BOSTON — On a recent trip to India, my wife and I took my parents along so they could see ancient temples, eat exotic foods, and shop like mad. But we had no idea that my parents themselves would make such a strong, biblical impression on the local people.
Our first indication came in New Delhi at a stone tower called the Qutb Minar. Built by Muslim conquers in AD 1200, the intricate 234-foot structure is a taller version of Italy's leaning tower of Pisa, without the lean.
Fascinated, my parents snapped pictures with abandon. Then we noticed them: the crowds, the stares, the smiles. Indian tourists milling around us didn't exactly ignore the tower, but they did seem more interested in us than in it. Some photographers hopped like billy goats on the surrounding stone rubble, going to rather extreme measures to include us in their pictures. One tour group from southern India even asked us to join them in a group picture. Pointedly, they set my father in the center and, proudly, they smiled.
Two days later at a jewelry shop in Agra, we got a small explanation for the special treatment. The store owner was setting out a lovely emerald necklace. My parents and my wife were examining a display case.
"What is your profession, sir?" asked the store owner, smiling.
"I'm a journalist," I replied.
"And your father, what is his profession?" he asked with a widening grin, as he added a matching set of earrings.
"Oh my dad, he's a Realtor."
"Ahh, I see," he said, still smiling, but putting the jewelry back in the case.
"Well, he looks very much like the actor Charlton Heston. Our national television just showed 'The Ten Commandments' last week, so his face must be very familiar to Indians right now."
Charlton Heston? I couldn't contain my guffaw. The thought of my dad moonlighting as Moses somehow struck a funny bone. From that day onward, the jokes fell from the sky like manna.
"Dad, we're coming up to a river. Be a dear and part it."
Fortunately, he never sicced a plague of locusts on us. But somehow the notion isn't so easily dismissed. After all, I've never seen my dad and Charlton Heston in the same room.