Brother taught me English when I was in my 7th standard at Don Bosco High School,Mannuthy.I was an average student, not special at anything, reserved and shy.I remember the first time Brother noticed me in class was when there was a prank played on a classmate.The entire class laughed at him and I was the only one serious,not smiling and having sympathy for the guy.He called me after the class and that was the first time I talked to a teacher personally.
The second time was on a morning before school.I was rushing to my class after getting down from the school bus.Brother was like waiting for me near the boarding.He only asked what was my rank in the class for that midterm. I said 9 and he said ok.I went to class and he went back to the boarding.
As days passed we started interacting more.We went for a walk together when he came for some meeting which was happening near my house.We talked about lot of things that day.I showed him my house but somehow did not feel like inviting him in.
He taught me hardly for 6 months.He came in the place of a teacher who had left us midway through the year.The scholastic year was coming to a close.On the last day of school Brother invited me to his room in the boarding.He presented me with a greeting card and a Five star chocolate.That was the first present I was receiving from someone elder as him.
During my vacation that year I got a call from Brother.He said he was leaving for Calcutta.He said he may not be back till I finish my school.He asked whether I would come to the railway station to see him off.I was confused what to tell him as that was the first time I was talking to a teacher on phone.I think I said I will try to come.But I never went.It was not because I was sad to see him off.I did not feel like going.Maybe I did not had the attachment he had for me.
I almost forgot him and lived through my happy vacation days.The school reopened and I joined another school.The new school was full of strikes and less academics.It was another strike day that I received a letter at my home.That was the first letter I was receiving and I was anxious and excited about reading it.The back side of the letter said Bro.James Pathiyil.He was in Siliguri and wanted to keep in touch with me.I wrote him back describing how I hated my new school.That was the first letter I was writing to someone.He wrote me back asking me to keep faith and believe that everything was happening for good.
After a month at the new school my parents enrolled me back to Don Bosco.I was happy to go back to my old friends. I wrote to brother happily about my return to Don Bosco.He wrote me back saying I should realize that I am blessed with such wonderful parents who take such pains for me.That actually was new light for me.I had not thought about my parents transparently till then.
Letters continued from Siliguri in the years to follow.Every one of them has something new to learn for me.He sent me greeting cards on Christmas and New year regularly.For my birthday he sent self designed cards made specially for me.He made the small kid in me feel important.He urged me to study and top the class from being one among others.He urged me to write when I felt there was a writer in me.He urged me to take up leadership roles.He urged me to play and enjoy life at its fullest.
I promptly replied to every letter of him.It was like I wanted to make achievements to tell him about it every time I wrote to him.I improved tremendously in my studies and started topping my class by the time I reached 9th standard.I started winning prizes writing stories and poetry.I started taking up roles of class leader,bus leader,house leader etc.He was infact my dearest friend all through those years we never met.
I was in my 10th standard and it was one of the happiest days in my school.My teachers had awarded me with the “favorite student” prize.The principal announced that in the assembly along with the list of prizes I had won that year.That day afternoon I was wanted at principals office.Waiting there for me was Brother James.He had just arrived for a brief stay there.
The first thing I felt meeting him was that he was a couple of hours late.He should have been there for the morning assembly to hear out my achievements-The same selfish me!! He came with me to town in the school bus that evening.He suggested we got down in town and walked.I obliged.We walked all through Thrissur town that evening.He gave one Rupee each to every begger he saw on the road.We talked and walked till he reached his church.We parted again.
I joined college after my school.We wrote to each other all through my predegree days..I wrote about my fears of being transformed into a bad human being.He replied that was only part of life.One day he sent an interesting letter.It said he was about to die as there was a predicted earthquake in siliguri.He posted the letter in advance fearing he might not be able to reach me again.The letter talked about about a man facing death.It did not scare me as I had received another letter from him couple of days before saying the earthquake never happened and he was fine!I found close to death we all become very very basic.It was important to live your life to its fullest.
The letters continued all through the 4 years I did engineering.I was in a hostel for the first time in my life.I gained new friends and experiences.The intensity of my relationship with Brother reduced..But his letters and greetings continued from Rome,Italy and different parts of the globe.He was travelling during those days.I wrote to him about the way the world of movies had started fascinating me.He reminded me in every letter how proud he was of me.I somehow couldn’t tell him how indebted I was to him for shaping me into a better person.
We met for the last time when I was doing my 3rd year Engineering.He had come to Thrissur for a seminar.This time we did not walk.I drove him through the city.I talked nonstop stupidity about big dreams and fake pholisophy.He talked a lot about humility and how important it was to lead a simple life.We parted for the last time.
He wrote to pay him a visit to Calcutta since I was free after completing my Engineering.He was working with the street children there on a rehabilitation project.He said all his kids there wanted to meet me.I promised him I will come as soon as I could find time.
Those days were tough for me.I was facing the real world for the first time.I had always lived in my world of dreams.It was tough,depressing,shallow times as dreams gave way to harsh realities.Nothing was what it seemed.Nothing was easy.Coping up with realities took more time than imagined and I could never make that trip to Calcutta.
It was time to get practical.I decided to give dreams some rest and took up an engineering job.I had some time before joining.I wrote to brother about how I had come down to earth and expressed my wish to visit him and his kids in Calcutta.
For the first time in 10 years there was no reply from him.I wrote to him again after I joined work.There was again no reply.I kept writing to him for an year without any replies.No designed greeting card came for my 22nd Birthday.I knew something was wrong and in my next letter I kept my email id.
Couple of weeks later I received a mail from a Bishop.It said Father James Pathiyil passed away one year back.It was an accident.He was trying to photograph the church from a top angle and somehow lost balance.They received all my letters but since I was not writing my address in it there were unable to get back to me.
I remember it was an evening.I was sitting in my office reading that mail.
I remember I cried.