I arrived in Loyola on the 16th of December, 1963. I was received at the gate by Fr. Kennedy, the Rector and Principal at that time. He picked up my tin box. He said to me “Paul, follow me”, as he walked into the school campus with a briskness that one could not but notice.
The name Fr. Graham awakens many wonderful memories in me. I was a religious with the Irish Patrician brothers when I left them, to work in Jamshedpur to look after my alcoholic father’s five children. I found a friend in Fr. Graham. I think he was teaching Maths at that time. He did not treat me like a layman. He treated me like one of his own. We often went walking in the evening. We discussed everything under the sun.
The school had sent some of the teachers to Jaipur to attend a Maths seminar. I was in that group. Fr. Graham was in Mumbai on some work and he flew from there to Jaipur to join us. As usual we were out walking one evening. He said to me, “Paul, do you think I am living a good religious life? Don’t you think our life is too comfortable to be called religious? Everything is available to us so easily. You guys came here by train and I took a flight. Don’t you think it would have been more appropriate for me to have taken a train?”
That was Fr. Graham for you. Do I have to say anything more? This priest was so deliciously normal. He had doubts unlike so many others of his kind, who are so sickeningly sure of their conduct and their beliefs that they create a chasm between them and the ordinary people drastically, reducing their ability to do good and establish a productive relationship with people. These Jesuits of the 60s and 70s could not be bought by flattery or donations. They did not care for either. They created a school that was living and vibrant. To ensure the school remained free from scandals, these priests encouraged free speech. The teachers and students were free to express themselves. The school took precedence over individuals, which included Jesuits. At staff meetings, we spoke freely to protect the school and its values. They were friends to those who were hardworking and disciplined. They were a terror to those who tried to promote an unworthy cause.
Names like Graham, Roberts, Dineen, MacGauley, Bonello, Hunt, Kennedy and Judge were giants who walked the Loyola campus. Listen to some of these delicious snippets. I was walking to the hostel building where I lived at that time. When I reached the handball court, Fr. Dineen who was playing handball, stopped me. He showed me a picture which looked like a royal palace and he said, “Paul, look at it; are you looking at it carefully?” I said “yes”. He responded “This is where my butler lives “. An incredible example of understatement.
A rather silly 23 year old guy called Paul Mathew who was just out of a religious life was living at the staff quarters. One day he happened to meet the Rector and Principal Fr. Kennedy. He asked him how his new accommodation was. He complained “Father, the whitewash comes off on the fingers if I touch the wall.” Blunt as a hammer came the reply. With a sardonic smile playing on his face he said, “Paul… (long pause)… don’t touch it.” I fell in love with the man.
One day out on our usual walk Fr. Graham tried to tickle my funny bone. Listen to him. A very dejected man walked into a restaurant one morning and sat down at a table. He told the waitress, “I want two eggs fried very hard, two slices of toast burnt black and a cup of weak, lukewarm coffee.” “Are you sure that’s what you want?” she asked amazed. “To the letter” replied the man. The waitress explained to the chef and managed to get the man exactly what he had asked for. “Anything else , Sir?” she asked as she put the order on the table. “Yes, now sit down and nag me. I am homesick.” He burst into his characteristic gurgling laughter and I followed suit.
Arriving at the gate of heaven, Fr. Graham will tell St. Peter ‘ I have a confession to make. I have had doubts about God, Christ and Mother Mary. I have sinned.” Peter would respond “What do you think God gave you intelligence for? You have the right to ask questions and to have doubts. Son,all your sins are forgiven. Come right in.”
Mr. Paul Mathew has retired from School but continues to tutor students privately. He loves his evening walk and meet his old students. Contact Paul Mathew.