Why I blame my upbringing for making me a social misfit.
Happy Good Friday.
I remember a time when I'd stop people to explain why it isn't a happy, celebratory 'tyohaar'. I've given up. Jesus had his cross to bear. I have my own.
These are the Stations of my Cross.
My First Station: My faith
I've been raised Catholic. Very, very Catholic. Let's put it this way: My mother wanted to be a nun. But since her oldest sister beat her to the punch, they didn't let her. My mother wasn't ALLOWED to be a nun because my aunt Olive already was.
Did that stop her? Not really. She goes to church, every day. She's on every committee, attends every church program – from musicals about Judas Iscariot, to every Prince Jacob play that has ever / will ever come out. She isn't on the choir, thank God. But she knows everyone, on every choir (there's more than one choir in every parish, and God knows how, but there's such a thing as choir politics).
My mother is a nun, mostly.
And growing up with her has been a regular pain in the ass. More so, this (Holy) week than any other.
The Second Station: I carry a scapular everywhere
I went to a Salesian school where the focus was mostly on fun and games. Not much of a damn given to academic excellence. But a huge God damn was given to Period 1: Catechism. Moral science, from what I've been told, was anecdotal value education. Catechism was nothing short of pre-seminary training. Good Catholic training. And, the good Catholic boy I was, I carried a scapular, in my pencil box, every day. I don't know why.
I didn't even put it there.
I thought this was normal dressing for the longest time
The Third Station: I fell for a non-Catholic girl the first time
“Will she convert? What about the kids? Will you have idols at home?”
The Fourth Station: I (had to) meet my mother's Catholic expectations
There is such a thing as being a good Catholic. It has everything to do with being seen super Catholic. It's a contest – who'll sing louder, who'll sit longer at confession, who'll genuflect more devoutly, who knows the sacristan better... For the first 15 years of my life, I did all of this. I was a good Catholic.
My mother loved me.
The Fifth Station: My cousin takes up the cross
A man of the cloth in our family! In our family! We're blessed.
And when his kid brother got married recently: “Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony in the same family. So nice... And look at our boys...” - My mother (Superior)
The Sixth Station: Fr. Jude wiped my slate clean at confession
And I haven't gone back since. This was 11th Grade. Confirmation confession. You'd imagine the 'Go To Hell' to be about masturbation, or porno, or being an asshole to my kid brother (every older brother's God-given right; why even confess?).
NO. It was about the six hours of TV I had been watching every day.
“Spend that time in church,” he said
Confession is strictly, don't ask, don't tell. He asked. He yelled. It's weird getting yelled at in someone's lap.
The Seventh Station: I fell for the same non-Catholic girl, the second time
“What do you mean you're in love?” “Will she sign an affidavit that says she will baptise the kids?” “Does she practice NFP?”
The Eighth Station: I meet the rejected women of Mumbai
I pick my battles well. It's why, every once in a while, I agree to meet the women my mother wants to set me up with.
They're Catholic, obviously, horribly good Catholics. It's unbelievable. You'd expect at least one of these girls to be like me, doing it for the sake of it. Go through the motions, reject, move on. But they're all really looking.
I've even had a 'date' in church.
“It's Christmas, why don't you take her to midnight mass and get to know her better?”
All I want for Christmas
The Ninth Station: I fall out with my family during the rosary
I’ve never liked the rosary. The same prayer 50 times over was ridiculous to even 12-year-old, God-fearing me. Plus praying with my mother is frustrating. “Slow down,” “Don’t eat your words”, “Look at the altar,” “Stop fidgeting.” And we sing. I have my own hymnal.
At 12, you really can't do much (but pray). At 24, you can't do much either, actually.
I learned the hard way: “It's our house.”
A family that prays together, stays together. A family that stays together, prays together.
The Tenth Station: I was stripped of my pride
There I was, standing outside church, during mass, minding my own business, when “EVERYONE IN THE BACK,” the priest called out to all the TWO of us, “STOP CHATTING AND COME SIT IN FRONT OF ME.”
My extended family revisits the 'outstanding' Catholic joke every time we meet.
The Eleventh to the Fourteenth Stations: I'm not there yet
And hopefully, I'll just pass through these stations – no stopping – Lapsed-Catholic-Fast. But I doubt my family will really let me. Especially this week.
It's a four-day-weekend, and even though I'm 30 now, and have finally moved out, I have to go visit.
Oh God. Bring on the Congee and Papad.
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By Dominic S.
Photographs by Dominic S.