This is my latest story in edition 92 of Shift Miner Magazine. The online version of this edition is here. Enjoy!
"Have you been in Australia long, Dr Ramji?"
"Please Mark, just be calling me Ramji. I have been here twelve years. I came first to study medicine at UQ."
"Wow." Mark was lying face down on the examination bench, waiting for Ramji to remove a mole from the back of his leg.
"Can you feel that?" said Ramji.
"Good, the anaesthetic is working just fine. I was poking your leg with the point of my scalpel."
"Well, I didn't feel a thing. You can start now, I suppose."
"I am already starting, Mark. Please be lying very still."
Mark lay very still. The pulling and tugging as Ramji cut into his leg felt weird. "Can I ask you a personal question, Ramji?"
"Sure. Normally it is I that is asking the personal questions."
Mark laughed, and relaxed a little. "Are you a Muslim; is that why you have that … your head covered?"
"No, Mark," said Ramji, "I am not a Muslim. This is a turban I have on my head. I am Sikh."
"No, I am not ill. I am a Sikh. It is a religion, from my native India."
"Fair dinkum?" said Mark. "I though it was mainly Muslims in India."
"Actually, Hindus are by far making up the biggest Indian religion. Then there are many others, like Muslims, and Christians, and us Sikhs, and many, many others. I am ready to start your suturing now."
"Your sutures. Stitches."
"Cool. I suppose you have a lot of people ask about your turban?"
"Actually, no. You are the first in about one year. I am thinking people are scared they will be offending me."
"Have I offended you?"
Good gracious, no."
Ramji laughed. "Yes," he said. "Especially as it is I that is having the scalpel."
Mark laughed too.
Ramji said, "May I ask what are your religious beliefs, Mark?"
"I've got to say, I don't like religions, myself."
"It causes so much conflict."
"That is true; there is much religious conflict. But then, people are always finding some things to be fighting about. Stopping the religions is not enough to be stopping all the wars. Your leg is all finished now Mark."
Mark sat up on the bench and looked at the dressing on his leg and poiked at the skin around it, feeling where the anaesthetic had deadened his leg. "So what's your answer?"
"To make world peace?"
"To stopping religious violence, and conflict."
"Respect, and freedom, and not taking revenge. I have the freedom to be a Sikh without fear; and my neighbour, a Christian, and my other neighbour, perhaps like you, with having no religion at all."
"But aren't people always killing each other about religion in India?"
"True, it is happening sometimes," said Ramji, his head rocking from side to side. "That is one very big reason for why I am loving Australia. I did not stay here for the taste of the food."
Mark laughed, but he wasn't convinced. "But doesn't people coming here, and keeping their own religions, stop them from being part of Australian society?"
Ramji made a tut-tut sound. "Mark, my friend, I am a doctor, here in Emerald, removing a mole and maybe cancer from your leg. Am I not right now being a part of this Australian society?"