banks opened. It started with the promise to change four 1,000 rupee notes to 100 rupee notes. By 9.30 only two x 1,000 rupee notes were possible, and by 10 o’clock? Inevitably the banks were closed and the denunciations and recrimination had started. I witnessed one queue jumper scolded. It was getting nasty; that rage by an angry tourist.
It is a bold move to crake down on crime, tax evasion and the counterfeits, the last blamed squarely on Pakistan printing presses. Who else would counterfeit money? I was glared at when I suggested that Indian might be just as guilty. And the criminals? Well, the big boys who prime the crime and big boys who the light the fuse of terrorism don’t put their cash under the bed, or do they? Isn’t that for the billion peasants living on cash crops across the working Mother land. I might be simple Mr. Mode, but that money you want to get your own hands on is in Switzerland.
And I had a call in the late afternoon. The promise of the Land Rover tomorrow. I am skeptical, even so I am getting excited.