Voodoo. No my grandfather never practised it. He just fed it. And it was very faithful, living to a ripe old age of 14. Silly names for a dog. Sillier names for his grandchildren. I was ‘chuni chuni.’ (Pronounce the ‘chu’ with ‘oo’) I forgot what the others were called. The precocious grandson that I was, I once deemed it unfit to be called such an uncouth name and requested he call me Sunil. Grandpa half upset, half mischievous refused and merely did the very Malayalee act of saying ‘shu’ to catch my attention.
He was a lovable man. Tall and handsome and very self assured. Not in an arrogant way though it could’ve been misconstrued to be that. I spent many hours on his hospitable lap whether it was listening to his stories or reading comics especially reading the little mandrake cartoons in the manorama. More about mandrake later.
In his lap jokes about bishops and Chinese men abounded. Sports exploits entwined themselves with funnier ones on stage. Once grandpa had acted as a woman in a play after which a man propositioned ‘her’. ‘I was soooo good, you see!’ Grandpa said without a trace of improper pride. I was very privileged one day to hear a really long story from Grandpa. It must’ve taken 4 or 5 days. It was about this boy who grew up in a village and went to college and so on. On the 3rd day I achieved enlightenment. It was Grandpa’s own life story. This realization was quite exciting but in my excitement I wanted him to hurry to the bit where I came into his life. It was a great story. And I enjoyed being part of it.
My grandpa was a nice bishop. Yes, I know that their existence is disputed. But guess what? He traveled 2nd class. Yes he did. Promise. I saw it myself. We dropped him at the railway station and all his ‘friends’ were up ahead in 1st class coach while grandpa said it was a waste of the church’s money and boarded the normal coach. Yes he was nice. He didn’t have the airs of many of the other bishops and he didn’t crack little children’s hands when he shook hands like one Marthoma bishop did mine. Yes I’m a biased grandchild but if you knew grandpa you would be too.
Being a bishop means a lot of different things. It means responsibility, power, money, spirituality and whole mixed bag savory and unsavory items. Most of these didn’t affect grandpa but he had one weakness. He was naïve. He trusted people too much. He was innocent as a dove. But he didn’t have the full measure of the serpent’s wisdom. As a child I could see it. When politics flew around him he would very unusually flounder. Maybe the particular times were evil in the church and Grandpa belonged elsewhere.
I was the last person to be with Grandpa. I reached my customary place in his lap and we read our daily dose of Mandrake comics. As I was late for school I finished and went to have breakfast. After a few minutes the maid who was sweeping the garden rushed in. Grandpa was gone. Gone. As he would’ve wanted. A simple life. A simple death. A simple man.
Jesus said something about Nathaniel in John 2. I think he might’ve said the same of M. M. John. Maybe they’re joking about it right now.