It was a hot and humid afternoon at the playground when I finally decided to approach her. It had been at least a month since I had seen her everyday taking care of her son. And she was always alone. I was always alone.
As much as I tried, there was something not clicking with the moms at my daughter’s school. I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was that I didn’t speak Tamil. They spoke English, but they were not very chatty with me. They were chatty among themselves, but not with me and of course I felt left out. I wanted to hang out with people. I had recently moved from Houston to Chennai, and I was eager to experience the world of preschool with my daughter. But so far, it wasn’t looking very good.
However, I was not the only unsuccessful mom at the playground. And, please, do not read between the lines. I know success as a mom doesn’t come from having random conversations with other moms at the playground. I only mean that I actually wanted to make friends, but it seemed more difficult than I thought it would be. So I finally took the courage to approach this other woman.
She was always wearing sunglasses. Who is she anyway? A Bollywood star? I don’t really remember what was the very first thing I said. But I do remember she took her sunglasses off, and for the very first time, I saw those darn big black circles under her eyes.
We began chit chatting, and she told me she was from Pakistan. During the conversation I came to tell her that I was Mexican, and that my husband’s work was what had brought us to India. I found out she had lived in Dubai before. And then, I opened my mouth too much…
Dubai? I’ve been in Dubai. Well, only at the airport. Man, I was impressed with those women… They are so beautiful, and their eyes are so dark, so deep. That’s the only thing I saw. They were all covered with a robe-like dress. They are Muslims. I like your necklace. What does it say?
The necklace said Allah…
Over the next couple of weeks we continued having random conversations – probably about the weather. Somehow I invited her to my apartment to have tea or something, but she never came. She would always give me an excuse. Her husband went to the office later in the afternoon since he owned his own business, and she mentioned they had breakfast together every morning. So I understood that maybe she just wanted to hang out with her husband.
But one day she actually decided to meet me at Tryst Café and she brought her husband along. No offense to all the Muslims who are reading this (if there are any), but this man looked really Muslim. No topi, no beard like your prophet… just his face. It was like looking at Islam right in the eye.
She introduced us, and for the most part, we were having a really nice breakfast. My son was being such a good boy. No crying, no drama. No interruptions. She mentioned to her husband that I was very interested in different religions. That I had been reading a lot about Hinduism and even Islam. A little. We probably talked about school a little bit more, and the conversation changed little by little to friendship. They were interested in the fact that I was not really hanging out with the expatriates in India. It wasn’t that I didn’t know any, I just felt like I wanted to mingle with the locals. I wanted to experience India and the people. I didn’t want to be isolated in my own world, where everything was like I knew it, and with people who looked like me. He said I was a different kind of Westerner. I took that as a compliment.
We also talked about their diet. It finally made sense what Kosher and Halal meant. They were very easy to talk to. The husband intimidated me a little bit, but I guess it was because I had just met him. Both of them spoiled my son so much that day, that was very sweet. She asked me if all Westerners dated many people before getting married. She had always intrigued by that.
Oh, boy, where to begin?, I said. She was laughing so hard.
He asked me many questions about America. They have heard so many things in the media. We cleared up many misconceptions they had about them. It is natural to assume that most Americans are awful after you watch the news. I am not American, but I feel like one. Except for the last year, I have lived there for the past eight years – my whole married life. My children were born there, and most of my best friends are Americans.
The conversation was relaxed and he was very calm. To make a point about the media, I asked him if he was carrying a bomb under his shirt.
If you are carrying one, I would really appreciate if you waited until I finish my croissant before blowing the whole place up… He got my point, and he smiled. You see? Not all Americans are awful. I guess not all Muslims are terrorists.
To be very frank, I don’t know if it was him or if it was me, but somehow the conversation turned to religion. They asked me about my faith. I told them I was a Christian, but that I was kind of not wanting telling people I was one. I didn’t want to call myself that anymore. I told them it was a long story, and that eventually I would explain it to them. But yes, technically, I was a Christian. I was a follower of Jesus. He was my Lord and Savior.
Then he said something that would change the course of my life forever. But not only my life. Also their lives. Their whole family life, and my whole family life. As a very good Muslim (I should have known), this man looked at me right in the eye, and told me something I had never, EVER, heard before in my entire life.
You know your Bible has been corrupted, right?
I had no idea what the heck he was talking about. The Bible – corrupted? What nonsense was this? This man told me something that in the Muslim wold is accepted as a universal truth. My Bible has to be corrupted because if it is not, then Islam and everything is built upon is false. This was a very bold approach on his part, but I’m thankful that he did that. Without knowing, he introduced me to the world of Christian Apologetics.
This conversation was a little bit over six months ago. And since then, my life changed. I spent almost all my free time with them, and they became my best friends in Chennai. Our families have spent so much time together over dinner, over tea, over boat rides and water slides. They are great people.
In this part of the world, nobody dislikes Jesus. They dislike the Christians. I think a lot of people feel that way… I should start by dissecting Christianity.