It is with a heavy heart that I bid goodbye to Mr Patrick John. For many years, he was my landlord, as I had rented the flat above him at 21 New Patliputra Colony. But more than that, he was family.
Soft spoken, considerate, and well versed in the history of the Catholic Church, Patrick John was an author, a documentation specialist, a valued resource person and trainer for Unicef, Bihar, and much more. He has received numerous awards and honours for his writing . He was known for his interest in inter-religious dialogue. His booklet ‘Isai Dharm-ek sanshipt parichay’ first published in 1997 went through four editions. He was a regular contributor to ‘Sandesha’ a Church magazine.
His son Dr Lokesh Kumar has been in my wider friends’ circle, and part of a lot of good times for decades, going back to the mid 80’s.
Dr John was a experienced and expert veterinarian : an animal doctor who took on some of the most challenging assignments in Zambia, Africa. He, single handed, managed cattle farms thousand acres in size with hundreds of heads of cattle, and often on a summer or winter evening, we would sit together, and he would regale us with stories of a time gone by. Truly, he had lived an interesting, and at times, a truly adventurous life. He has contributed scholarly articles in reputed Veterinary journals.
Dr John will also be remembered by several of the old stalwarts at UNICEF, Bihar, he being instrumental in training several women’s groups in rural income generation, nutrition, and other aspects. He was connected with the ‘Dular’ programme that addresses issues of infant and maternal mortality.
The clergy and parishioners of the Sacred heart Church, as well as the Mata Kalyan Samiti will always be indebted to him. He was a meticulous keeper of accounts, and a sought after treasurer on many committees!
He helped several scholars with research, and I recall Dr Jose Kalapura SJ visiting frequently, as Dr John was doing the lion’s share of editing and proofing a university course on Church History.
Even in recent times, with failing health, he could be seen in the evenings and some mornings, going through some papers or books, in his den. Even earlier this year, when I visited him, though his voice was weak, he was ever ready to start a discussion our favourite issues: matters that concerned the Catholic Church and some new insight he had gained while reflecting on some of the history of Patna, Barh, and Bettiah.
Even though I will not be there to see him off on his final journey, to say in Swahili ‘toa rafiki mpendwa’ (Goodbye Dear friend!), there is a certainty in my heart that he will be smiling up there, in the great cattle ranch in the sky, sipping on tea and spicy biscuits, while conversing with all the friends who have gone on before.
An abiding memento from Patrick John is a gift he gave me a decade or so ago: an LEDSONIC radiogram that he brought back with him from Africa. He knew about my love for music and playing records (naturally, because I basted music almost 24×7!) It took me some time, but a couple of years ago, I managed to restore the set to working condition, and now, every time I spin a platter, I will feel the music reaching out to him, and his presence will be with me.
[Dr John is survived by his son, daughter, and loving wife]