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Questions: 5 | Attempts: 847 | Last updated: Jan 16, 2013
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Alas, the sense of community that a common faith brings to a people spelled trouble for me. In time, my religious doings went from the notice of those to whom it didn’t matter and only amused, to that of those to whom it did matter- and they were not amused.
“What is your son doing going to temple?” asked the priest.
“Your son was seen in church crossing himself,” said the imam.
“Your son has gone Muslim,” said the pandit.
Yes, it was all forcefully brought to the attention of my bemused parents. You see, they didn’t know. They didn’t know that I was a practicing Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. Teenagers always hide a few things from their parents, isn’t that so? All sixteen-year olds have secrets, don’t they? But fate decided that my parents and I and the three wise men, as I shall call them, should meet one day on the Goubert Salai seaside esplanade and that my secret should be outed. It was a lovely, breezy, hot Sunday afternoon and the Bay of Bengal glittered under a blue sky. Townspeople were out for a stroll. Children screamed and laughed. Coloured balloons floated in the air. Ice cream sales were brisk. Why think of business on such a day, I ask? Why couldn’t they have just walked by with a nod and a smile? It was not to be. We were to meet not just one wise man but all three, and not one after another but at the same time, and each would decide upon seeing us that right then was the golden occasion to meet that Pondicherry notable, the zoo director, he of the model devout son. When I saw the first, I smiled; by the time I had laid eyes on the third, my smile had frozen into a mask of horror. When it was clear that all three were converging on us, my heart jumped before sinking very low.
The wise men seemed annoyed when they realized that all three of them were approaching the same people. Each must have assumed that the others were there for some business other than pastoral and had rudely chosen that moment to deal with it. Glances of displeasure were exchanged.
My parents looked puzzled to have their way gently blocked by three broadly smiling religious strangers. I should explain that my family was anything but orthodox. Father saw himself as part of the New India-rich, modern and as secular as ice cream. He didn’t have a religious bone in his body. He was a businessman, pronounced businessman in his case, a hardworking, earthbound professional, more concerned with inbreeding among the lions than any over-arching moral or existential scheme. It’s true that he had all new animals blessed by a priest and there were two small shrines at the zoo, one to Lord Ganesha and one to Hanuman, gods likely to please a zoo director, what with the first having the head of an elephant and the second being a monkey, but Father’s calculation was that this was good for business, not good for his soul, a matter of public relations rather than personal salvation…
The figure of speech not used in the passage is: