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Chapter 27
Later that evening I overheard my parents speaking.
"You said yes?" said Father.
"I believe he asked you too. You referred him to me,"replied Mother.
"Did I?""You did.""I had a very busy day…""You're not busy now. You're quite comfortably unemployedby the looks of it. If you want to march into his room andpull the prayer rug from under his feet and discuss thequestion of Christian baptism with him, please go ahead. Iwon't object.""No, no." I could tell from his voice that Father was settlingdeeper into his chair. There was a pause.
"He seems to be attracting religions the way a dog attractsfleas," he pursued. "I don't understand it. We're a modernIndian family; we live in a modern way; India is on the cuspof becoming a truly modern and advanced nation – and herewe've produced a son who thinks he's the reincarnation of SriRamakrishna.""If Mrs. Gandhi is what being modern and advanced isabout, I'm not sure I like it," Mother said.
"Mrs. Gandhi will pass! Progress is unstoppable. It is adrumbeat to which we must all march. Technology helps andgood ideas spread – these are two laws of nature. If you don'tlet technology help you, if you -resist good ideas, you condemnyourself to dinosaurhood! I am utterly convinced of this. Mrs.
Gandhi and her foolishness will pass. The New India willcome."(Indeed she would pass. And the New India, or one familyof it, would decide to move to Canada.)Father went on: "Did you hear when he said, ‘Bapu Gandhisaid, "All religions are true"'?""Yes."…"Bapu Gandhi? The boy is getting to be on affectionateterms with Gandhi? After Daddy Gandhi, what next? UncleJesus? And what's this nonsense – has he really become aMuslim?""It seems so.""A Muslim! A devout Hindu, all right, I can understand. AChristian in addition, it's getting to be a bit strange, but I canstretch my mind. The Christians have been here for a longtime – Saint Thomas, Saint Francis Xavier, the missionaries andso on. We owe them good schools.""Yes.""So all that I can sort of accept. But Muslim? It's totallyforeign to our tradition. They're outsiders.""They've been here a very long time too. They're a hundredtimes more numerous than the Christians.""That makes no difference. They're outsiders.""Perhaps Piscine is marching to a different drumbeat ofprogress.""You're defending the boy? You don't mind it that he'sfancying himself a Muslim?""What can we do, Santosh? He's taken it to heart, and it'snot doing anyone any harm. Maybe it's just a phase. It toomay pass – like Mrs. Gandhi.""Why can't he have the normal interests of a boy his age?
Look at Ravi. All he can think about is cricket, movies andmusic.""You think that's better?""No, no. Oh, I don't know what to think. It's been a longday." He sighed. "I wonder how far he'll go with theseinterests."Mother chuckled. "Last week he finished a book called TheImitation of Christ.""The Imitation of Christ! I say again, I wonder how farhe'll go with these interests!" cried Father.
They laughed.


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