After a couple of years of my retirement from the Indian Army in 2004, my friend Colonel Josey Joseph, wanted to know what I would have done post-retirement had I been in India. I laid out my plans and he wanted to know why I did not implement a much smarter and better plan than immigrating to Canada.
My post retirement plan in case I had stayed in India was to become a Priest at our Church and start with many meditation sittings – all to impress the people.
In all mock seriousness, I replied “To begin with, there must be a few fair-skinned followers, especially good-looking blonde girls, in low cut blouses , and a few white guys. Whenever I paused during my sermons, they would chorus ‘Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!‘ Now watch the fun as to how my coffers fill up.”
“Why did you not work towards your plan?” Colonel Josey asked.
“The plan was great, but I just cannot sing! For such a plan to succeed, one has to be good at singing. Look at any of the ‘successful’ pastors or swamis – They are great singers and dancers too! A requirement to impress (fool) the poor masses and bhakthas,” I replied.
Colonel Josey said “Thank God! Your Dad did not put you through singing and dancing lessons, else you would have ended up selling your Dad first and then your God! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!“
Now I laid my plan bare.
Syrian Orthodox Priests can marry, only those who aspire to be promoted as a bishop remain a bachelor. Fluent in English, Malayalam, Thamizh, Hindi, Punjabi, indeed a rare combination for a Mallu Priest, I will be invited to all the International and Pan-Indian (NRI/NRK) weddings and showered in moolah. With my vast military experience and having travelled all over India, I will be invited as a speaker, a motivational speaker, as I specialise in impressing people.
A Syrian Orthodox priest is often allotted a Parish and he may be the Vicar or the Assistant Vicar. A Parish means a small administrative district or village, including all religions, typically having its own church and a priest or pastor. Vicar is derived from the English prefix ‘vice,’ similarly meaning ‘deputy‘ and here he is the deputy to the Bishop.
The Parish will be benefited in that every need of the Parishioners would be presented effectively to the District Collector or the Superintendent of Police. Naturally, they would be compelled by courtesy and etiquette to never refuse an audience to the Reverend Father-Veteran Colonel Reji Koduvath. The least I could do is to draft various complaints and applications for the Parish members.
There are various projects by the Central and State Governments for the benefit of the citizens. Many of them do not reach the public as people are unaware of the paperwork involved. Having written many Statements of Case while in service, and following it up to the Defence Ministry level, who else can do it better?
Employment opportunities for the youth, military, police (both central & state), bank, railways, state transport, UPSC, state PSC… I could have provided effective guidance and mentorship to youth aspiring to enroll into all these. I would have conducted orientation training for each specific job at the church, conduct mock tests, interviews, group discussions, public speaking, etc as well. With more of the youth employed, obviously more money for the church (and me.)
I would also organise leadership training and adventure activities for the children and youth of the Parish. This would facilitate them to do better at the interviews.
I would motivate the children of the Parish to read by initiating little ones to the habit of reading, the biggest bugbear for the Indian youth. I would publish a Church magazine with children contributing their stories, poems and articles.
Upon hearing my narration, Colonel Josey remarked “I think your idea is not only novel, but simply brilliant. And in these times when most of the clergy across the board propagate hate; a message of love, an effort to help the helpless and instill self-confidence in children : that’s the core of what our nation and the world really needs. And, knowing you so well, I am quite certain that personal gain would hardly be your motivation. Also, more importantly, although every parish priest is not a Colonel Reji Koduvath, I am sure most of them can undertake some of the activities you suggested. Someone needs to take the lead.”