“A film’s Dream Sequence: McLeodganj”

“A film’s Dream Sequence: McLeodganj”

This church sprang up on me 
charming and still, on a quaint slope downhill,
nestled in a crevice at Forsyth Gunj,
shrouded in the waves of a heavy smog
that floated up atop the steep hill road -
heralding the town of McLeodganj,
clouded now with threats of a downpour:
the current Dalai Lama’s Indian home.

It’s stone slopewalk, runs beside a cemetery -
whose iron gate closes where tall grass ends, 
growing around it's cold marble graves, 
with crucifixes embalmed in the fragrance 
of pines and a variety of the church's foliage.

The church-graveyard’s compelling charm, 
blanketed in the cool, light summer breeze -
veils me in joyous spiritual upliftment,
as we await the traffic to clear, to climb uphill:
ensuring I return to this haven of peace. 

We pass the Main Square - at six crossroads,
where well-dressed tourists aimlessly stroll,
peering in and out of shops of Tibetan stocks -
of it brass Buddhas in every form uppermost.
As if ripe plums in an orchard of handicrafts, 
that makes this township a self-sustaining hub
of local produce, excelling in varied art forms:
domestic or international brands not at all.

                 ***

Two days after we return to ‘St John’s’ church, 
aptly suffixed with, ‘in the Wilderness’,
that withstood the Kangra floods of 1905 -
it’s churchyard being the final resting place,
of Lord Elgin the Governor-General & Viceroy
 of India in 1861, during the British Raj: 
He died here, on 20th November, 1863.

I stroll down the steep stone pathway
inhaling the sights - perhaps smells of Thyme,
past the large stone carved holy-water stoup
to first pay reverence at the altar of Christ  
and mumble a quick prayer sitting on a pew -
making a sign of the cross, as back in school.
I then notice the caretaker, looking around 
from the side vestry as he tidied himself,
in ending work at 4pm - with two hours left. 

Suddenly thunder roared, as lightning struck, 
rain thrashed Belgian stained-glass panes -
donated by Lady Elgin(Mary Louisa Lambton):
It’s sounds made the quaint chapel ethereal,
as lightning refracted off coloured windows -
bouncing on the hillside’s pregnant clouds, 
giving me a sense of harmonious tranquility,
as I’d come straight to the altar of Christ - 
the beauty and charm around, was his shrine. 

A group of tourists barged into the vestibule,
from around the darkened raining compound -
they sought shelter from the deluge, 
like seeking god - only in need as we tend to: 
As he shelters us from life’s thundershowers, 
but not before teaching us a lesson or a few.  

The caretaker sprung into his true element, 
“Please leave - I’m closing now”, he declared:
As marching to the gate he bolted it inside, 
gesticulating we leave he shut the inner door -
then in the foyer, ‘leave, leave’ he chanted. 

                 ***

Twenty of us caught inside a stone church -
atop a quaint hill by a cemetery, in heavy rain,
two windows providing panoramic views
of a smoggy downpour on the Deodar forests: 
An experience I felt uniquely blessed with, 
as I was fortunate to be granted a benediction
whereas others still begged for a peek inside. 

A little man, but literally the keeper of Christ, 
swathed mentally as if a priest in a vestment: 
for a moment’s view of the church’s insides -
he granted all a cursory glance at the shrine. 
Promptly locking the door again, he grumbled,
“Please, you all leave, please leave, I insist.”
Though the clouds were even thicker now
and the rain was much more threatening. 

The bunch of us tourists, all in a joyous mood
from the intoxication to most of our senses -
none minded the caretaker's grouchy attitude, 
as jokingly avoiding his repeated threats, 
making it clear we weren't going anywhere. 

The man’s selfish stance, peeved me out 
as he still had two hours of duty left till 6pm -
then this rain was clearly an exigency at hand 
but all he could think about - was himself. 

My Catholic, then Protestant boarding schools
called to me in protest - from their learnings,
also my mother’s on the sense of Duty -
that always leads me to stand for what’s fair.

I looked at him squarely - challenged crisply,
“You’ll throw us out of the Church's shelter?
Isn’t sheltering humanity morally, emotionally, 
also physically - what they’re meant for!”

He looked at me meekly, also defensively, 
“I have to walk twenty miles home” he blurted, 
“You all have a car to go back in - but I don’t,
I have to walk uphill in the rain, all the way”:

I looked at him squarely, unconvinced -
“that's no reason to neglect one’s duty” I said:
“A church refusing shelter to people” I added,
“shutting them out in the rain - how’s that fair!” 

The rain came to an abrupt halt soon,
clouded sky lighting up with a golden glow;
I unfolded my umbrella to the drizzle - 
as we rushed to our respective paths of life:
to the next scene of a dream sequence
I carry faith with confidence, in God’s shelter -
along with this story I’m compelled to retell.



                The END



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