Varun took a turn for the spiritual, mid-way through our final year at school. Initially, we were all skeptical about the whole thing and regarded it as a mere passing fad. But, when Varun stopped coming to the movies and started delivering impromptu, unasked for sermons in between juicy gossips, we decided we’d been wrong.
Well, if Varun had left his spirituality at the prayer-hall, things would’ve been just fine. But, the dear fellow wanted the lot of us converted for good. He started inviting us to prayer-meetings and that made the rest of us run for cover. But how long can you hide from your best-friend, especially when God too is an interested party. Umesh was the first ‘victim’!
Umesh went to the prayer-meeting with Varun, on a Friday evening and…
It all started fine, I’d say. I walk into the hall, where a small crowd of people are on their feet singing a real spirited song, the keyboardist accompanying with fast-paced beats… real penetrating music. Next thing, the preacher starts clapping hands. Everybody joins in and seems to be getting rather excited. I get the general mood, and unconsciously start tapping my toe. Hey, this is actually cool! There’re even a few good-looking girls up-front! No wonder Varun...
The song died off and the preacher resumes his preacher-talk, with the mandatory Praise The Lord after every second word he says. The keyboardist starts playing a haunting (at least that’s the way I felt) background, when suddenly something happened to the preacher (at least that’s the way it seemed to me)! This man who’d been till that moment speaking, most coherent Malayalam, at an unbelievably supersonic pace, suddenly seemed to have lost his gift of gab. He started blabbering and gurgling and mumbling, in a totally incoherent manner!
I sense a change in the crowd too, and behold, the lot of them have started rocking in slow-motion, eyes pointed heavenwards… in a state of trance! I get the odd-guy blushes and start rocking myself. Then it happened!
A boy in the front row started shaking like he’d got the epilepsy or something like that. That really rattled me! I was starting to get goose-bumps all over! Then the nice old man with the French-beard followed suit. Then the lady in pink sari… then the rest of the front-row, including those good-looking girls, who I’d thought were the reason Varun had turned spiritual.
Suddenly the preacher comes and touches the boy who’d started shaking first and the boy falls senseless on the floor! By this time almost everyone has started shaking except me… I didn't know whether I should've been enjoying the funny show that was going on or not!
Varun, what about him? I turn around in slow-motion and my greatest fear came true. There was Varun… entranced, chanting in a progressive tempo, shaking like hell or heaven! I, alone in the crowd!
I gather my last ounce of courage and make for the door, away from a world apart...
Umesh came running to the mandapam in the Museum, where the rest of us were enjoying just another day of cloudspotting and relishing pointless chat. Here's how he looked after his hair-raising experience.
We had a good laugh, and made mental notes to steer clear off any invitation Varun might offer for another prayer-hall experience.