It would actually be too presumptuous of me to call Dr. Daniel Babu Paul my friend. We just happened to be in the same Pre-University class in UC College, Alwaye (now Aluva) in 1957. Babu Paul was a shining star, intelligent and studious, already poised to do great things and a favourite of teachers and classmates. I, a mischief-monger, but not altogether a bad student whose romantic poetry in the college magazine won much admiration. Babu Paul lived in the hostel; I bussed from home paying daily busfare not being able to afford a monthy pass and occasionally trudged the sixteen kilometres back home when I had no six annas (slightly more than a third of a rupee) to pay. On the few occasions we met we discussed literature. We were both avid readers.
I left college with a good second class in the order of merit; Babu Paul went to another college, having topped the merit list, to pursue engineering. Many years later I wasn’t surprised when I learnt that Babu Paul became a joint secretary with a deserving Cabinet Secretary’s rank, not amazed that he was once vice chancellor of Kerala University and that many awards came his way. Not even surprised that, like PC Alexander (another alumnus of UC College) who missed being the President, Babu Paul was not even considered to be a governor. I suppose he was too straight for the job. Babu Paul would have made a great President worthy of secular India.
This morning on opening my website, I found that the chart of my readership for the day had shot up vertically like Burj Khalifa. People who searched for Babu Paul evidently found my blog, Asianet. Babu Paul and the Church. The blog began with an interview between two persons in Kerala I admired – Dr. Daniel Babu Paul and TN Gopakurmar of Asianet. Now both are dead.
Babu Paul was a year younger than me in age, and much smarter. Though a believing Christian, he called my anti-religious blog ‘profound.’ He didn’t argue against my adverse comments on the Bible, but updated me about our common teachers and friends. We corresponded for a little while more, with his asking me to give him an alert if I visited Trivandrum. As usual, it was I who discontinued the dialogue. Now there’s nobody in Trivandrum for me to alert. Shasi Tharoor doesn’t know me. Nobody else, least of all politicians, matters.
I have watched Babu Paul’s relaxed and effortless sermons on You-tube. Also a few of his interviews. Though the son of a Reverend and the author of a much-awarded dictionary on Biblical phrases, Babu Paul evidently found meaning in all religions. He even got an award from Guruvayoor temple! Extolling the celebration of Shivaratri. Babu Paul wrote that Lord Shiva’s swallowing the poison that arose from the sea during its churning was similar to Jesus mounting the cross – both were instances of gods sacrificing themselves to save humanity. Perhaps his church did not appreciate that rather far-fetched comparison. In any case, Babu Paul’s church was never much fond of him for his forthrightness; the priests once derided him to the chief minister of the time.
I do not know much about Paul’s family life. Perhaps he missed his wife who died many years before. After her death he hung a board outside his home that God and he alone resided inside. I guess Babu Paul was a lonely man towards the end of his life. Probably he missed intellectual companionship worthy of his intellect.
I intended to send a copy of my planned book before its publication to Babu Paul for his comments which I hoped to print on the back cover. This, despite my stories are unfavourable to religious superstitions and my knowing that Paul was a religious man. I trusted him to be kind with his words.
Now that will not be. Goodbye, my friend. If there is another world, which I doubt, I will try and alert you when my journey begins.