5:30 am – my driver pounds on my door to remind me of my plans to go to the only English catholic service in the church in my area…. damnit!
I had mentioned to him that I would like to meet some English speaking folks in the area, so I planned on an early Sunday morning. I arrived at the 60 year old church about 10 minutes early, so I decided to go in and spend some time collecting my thoughts, and catching up on sleep. At this particular church, shoes were not allowed inside, so I had to leave my dress shoes outside, where it was raining.
Just as the service started, I was suddenly publicly scolded by an elderly woman in a sari, who spoke no English, but just made hand gestures at me and yelled at me in Telugu. I genuinely tried to understand her communication, but gave up a few minutes into the confrontation and put my head down and shrugged. I hoped she would lose interest and let me be. Moments later, an nun informed me that I had to move immediately. I had been sitting in the women’s side of the church!
I turned around at once (I was sitting in the front row) and noticed a complete gender segregation of the church. Slightly embarrassed, I got up and moved to a row on the men’s side. A group of 5 men simultaneously stood up, shook there heads and quickly left the row to move elsewhere. Perhaps I had offended them with my unintentional attempt of trying to break the local custom. It was then the fear of my possible demise in this city out of arrogance and ignorance became apparent.
The priest spent an hour speaking of being humble, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the several men who let me embarrass myself. At least they could have warned me during the 10 minutes I sat praying in the women’s side of the church, like the outstanding catholic that I am. On a side note, the music at this service was particularly interesting. They had a keyboard with drum beats that resembled techno or trance music in the background of the hymns and songs, which people were singing completely off key, but loud. I found it ironic that such music, which I have only experienced in Ecstasy filled clubs and beach parties was played in such a sacred place, where I was forced to remove my shoes, and sit only with men, (some of which refused to sit anywhere near me)
I form no judgment on today’s events – I was in the wrong. Hyderabad- 1, Jason – 0. Upon returning home, I engaged in a 2 hour series of stories from Uncle, who taught me ancient Hindu tales and how they have been used in modern politics both in India and around the world, especially Germany – completely fascinating. Out of frustration with my constant disruption of the social norms in this area, I told my driver to go home and hang out with his boy, and decided to spend the day in solitude writing and reading, and let Hyderabad carry on without me this Sunday afternoon.
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