It’s a month since I met Farhan, a cheerful 13-year-old madrasa student of my locality. His inquisitive eyes followed me one day when I came home from shopping. He offered to carry my bags and we became friends.
Farhan wears torn, muddy white kurta-pajama and a skullcap. He doesn't play cricket with neighbourhood children, has not seen a movie in two years, has no clue about KBC or Gandhi, Nehru, science, geography, math. His curious eye settles on my PC. I tell him one can write letters, watch films, hear music and see any part of the world with it: "Do you want to learn how?"
But his hectic schedule at the madrasa will spare no time. He has come from Assam to enlighten himself on Islam, and is already a "hafiz-Quran" (one who has learnt the holy Quran by heart). So what if he doesn't know what the Arabic means. His parents had no option for him. Farhan is appalled at the portrait of Jesus in my room: "Aapne yeh Hindu ki tasveer kyon rakhi hai? Aapke ghar me farishte kaise aayenge?" (Why do you harbour the portrait of a Hindu? How will the angels grace your house?). I tell him it's Jesus, whom we Muslims call Isa Masih, a Prophet of Islam. Farhan is relieved and a bit embarrassed.
"Vaise Farhan, Hindu ki tasveer ghar me rakhne mein kya harj hai? Kya woh hamari tarah insaan nahi?" (Why Farhan, what's the harm, are the Hindus not humans like us?) I ask. He looks up and recites, "Woh doosri kaum hai, woh kafir hain aur unke jaisa banna kufur hai." (They are another race, they are idolaters and it's idolatry to become like them). I cut him short, "That's how you have been made to think, Farhan." He simply nods and leaves. Scientific inquiry is not something he is used to.
I am afraid I might have hurt my young friend. Hope he comes again and this time we won't discuss religion. A few lessons in computers will do him good.