(Recap): In the last episode, we saw that Pastor X had made his mind to resign from team TPM. He decided to start a new inning outside this cult. But before putting his papers, he would bowl one last over. He would try throwing a spin and try to get the captain out on a LBW. He would meet the chief and try to convince him of the bottomless pit into which TPM has fallen. He, therefore, took a flight to headquarters from Riverdale. Let us see what awaits him at IBR.
We see Pastor X coming out of Emirates Airlines EK544, which just landed in Chennai. It was a long journey. An assistant worker has been sent from headquarters to escort Pastor X. This junior assistant is standing at the airport gate, waiting for Pastor X to come out. In the meantime, his eyes are checking for air hostesses moving around. After all, he too is a human being like one of us! It is true that he is very strict on young girls wearing short length dresses inside the church. When he was transferred to the local faith home, he announced straightaway that he will not tolerate any casualty in observing rules of the church. Believers started gossiping that the new brother is very strict. But here, outside the church, at this airport, he is a little casual. Suddenly he sees Pastor X coming out.
Junior sprints towards X, to help him lift his bags, but X refuses! X is not like typical TPM saints. Typical TPM saints make juniors as their attendants. They make others lift their burden. Be it the burden of lifting holy bibles as they walk or be it the burden of carrying their luggage bags when they travel. They need assistance even when they go for conventions. A junior appointed as assistant to the pastor will travel with the pastor wherever he goes. His job to lift pastor’s bag, carry his bible and walk behind him, wash his clothes, iron them, carry food tray from kitchen to his room, and also do the work of a postman carrying his message to sisters and to elders. He does all the work of the assistant. Better than Alexa and Siri!
Since X has refused the help of the escort sent for him, therefore this unemployed assistant is engrossed in guessing what is so important in the bag that X did not let him touch? Is it cash? Is it some delicate imported item from America? His heart is lost in solving the mystery. Poor chap! He knows not that the bag is full of “FROM TPM ” articles, which X brought for the chief to read!
I know the thoughts of those naïve believers of Pentecostal mission who are reading this play. They may be wondering how negative minded the writer of the play is! They may be accusing him of accusing saints. But they are failing to see his endeavours in describing itsy-bitsy details of saintly life. He asks them, “How would they describe this event which he has just described?” Will not they say “a junior servant of God, had been sent to receive Pastor X at the airport. He obeyed saints and escorted X back to TPM. See how humble he is! God will exalt him in due time!” That’s how simple they would see.
A brother departing from faith home and picking him up and airport and returning back! But when you begin to peel layers of every second and microsecond, and when you begin to slice and sample every microscopic moment in a detailed manner, then only one can see, that the saints who appear as saints from surface-level observations are very unlike the definition of saints we have in mind. They are as human as we are! They have the same flesh as we have. They react the way we react. We all are same at the end of the day. They won’t go to a higher place and we won’t go to a lower place to spend our eternities. On the judgment day, when the books of records will be opened, then all microscopic details of our lives will be revealed layer by layer. Slice after slice of every breath we breathed upon the earth, will reveal all our unrighteousness. If not by grace, then never by our works we will pass the pearly gates.
A car is waiting outside at the exit gate. A sticker on the white Scorpio reads ‘Praise the Lord.’ Pastor X takes the front seat beside the driver. Assistant quickly moves to the rear seat. The car begins to move.
Twenty minutes later we see the white Scorpio stuck in a traffic jam. There are a lot of cars, lined up, one behind other. There is a lot of noise too! Stray dogs are barking, vendors are shouting, and cars are honking simultaneously! The Noise is irritating the saints sitting in the white Scorpio.
Pastor X: Abba! ….. So much traffic you have!
Driver (to car owner behind him): Are we playing ludo here! Why are you playing that horn? Can’t you see there is a jam ahead?
The driver is a TPM saint. Saints never get angry. Anger is a sin. People like us who are not saints become angry. But the driver gets angry oftentimes. He is a hybrid species, who can get angry and at the same time be called a saint. All saints are hybrids. They all get angry.
Driver (to Pastor X): This noise gives me a headache.
It is true that the noise of cars shouting on the road is a headache for the driver. But who will remind him about the headache he is for neighbours around the faith home! Oh, the noise torture he unleashes on his audience on Sunday mornings! Is this traffic noise a lesson for him? Will he learn his lessons?
In my opinion, it is the one and the same thing to be in TPM tarrying meeting or to be in the streets of Chennai or to be in the city of Pandemonium. Pandemonium, as you know, is a city, in Milton’s “Paradise Lost“. The word “demon” in word panDEMONium and the word PAN affixed in front of it, tells us that it is a place of pan-demons or all demons. It is the capital city of hell where all demons gather together. When demons gather, they make chaos. They are disorderly creatures. TPM tarrying meeting and traffic on Indian roads are always in disorder.
A few minutes later, as the vehicle moves ahead, the driver takes a turn left to the highway that goes to Erode.
Pastor X: I don’t think this road leads to Rome. Where are we heading to?
Driver: We are going towards Erode Appachen. Chief Pastor is waiting for us at the new plot we’ve purchased.
Pastor X: One more land! How many lands did Jesus and his apostle purchase?
The driver keeps his mouth shut. There is no place for dissent in the hierarchical system of TPM. Democracy and all the big-big words we use, like freedom of speech, freedom of expression, etc, are valid in the context of the Indian constitution. TPM constitution has no place for them! To differ, to ask questions, to express an opinion, is labelled as disobedience!
In a few hours, they reach the new construction site. Workers quickly run to welcome centre pastor. They take him to his pre-allocated room. Centre pastor’s rooms are on the ground floor. Most of the CP’s are aged. They don’t like walking up the staircase. They are constructed close to the pastor’s kitchen. The distance between the pastor’s kitchen and their accommodation is never too long.
A few hours later we see Pastor X walking restlessly in his room. He hears a knock on his doors. A junior is waiting outside to inform him that the chief pastor has called for him. Pastor X follows him. Entry inside is barred without permission. A watchman assistant is standing at the doors, guarding it. Assistant quickly moves inside to inform the chief about the arrival of Pastor X. It is my opinion that it would have been better for the chief to use technology, instead of keeping guards standing at his doors. Chief could have possibly used camera outside his room, and/or a doorbell, or else some kind of red-green bulb mechanism, to indicate if he is free to meet someone, or not free. Junior could have been used to study scriptures, preach the gospel, and engage his time in spreading God’s kingdom. But I have a little less wisdom than the chief.
The reason why the chief does not use technology and instead use an assistant as a guard is that the watchman saint is junior in ministry. Juniors are banned from preaching until he has learned the art of preaching sermons in typical TPM style. Unless junior has gained experience in expressing TPM parlance from sacred texts, unless he has mastered the art of extracting TPM lingo from the holy words of the bible, until then he cannot preach. It requires time to slowly learn this technique. Hence juniors are barred from preaching for some time. It is, therefore, better for junior to be a guard or assistant or to get himself engaged in some kind of service to his seniors, than to sit idle.
Pastor X is still waiting outside. Chief is busy with his phone inside. Chief is always busy attending phone calls. Being a chief is not an easy job. A lot of calls are made to him, from various parts of the earth, – which he has to attend. Most of them are complaints. Complaints about holy saints! Complaints to transfer saints! Complaints either made by jealous servants of god, or complaints made by Malayali believers. Whenever a transfer is made and the saint is upset with it, then the suspect is a Malayali believer. Saints accuse natives of Kerala saying, ‘surely this mallu must have written a letter to the chief.’ They label him as evil and curse him. They teach youths employed in their service that Malayali believer’s children will get divorced and the family will get disturbed. The transfer of saints makes a believer of TPM faith home hostile to Malayali believers. Life of a Malayali believer in non-Kerala state TPM is not easy. Even though he has never written a letter to the chief, he will be always on the list of a suspect.
Pastor X continues waiting outside. Chief is finished with his telephonic grievance redressal ministry. But he is making X wait outside his doors a little more time. This is the art of ruling. Make people wait. Junior assistant standing at the door knows that the times are not good. He knows this is not the usual meeting between a centre pastor and the chief. From somewhere he too has heard the rumours about X. Rumours in TPM fly fast. Faster even before the event has taken place! Maybe there is ex-communication waiting for Pastor X! Maybe a group of workers and believers will follow X outside TPM! There will be schisms in TPM just like there was in the Catholic and Orthodox Church! It will cause mayhem in times to come! Only God knows the future.