“Have you considered joining the faith?” he asked me. I had no idea what he was referring to. I was all of 19, with little contact with Europeans (white people) and their accents, and in a country (Australia) whose occupants did not generally present themselves as friendly (not even my fellow-students at the university), and here I was being asked a personal question by a total stranger! I was seated in the auditorium waiting the speaker when a youngish man dressed in black sat next to me.
To the few, on public transport or at the university, who sought to talk to us Asian students, I would respond to questions about where I had come from, and why I was in the country. The man-in-black went further: he asked if I was religious. I therefore told him that I had attended a Hindu temple once a week (as soon as I was old enough to cycle there), and that the family prayed every night before dinner in a niche in a room set up for that purpose.
In response to the question from that stranger – who had already touched upon what would, in a civilised society, be a private matter – I asked “What faith?” “Christianity” he replied. After a moment’s thought, I asked “ Why would I need to change religions, since I had just told you about the extent of my devotions?
He took a few moments before he said, “For your salvation.” Somehow I understood what he was implying. I then said “Why do you say, since you already know about the depth of my faith, that you will be saved, but not me?”
He turned his head away, sat silently for a minute, and then walked away without a word. An honest man, I thought. But a frustrated soul-gatherer, and rude!