How often do we not see the real person. There are struggles everyone is going through. Few which are visible to us, a lot hidden within and a few that get revealed though the person involved doesn’t know it.
I’m a Christian and going to Church on Sunday’s, attending Catechism(spiritual classes every Christian child has to attend-a Sunday School). After the Sunday mass(prayer) all the children upto class 10 were supposed to attend the Catechism classes. The catechism teachers would be priest’s, nun’s and also lay people(common member’s of the Church). When I was in Class 9, we were introduced to Mr. Jacob. He was our Catechism teacher for the year. He was a man in his early 70’s but was full of life and energy to preach the word of God. As a catechism teacher he used to check if all of us have attended the Sunday morning mass, cause a few of us would slip straight into class due to difficulty in waking up early on a Sunday morning. But the ironical part was I used to find him always being late for the Sunday morning mass. He used to make it mid way into the prayer. The curious person in me ( the sarcastic one too) one day decided to question as to what kept him from reaching church on time. His reply was, ” He had theology classes(the classes which a person attends before becoming a priest) in malleshwaram about 12kms from the Church. He was almost 70 and what was he learning at this age? This was what exactly that ran into my head. Well I decided, he must be a spinster and now having almost nothing to kill time, he has this craze to learn theology. But he was a very vibrant person, singing songs and teaching each of us to make a prayer before we begun classes. But, one bad part was, while all the other class students could leave after the final prayer at 10am, our class 9 students had to assemble all over again and make a prayer together from Psalms 92. It’s like the school final bell ringing and we are made to wait after that too. Here I thought, “He is old. He has all the time in the world.” However, he was a very good teacher and had excellent command over English. One such day he just casually mentioned he was a lawyer.(no wonder he had such command over English).
Finally, we completed class 9. I personally was happy we would now have a new teacher this year, who would allow us leave the Catechism classes along with the other Sunday school children. However, it turned out that he was now going to teach class 10 students this year, as the previous teacher had taken a break from teaching. So the pattern of after bell prayers continued. We also have mid term and final exams for the catechism classes. A week before our mid term Sunday class 10 exams, Mr. Jacob( I used to call him Jacob uncle) called me over the phone and asked me to prepare the question paper(However, now the paper comes from the Archdiocese, but not back then). I was not sure of what was he even trying to tell me. He told me, ” Make a general paper. My wife isn’t keeping well. And this stays between us. But make it a general paper so that everyone has a fair chance as you do, to answer the paper.” This was the first time in the 1.5years I realized he was married and had a wife. But I had never seen her in Church, I always thought he was a spinster. Yes, I made the paper and everything went well.
Then many Sunday’s later he told us, we are supposed to visit people who weren’t keeping well and not being able to come to Church from our parish(members of the church). So we were all being taken to his house, since his wife was sick. We reached his house. There was nobody to open the door. The maid servant was supposed to be there almost by 7am but it was 9am and there was no trace of her. He opened the main door with the key he had and we all 15 odd students made it into his living room. Jacob Uncle went into the room where his wife was and we could hear her angrily telling, ” I need to go to the rest room, the maid isn’t here… there is nobody to make tea. You too(referring to Jacob Uncle) have no concern about me. And you have got a dozen of children home.”
Now, I really didn’t like what I was hearing. We were guests, and it just didn’t seem nice to be welcomed with those words. Soon he made tea for all of us. Helped his wife to the rest room. We hadn’t seen her still. Once we finished with our biscuits and tea. He welcomed us into the bedroom where his wife was…. She was paralyzed, she could not move one half of her body, the left hand and leg were paralyzed. My heart just stopped. My eyes teared up… I always thought he was a carefree man. It was 3 years since his wife was bedridden. But we could never see this… He said his wife was like a baby and he loved taking care of her. We spent some time and spoke to his wife. All the other students were in shock probably just like me. There was a vacuum, a silence. His wife spoke, breaking the silence, ” You all have come and I can’t do anything for you’ll. This man gets people home and I can’t do anything for them. I’m alive for no good. I do not know why God is keeping me thus. I have no children, nothing.” Then there was silence again. We told her she would get better. Then, there was a silence again. We made a prayer and left the home.
On our way back, I couldn’t but ask Jacob Uncle about his children. He said, “Oh my children are abroad and it’s difficult for them to come down every now and then. That’s okay, I can manage. But my wife misses them a lot. Now, when I saw him each Sunday he still had the same enthu and energy that youngster’s also lack. Soon I completed my Class 10. And then I used to see him in Church, for another 3-4 years, that was till 2013. He lost his wife somewhere in 2011. After that he was not seen much. I inquired with a few people, no one had a picture of where he was. Then I too fixed it in my mind, may be his children took him abroad, since he was a loner now.
To this day, I remember how my perception changed about him all the while. But it was not all. Recently, a priest had come to bless my home. We were talking about children taking away the property of the old parent’s and not taking care of them. And suddenly this priest told, ” Do you remember Mr. Jacob. He used to teach catechism.” I said,” Yes, where is he?” I finally found someone who knew where he was…
The priest continued, “Mr Jacob has a similar fate. He had adopted two girls. He kept them in his house, educated them, married them off. Now the property he was living was say around 90lakhs(not the exact figure). The children were only keen on this, and nobody was willing to take care of him. He decided to divide the property into 3 parts. 2 parts for his two adopted daughters and one for himself. Then one of the daughter’s wanted 10 lakhs more to buy some property that she wanted and so did the other. Unable to decide, he took some time off. Spoke to a few people. And yes, he was a lawyer. Finally, I (priest) suggested, you have already done enough for them. Now, divide it like, 50+20+20, where 50 lakhs is your (Mr. Jacob) share. And who soever takes care of you would get the remaining after his medical expenses and other needs, whatever remains. Now, one of his daughter take’s care of him.”
In between of all this I realized, Jacob Uncle’s children were always in India and never abroad. He told this to may be keep his wife happy. He never thought taking care of his wife as a burden. He loved her so very dearly. He took care of her until the end. He was the real example of the wedding oath – ” In sickness and in health…..”
And then there is me, in my early twenties trying to figure out the meaning of life. I felt it was an endless drama. I didn’t quite find any meaning actually. I’m not satisfied with anything that is happening in and around my life. I don’t feel energetic or happy. I just felt there were hurdles after hurdles and there is nothing pleasant.
But knowing Jacob Uncle’s full story made me realize. I wasn’t close to 1% of what life served him. Yet, I was more regretful than him. He is a beautiful soul. It took me 8 years to completely know his journey.
Life is Beautiful.