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Happy Independence day: This is the India we love

On this Independence Day, let’s celebrate these Indians who have set heartwarming examples of religious harmony.

youth survey Updated: Aug 14, 2018 17:31 IST
This is the India we love,Communal Harmony,Anupam Kher
Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna observed roza for 26 years, hoping to meet the family that saved his life.

A Hindu who fasted during ramzan for 26 years, hoping to find the Muslim family that saved his life during riots, a Muslim who fought the world to get the custody of two Hindu children after their parents died, a Hindu who set up a trust to counter hatred after fanatic Muslims killed his son, a Muslim brother duo that sings soul-stirring Hanuman and Ganesha bhajans as a form of ibadat (prayers)…this is the India we love, this is the India that defines our identity, this is the India that is entwined in our soul.

‘This is the India worth fighting for’
In late 1992, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna — then a trainee — got trapped in the communal riots that wracked Mumbai. At that time, Vikas worked at a hotel. He left the hotel to look for his brother in Ghatkopar, an eastern suburb. As violence gripped the city through the night, a Muslim family warned him of rioters in the area and gave him shelter in their home. When the mob arrived at the door and asked if they were hiding a Hindu boy, they claimed that Vikas was their own son, a Muslim. For the next one-and-a-half days, he lived with them. After parting ways with the family and moving to New York, Vikas observed one day’s roza every Ramzan for 26 years, hoping to meet the family that saved his life. And one day, he did. Vikas shared this story with actor Anupam Kher in an interview that went viral, and a girl watching it found the family for him. ”When I met them, there was a gush of emotions. This was the biggest miracle in my life. I asked the lady of the family if I could call her aami (mother). She nodded, smiled and gave me an auspicious black thread to protect me,” he says. The day Vikas flew down from New York to meet the family in Mumbai, it felt like a lifetime. “I still can’t believe that someone remembered me all these years. India’s generosity is incomparable. This is the India worth protecting and worth fighting for. The beauty of India will always be secularism,” he says.

Sur, hawa or dua, yeh mazhab nahin dekhte
Hamsar and Mazhar Hayat are known for their soul-stirring rendition of Ganesha and Sai bhajan. The brother duo is regularly invited to sing in temples across India. “Ibadat, pyar aur sangeet mein mazhab nahi dekha jata! Sur, hawa or dua, yeh mazhab nahi dekhte,” says Hamsar, the elder brother. They belong to a family of qawaals who have been shahi gawaiya at Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah in Delhi for hundreds of years. The brothers’ devotion is not always well received by everyone. Many ask them why do they sing Hindu bhajans if they are practising Muslims. Many objected, saying that being Muslims, they should not be doing this, as this amounts to being disloyal to the faith they were born in. “Jab main paida hua toh taleem Islam ki mili, par jab duniya ghuma toh samajh aaya ki hum paida hue parmatma ke liye... jo ek hai. Tumhara bhagwan, mera Allah, mera Bhagwan, tumhara Allah, sab ek hi hai...,” says Hamsar. Their kids also sing with them, and they have already learnt that it’s not fair to discriminate between gods.

Where Muslims host Shiva devotees
Every year, in the month of sawan, worshippers of Lord Shiva take part in Kanwar Yatra. The annual pilgrimage is undertaken by devotees from across the country to collect Gangajal, to be poured on the shiva lingam at a temple in their home town. Among all the places that the kanwariyas go to for the holy water, Haridwar, in Uttarakhand, is the most favoured. Saifi Samaj Uttar Pradesh, one of the Muslim organisations based in Shamli, a town that kanwariyas pass through, has organised rest camps for several years. Muslim men serve food and drinks to the kanwariyas, while Muslim volunteers apply ointments to the pilgrims’ sore feet. Their Facebook page has photos of this beautiful brotherhood and camaraderie. Muslims and Sikhs hosting kanwariyas and taking care of them has been an age-old tradition in our country, making Indian culture unique in the world. These pictures prove that love will always have the magic to conquer hatred.

‘My son wanted to defeat hatred’
When Delhi-based photographer Ankit Saxena was a child, like any doting father, Yashpal Saxena fulfilled all his wishes. “I’d save for months to get him gifts... when he grew up and fell in love, I couldn’t stand by him... it’s my deepest regret,” says Yashpal. Ankit was murdered in a gruesome manner in the Capital for loving a Muslim girl, Shehzadi. But instead of letting hate burn him, the father chose the path of love and peace and set up a trust to promote religious harmony. He says, “Ankit treated all human beings alike. He loved a Muslim. I was approached by fanatics who wanted to use my tragedy to stir up even more hatred and ruin the peace of our nation. I asked them to leave. My Ankit, who loved everyone, would have never wanted this.” Yashpal was once abused by a radical at a public meeting. The latter yelled, “Bete ki laash uthaa chuka... ab aur kitna shaanti shaanti karega aur Musalmanon ki tarafdari karega?” But Yashpal didn’t waver. He says, “I will always stand by peace.” He thinks of the girl, too. “If Ankit loved her, how can I hate her? My heart goes out to her. She lost Ankit, she has been through hell. I pray she finds happiness in life,” says Yashpal, rising above grief.

Why Muslims wear skull caps...
Last August, 24-year-old IAS aspirant Meghna Athwani had an enriching experience while using car pool in Delhi. She heard a mother explain to her child why Muslims wear skull caps. Meghna was deeply moved by the conversation and shared it on Facebook. Her post made many rise above biases and understand that all religions ask followers to treat everyone with love and respect. Meghna says this is the lesson she has learnt from Hinduism. Her only regret: she didn’t ask the woman her name. “The learning will remain with me forever,” she says. Here’s an excerpt from Meghna’s post: “This guy was wearing the traditional white cap. The girl got curious and asked her mother, ‘Why is this uncle wearing a cap in the evening? There is no sun outside!‘ The mother said, ‘Have you not seen me cover my head with a dupatta when I visit the temple? Or when some elder guests come to our house? Or when I touch the feet of your grandparents? It is a sign of respect, to pay our regards.’ The girl wasn’t convinced. ‘But who is this bhaiya paying respect to? There is no temple here. He is not touching the feet of anyone. Neither is anyone elder sitting in this car...,’ she asked. The mother was ready for this too. She calmly replied, ‘His parents have taught him to respect everyone he meets and to pay them his regards. Just like I teach you to say Namaste to guests.’” What a beautiful lesson for a child.

First Published: Aug 14, 2018 16:40 IST