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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Tourist

“How was your flight?”

“Long, but comfortable...”

“You can crash at the hotel tonight. I will pick you up tomorrow morning. We begin work the day after. A day's rest would help you get out of jet-lag.”

“Okay.”

“First time in India?”

“Yes...”

“Welcome to Chennai. It wasn't called Chennai a few years ago, you know!”

“Yes. I saw that... on Wikipedia...”

“Would you like to do some sight-seeing tomorrow? I can take you around...”

“Sure. Thanks... I hope I am not taking you away from your family on a Sunday!”

“No, that's perfectly fine. My wife and kids are out on vacation at their grandparents' house. I am alone at home at the moment...”

“Wow! This is some crazy traffic in Chennai... How do people even drive here without running over someone?”

“This is normal for us! You see, we have lanes and traffic rules so that we can observe them in the breach...”

“I now understand why they insisted on me having local support.”

“Yes. Foreigners would be lost without locals guiding them... You see that flyover?”

“The what?”

“The flyover...”

“Oh, you mean the overpass?”

“Yes, yes... it is the Kathipara Junction. A few years ago, we did not have the flyover and traffic was a nightmare.”

“You mean to say it isn't a nightmare now?”

“No. What I was trying to say is... you are booked at The Hilton which is near that.”

“Okay. Why is that young woman sitting behind that man on the bike covering her face with that cloth. Is that a custom or tradition?”

“Ha ha! No. They are probably lovers. She is hiding her face so that she isn't spotted by someone who knows her, say a family member...”

“...or her husband! I get it. It is a flirtation device...”

“What? No, it is not a flotation device...”

“...”

“Oh... Okay. I get it now! Flirtation device... you are a funny man.”

“Is this the Hilton?”

“Yes, it is. The room is booked in the name you gave me over the phone. Here is a prepaid cell phone. I have saved my number under the name Mr. X. What time should I pick you up tomorrow morning?”

“Let us meet at 9 AM in the lobby!”

* * *

“Good morning, Mr. X!”

“Ah, Good morning. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes...”

“Lets go... This way please... If I may ask, do you believe in God?”

“Does it matter?”

“Not that it does. I just assumed that you might be a believer. You wouldn't mind if I stop at a temple on the way, do you?”

“No...”

“Thanks. I go to the temple every Sunday. There is a small Ganesha temple at the corner of the street. It'll just take a couple of minutes...”

“Fine. I'll just wait outside in the car.”

“...”

“What's so funny? Why are you laughing? Did I say something wrong?”

“No. I was just thinking... I believe in God. Therefore, I go into the temple...”

“I don't and that is why I am staying outside, in the car...”

“Have you thought about this? If you believed God wasn't in there, inside the temple, why do you have to stay outside? Doesn't staying outside just confirm that God is inside?”

“You have a point... Let's go.”

* * *

“I was wondering... What is all this graffitti on the walls?”

“We Chennai folks like to adorn our walls in public spaces with names of our politicians in block lettering! It is political graffitti...”

“I see... There is so much about India that I don't know! Do you have cows? I haven't seen any since I came here and I was told that people here worship cows. Do you worship a cow, Mr. X?”

“There are cows in India, but it would be very rare nowadays to find one roaming the street in Chennai. You would find them if you go into the outskirts of the city... and for the record... No... I don't worship a cow!”

“Hmm... Are you a good man, Mr. X?”

“Thats a moot question, don't you think?”

“Since you believe in God... may I ask you another question?”

“Fire away!”

“If someone told you to maim and kill a child, would you do it?”

“Ugh... No! I wouldn't!”

“Why?”

“It is morally repugnant to me!”

“Why is that different from what we would be doing tomorrow?”

“Killing for hire is a vocation. But killing an innocent child is a matter of principle...”

“Okay. Stay with me on this thought experiment. Lets assume that you won't maim and kill an innocent child because God wouldn't want you to do it...”

“That is reasonable...”

“If you are doing what God wills you to do, would you still do it if it isn't something that you would want to do?”

“I don't get it!”

“Let me rephrase my question... Suppose God wanted you to maim and kill a child, would you do it?”

“No!”

“Therefore, whether you maim and kill a child has nothing to do with what God wants, but everything to do with whether you want to do it or not...”

“I see the logic, but...”

“Logic dictates that there is no need for God to exist... at least to guide us on what should or shouldn't be done!”

* * *

“Did you know that there are only three Basilicas in the world built over the tomb of an apostle of Christ and one of them is right here in Chennai?”

“I've been to the St. Peter's in Rome and Santiago de Compostella, Spain. Sight-seeing, of course...”

“This is the Santhome Basilica. There is an underground chapel behind which holds the Relic of St. Thomas.”

“This is a beautiful church...”

“Did you notice that Jesus stands on a lotus flower with two peacocks by his side?”

“Yes...”

“This is probably something that you would see only in India and only in Chennai...”

“Is that a bride waiting to walk the aisle? Did we crash a wedding?”

“Maybe... Let's go around to the underground tomb chapel.”

“In my country, we don't have weddings on Sundays, ever! You know...”

“That's funny! We schedule weddings on holidays to ensure that everyone attends it... and they better bring a gift or cash!”

“Oh...”

“I had been thinking about your logical rebuttal of the existence of God. Let me ask you this... Are you a rational man?”

“I believe so...”

“Therefore, you would make choices based on the benefits of that choice and not based on emotional reasons?”

“You could say that...”

“Let's say there is no hell. You wouldn't go there for not believing in God since it isn't there. But, if there is a God and there is a hell, it seems to be a very serious penalty for not believing in Him. So, even if you are a rational person, the rational choice would be to believe in God, isn't it?”

“I see your point...”

“Are you changing your mind?”

“Not yet. There could be one God or there could be many. If I believed there was only one God and in reality there were many, I would be going to hell for not believing in some of them. If I believed there were many Gods and I discover after the fact that there was only one, I would be going to hell anyway for doubting the omniscience of the single God. So, why bother?”

“Touché. Lets change the topic. Shall we?”

“Okay. Do you watch movies Mr. X?”

“Yes.”

“What is your favorite movie?”

“Kill Bill.”

“Volume 1 or 2?”

“Both!”

“Uma Thurman is my favorite actor...”

“I see...”

“I love her so much that my girlfriend has given me blanket permission to go out for a dinner date with her, if I ever get invited by her!”

“... if you ever get invited by her!”

“Why? You think I don't stand a chance? Stop laughing...”

“That would be like Vincent Vega taking Marsellus Wallace's girlfriend out on a date to the Jackrabbit's diner in Pulp Fiction!”

“You know why Quentin Tarantino is my favorite director?”

“Why?”

“Reservoir Dogs. A bunch of bad-ass gangsters talk about everything but the heist... heck, he did not even show the heist... and people bought it!”

9 comments:

Omicronon said...

You're a great writer! Do you mind visiting my writing blog and giving me advice? Thanks!

http://thegardenofstories.blogspot.com/

Prabhavathi said...

hi,check my blog,i have nominated u for an award

Alex B.H. said...

Nice work !! I like the dialogue format.

Check out my short story, ''Iphigenia''
http://alexbh.blogspot.com

By Caleb said...

You said you accepted criticism, so here goes:
I thought you jumped around too much. There was no point to the story, it went from belief in God to killing children to Kill Bill. It needs to have a clear purpose. Also, you may be overusing the three periods ... It felt like all the characters were cutting each other off. The dialogue format was interesting, though it left a lot of holes in the setting. You made some good statements about religion that make people think, but honestly this story needs a lot more work.

Anonymous said...

Totally Loved It. I read somewhere that we reflect each other - every one of us. I know you do. The story has everything love - Madras (no, not Chennai), the corner-of-the-street Ganesha temple, Santiago de Compostella (I know I will make the St James' Way, someday, soon), Kill Bill, and ... Thank you for sharing

Short Story Lovers said...

Awesome blog. I am impressed.
I want to share my stories website also Shortstorylovers.com and Shortnscarystories.com

John Gentile said...

I enjoyed your short story 'The Tourist." It held my attention from beginning to end.

Please read my short story 'The Extraterrestrial Life Form' at

http://socyberty.com/paranormal/the-extraterrestrial-life-form/

Thanks!

Verge Le Noir said...

I dig this story. And the mentioned of Quentin had me, good work.

I'm also a short story writer. Mine are mostly crime fiction.

http://thepanopticonchronicles.com

Mamu kutti said...

Good to know some good things but nothing!!

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