Now that two young Muslim “yoga gurus” are set to have BJP chief Amit Shah and, possibly a slew of Union ministers, twisting and turning to their command, they are aiming higher for their next pupil.
Reshma Khatoon and Bismillah Khatoon, both teenage yoga experts, say they now want to give lessons to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee.
They made the headlines after being chosen to impart yoga lessons to Shah and others at Moinul Haque stadium in Patna on the occasion of International Yoga Day on June 21.
The Muslim girls’ close bond with yoga has come to the notice of the Union government, which has been making the point there is no reason why yoga should be anathema to religious minorities.
The girls from Lal Saraiya village of West Champaran are hoping that teaching yoga to the BJP chief will be their first step in a long journey.
“Next, I want to give yoga lessons to Prime minister Narendra Modi,” Reshma, at 16 the elder of the girls, told Hindustan Times from Bettiah, the headquarters of West Champaran district located 150 km northwest of Patna.
Fourteen-year-old Bismillah’s pupil of choice would be President Pranab Mukherjee. “He lives in a big palace in Delhi. I will feel very happy to go there and teach him yoga. It will improve his health,” said the Class 10 student.
The two girls were in the midst of a programme at Maharaja stadium in Bettiah, preparing for Yoga Day, and sounded excited about going to Patna for main event on Sunday.
“I will begin with surya namaskar, teach pranayam and then move on to other yogic asanas,” said Reshma about her plans to impart the basics of yoga to the BJP chief.
Reshma has been practicing yoga since 2012 after being inspired by her parents, while Bismillah has been doing it since 2010. Bismillah said she was just nine years old when she started.
“I want to teach 10 asanas (to Amit Shah),” said the younger but more experienced girl.
The families of the two girls live in a colony for Bengali refugees who migrated to West Champaran from the erstwhile East Pakistan during the war of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh.
“We call the colony yoga village as all the 1,500-odd families residing there know yoga, thanks to the effort of one man, Ashok Sarkar, who also lives there,” said Krishna Mohan Prasad, the head of the West Champaran unit of the Divya Yoga Mandir run by Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth.
“It is Sarkar who taught yoga to Reshma and Bismillah, who come from the only two Muslim families in the Bengali settlement,” Prasad said.
It is “Sarkar sir” who will accompany the two girls to Patna.
"Both girls are highly skilled in yoga and have represented India at international competitions and camps, including those in Australia and South Africa. Yoga doesn't differentiate between human beings on the basis of religion," said Ajit Kumar, in-charge of Patanjali Yogpeeth in Bihar and Jharkhand.