Chapter 2: Guajarati
I found chapter 2 challenging to write.
I got through it. I think I will need to do a lot of editing so I can properly convey the mixed emotions I had about these people. I’ll never forget this time in my life. I’ve still never seen anything like it.
Also, I decided that I am going to put pictures in my book, right into the text like it’s a blog. This is how I love to write, so I don’t care if it’s not “the right way” to write a book. I’m doing it my way.
I was living in Northeast Philly, on Central Avenue, right down the street from Cottman Ave.
Dawkins was with me. Dawkins was my best friend. He was a pitbull, stocky and proud, but bigger than most pitbulls. He had a head like a bowling ball and a smile that made you feel like he was always proud.
He and I had gone for a short walk. I lived down the street from Tookany Creek, and we often took walks through the trees and listened to the shallow flow of water. He loved to chase squirrels and I loved to be alone.
One Sunday afternoon, he and I came back from a walk. I sat down on the stoop in front of my apartment and lit a cigarette.
I lived across the street from a church. It wasn’t just any church, it was a Guajarati church. This is a church for Indian people.
I had created a Sunday ritual. I had invented my own form of worship and celebration. I loved to marvel and the idiocy of others.
What the hell are Indians doing worshipping a Christian god in a random neighborhood outside of northeast Philly? How did this happen?
Don’t they see that this is a scam? Christianity was introduced to them in in the 15th century. The Portuguese discovered the sea route to India, and they began establishing Christin communities in European colonies.
This doesn’t make any sense. These people are being tricked, they’re being taken advantage of. How could they keep showing up every Sunday and participating in madness?
India is a country with 120 languages and multiple ethnicities. 81% of the country is Hindu. Less than 2% of them are Christian. And yet, here they are, in Northeast Philly, talking about God. Worse, they’re celebrating a god that was introduced to them by European colonialism. This is some warped version of Stockholm Syndrome.
Every Sunday, I would hear them sing. They would sing beautifully. Dawkins and I would sit on my stoop and listen to the harmony. I’ll never forget it. It was beautiful. I would oscillate back and forth between confusion, and disgust, and awe.
I felt bad for them. They must not have had any idea that they were being tricked. They were being fooled into a dogma and it had warped their brains.
I wanted to kick down the doors and force them into seeing how delusional they were. “God is not coming to help you! God isn’t even real! Open your eyes! What are you doing?!
I wanted to tell them these things, but instead, I sat there and listened to them sing.
After every session, I would watch them flood through the doors and into the parking lot. They would all be smiling. They stood in groups of 3 or 4. There were families with beautiful children who were playing and smiling.
They would hug each other. They would laugh and give each other gentle nudges of encouragement by holding each other on the shoulders and putting their arms around one another.
They were … happy.
How could this be possible?
My arrogance had blinded me. My resentment had shielded me from knowing what it was that these people had. My anger was my default emotion and my judgment was my counterfeit confidence.
I watched the families get back into their cars and drive away, I looked over at Dawkins and asked him what he thought. He glanced up at me, and then looked away, as if to say “you already knew the answer. Duh Tim, the answer is right in front of you.”
Over time, the singing slowly eroded away my disdain. I began to realize something.
These people knew something that I didn’t.
But, I wasn’t yet ready to discover it for myself.