“Amen”, the audience said in chorus, drew the sign of the cross, murmured the last prayer and made a dash to the exit after the mass on Saturday morning. People who weren’t free from their commitments on Saturdays were the first ones to scoot. You’d witness a mixture of people, kids rushing for tuition classes, uncles and aunties who had to be the first in line at the butcher’s shop, ammachis who were offered a free ride in their kids’ cars for the weekend etc. The only ones who stayed back were people who had nothing else to do on a Saturday morning. Some of them would pray for a little longer, recite the rosary, some of them would go to the statues and photos in the church for a ‘special recommendation’ so that their prayers were answered soon. This also included members of different organizations working under the aegis of the church for the betterment of the society we live in. (At least the annual reports they present says so). Everyone is given a fair chance to be a part of any organization. There is a league for the kids, a movement of the youth, a forum for the mothers and fathers and some other groups named after saints when people felt they didn’t fit into any of the other groups. The St. Anthony’s society included the grandpas and grandmas, retired personnel, the omnipresent members who belonged to every organization etc. Some enthusiastic members would exit fast to grab the front row seats in the meeting for no apparent reason. By the time the oldies limp, hobble and make their way, the meeting would’ve already begun with another prayer and sign of the cross.
It was on one such Saturday that Ammini had come for the meeting, seeking financial help. She needed money to complete the construction of her house. Now, members of the group have burnt their fingers in many cases like this (it’s about money after all) and hence, pounced on her with questions. The number of questions asked and time taken for background check is always proportional to the number of years the group has been in existence. Now, the group members consist of people from all backgrounds. From the Retd.Colonel to the headmaster, from the accountants to the theatre artist, everyone had their share of inquiries. The accountants are considered to be the most inhumane of the lot, even though towards the end of the FY, when accounts are to be settled they are given a royal treatment. They are the ones with the most number of questions too. Ammini gasped for breath as she kept answering the rapid fire round of questions. Applying for a bank loan and the paper work wouldn’t be so tedious, she thought. Finally, the problem was laid for consideration.
Ammini lives with her husband and two kids. The husband cannot stand still until his internal organs are dissolved in alcohol. Ammini is the sole breadwinner, doing menial jobs in the area.Thankfully, both her daughters understood the importance of getting educated and were enrolled for a degree course in the college run by the Church. She had received a loan of 30k from the government for construction of her house. She was directed to approach St.Anthony’s society by a Good Samaritan who preferred to keep a low profile and thus, was instructed not to give out his identity. The accountants who had retired from govt. service raised their objection while others pondered on who the Good Samaritan could be. “Wasn’t that much money enough that many years ago to complete the construction?” they questioned considering themselves to be the keepers of the govt. treasury. The pinch of tax money you see… though the highest tax-payer from the group, nicknamed ‘Blade Chacko’ seemed disinterested. His only interest in life was to live on the interest he extorted.
Discussion ensued and the group concluded that, rather than providing the money for construction, they’d provide for her kids’ education, in the institution run by the Church authorities. Ammini didn’t seem satisfied and so did her handful of supporters which included the highly emotional Katrinammachi, who swore that these people are so heartless. Ammini insisted on getting help in cash than in kind. ‘Blade Chacko’, who normally never spoke up, tried vouching for her. But, majority of the members refused to provide money for the construction. They asked Ammini to wait outside and continued debating. Finally, they reached a decision and called her inside. The President cleared his throat, modulated his diplomatic tone and made the most neutral face he could ever manage to and said, “See Ammini, we can’t give you money to complete the construction. We are ready to provide free education for your kids in the college run by us, but any sort of monetary help can’t be provided at the moment”. If one could translate his words to harsh reality it meant ‘Take it or leave it’.
“Ayyoooo, njan Chackochante palisha engane adachu theerkum (how will I repay the interest I’m due to pay to Chackochan)”, Ammini wailed when she realized there was no way she’d get the money from the society. She then turned to ‘Blade Chacko’ and screamed, “ingeru paranjitta njan ivde vanne. Ende swarnam ingerde aduthu panayathila. Palisha koduthillenkil ingerenne jeevikkan sammathikkilla( I came here because he asked me to do so. The little gold I have is in his custody. I need to pay him the regular interest or he makes my life a living hell).
‘Blade Chacko’ the so-called Good Samaritan stood frozen to the ground and all eyes remained fixed on him.
This is the story of Blade Chacko who sent a debtor to the church so that the fund made available is paid to him as interest money. The same ‘Blade Chacko’ who is a member of every organization in the church, the one who never misses a Holy Mass, the one who is actively involved in every activity of the church. There is no dearth of such ‘Blade Chackos’ in our part of the world. Last week, the Sunday homily involved a letter from the Bishop on efforts made by the church and allied organizations for serving the poor and downtrodden. But, with members like ‘Blade Chacko’ running the show, how far are these efforts realized? Self-interest and exorbitant rates of interest! *sigh *
(based on a true incident)