Dell chats with the man from India

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.

By DELL FRANKLIN

I was in my car in the south lot listening to John Coltrane on a very late blustery Saturday afternoon across from Ruddell’s Smokehouse in Cayucos, watching the people and savoring the music, and this fellow around 35 who struck me as middle eastern was walking around on the edge of the lot holding onto a blue paperback book that I surmised was a novel.

Maybe he was a professor at Cal Poly. He was short and wore a heavy beard, and after patrolling the area for a while he caught my eye and nodded, and I nodded back and he smiled and came over to my window and said, “How are you, sir?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “How are you?”

“What a beautiful day it is,” he went on with great enthusiasm in a thick accent. “Why are you not out enjoying the afternoon?”

“There’s too many people out there right now. I prefer sitting in my car.” (A  dusty 2002 Toyota Camry with dents and a missing hubcap.)

“Are you visiting?”

“No. I live here.”

He seemed excited about being here and asked did I have a family, and I told him no and he was surprised and even shocked and asked why not, and I told him I liked being single and wanted no family because raising a family was too much responsibility and stress and I was essentially lazy, which meant unless I was rich I’d have to work nonstop very hard for at least 30 years to be a good provider for kids who never stopped eating and complaining, and the very idea of having to do that made me hate life and, furthermore, I’d felt that way since around the age of 14 when, God bless him, my dad refrained from killing me.

And now I was 77. Mission accomplished.

“Oh,” he said, stumped.

Before he could gather his thoughts and move on, I asked if he had a family and he said no, he didn’t have one yet, so I asked why not and he said Jesus had not yet decided when he should have a bride and raise a family, but that he wanted one but wouldn’t move forward on this desire until Jesus told him to, and he was sure in the near future Jesus would ordain him a wife and family.

I knew I was in trouble now. He asked if I was a Christian and I said no and asked him where he was from and he said San Luis Obispo. So then I asked where he was from originally, and he said Southern India.

I mentioned that India was of a strict caste system and asked was he from the poorest of the poor, and he said yes. Unlike most Indian immigrants coming to America, he had been very poor and his life was rough in India, very hard.

I then mentioned that India was comprised mostly of Hindus and Muslims, and he said yes, but there were Christians too. He went on to claim that Islam was of a false god as was Hinduism. When I asked him about Jews, he said they didn’t observe a messiah, and then he went on a long tangent about the beauty of Christianity and how it had changed his life and made him happy and at peace (he talked as if echoing long, rehearsed sticking points) and on and on. And I thought, “This is unusual, because over the years I can’t think of one Christian pigeon-holing me and trying to either convert or lecture me who wasn’t white.”

So I said, “Look, I’m a nonbeliever. When I have to fill out a form, and they ask for a religion, I write down nonbeliever. But, if I was forced to observe any religion, I think I’d become a Buddhist, because they make a lot of sense to me.”

“No, no, NO!” He was affronted. “It is only Christianity.”

He started in again, and I asked him what he did in San Luis Obispo. He answered, an engineer with a master’s degree. He worked for a small company. Even though he was born dirt poor in the caste system of India, a Catholic organization in India put him through college.

Well, this was when I felt it was time I mentioned that Christians had had their hands in a good share of barbaric and ghastly sinning (I mentioned Rasputin, Crusaders, and Trump). But before I could begin naming off more historically evil Christian villains, he went on a tirade about forgiveness and claimed that no matter what any of them had done or would do in the future, they would be forgiven by Jesus Christ and find redemption. And then he opened the blue paperback and I realized it was the Holy Bible, and he began quoting from it and I said, “I gotta go now, nice talking to you…”

“Wait!” he said, still hovering at my window.

“No, I’ve got to go now. I have a lot of responsibility. I have to feed and walk my dog and cook up the evening meal and decide what to watch on TV tonight. There’s a lot of stress involved, so good bye and good luck, it was good talking to you, my friend.”

“Good luck to you, my friend,” he said, waving the book at me, nodding, smiling, a very nice person I assume. But dear God, it is too late to convert me. “It was good talking to you also.”

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