Having settled well in India, physically and emotionally, amidst the Covid pandemic, the routine chaos and the peace of living in an open air quaint society by the foothills of the Sahyadri mountain ranges; the time came to scrutinize the long list of perceptions, we as NRIs, got about India, living overseas. Exaggerated stories of a communal India, a right wing central oppressive government at the helm, beef related lynching, love jihad, conversion stories, Durga Puja ban in Muslim dominated areas of Bengal, a citizenship bill to discriminate Muslims and a lot more were burning pages of international media over the last five years.
None of that has been evident to us so far. As amidst social distancing norms, and barely within four months of arriving in a new society, we attended four Eid invites on Eid ul Fitr (25 May) and five invites on Bakri Eid (1 Aug).
Respect for healthcare workers
Soon arrived the country’s 74th independence day flag hoisting ceremony, which was attended by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of our society, amidst heavy drizzle. The flag hoisting was done by a resident doctor – for his services to humanity during Covid and himself battling out of the dreaded virus infection. At a time, when stories in the news channels was all about Muslims beating healthcare workers and Hindus chasing away nurses and doctors from their housing societies, we were witness to something quite the opposite. The doctor families and ICMR blood testing resident in our society were accorded the highest respect and help offered.
Had we been fed with lies and exaggerated stories so far? Surely a country with 1.4 billion will always have exception stories… but were they blown up for divisive interests. Was there an underlying current of disgruntlement and discontent?
The truth came out during our ten days Ganpati Puja festival as social distancing norms limited the number of people who could perform the aarti over the two week event – who would be entrusted with the prasad making two times every day? the aarti responsibilities? who would help in organizing the infrastructure, the online competitions, the announcements? who would buy the necessary stuff? who would take care of the communication, decoration, rangoli, pandal setup and everything that makes an event possible without flouting Covid regulations? The need was for more volunteers, than the amount normally required.
Up stepped three Muslim families.
Muslim Family #1
This family actively volunteered to make prasad for one of the days, as long other residents were fine with it. Not one soul murmured discontent even in private. Not just prasad for one day, the family was present most days during the evening aartis, standing far behind (courtesy two meter distancing) and were submerged in the pious act of being a part of an event.
Muslim Family #2
This family put their hands up to be one of the organizers. The lady was entrusted for prasad
making for two full days, during morning aarti and evening aarti. She was heavily involved in arranging online competitions as well as kids (select) games over the two weekends. The man of the house was a lead organizer, danced when the idol had arrived, danced during visarjan day, made all PA announcements over the ten days and was very much involved in heart and action of the entire event. Every morning aarti, the family would be present to clap with the hymns and chants; every evening they would come out wearing new clothes and do the same. They didn’t chant the words and were sensitive enough that the teeka not be applied on their foreheads, but all that hardly mattered. This is the same family, I had witnessed a month ago calling all society cleaners and waste management staff to come to their home, for collecting packed Eid meals (due to social distancing).
Muslim Family #3
This family, aside all of the above, also put their hand up to perform the aarti, circling the plate of lamps, sindoor, rice and prasad in front of a smiling Lord Ganesha, twice, during the ten days. They have an aged mother (one can call old generation or old thought process), who was also involved in some of the activities above.
One of the evenings I told the guy, extremely proud with the depth of my nation, ‘The fact remains, you know more about Hindu rituals than me.’
All three families have arrived to the metro city from very very small towns, lest anyone quickly brands them as Yo generation millennials and brushes off the above.
All three families have lovely kids, lest anyone assumes these are lonely couples in need of friends and brushes off the above.
All three families are devout Muslims with family members who read the namaaz multiple times a day, lest anyone brands them anything but true Muslims any less.
Two of the three families above, we met each other during the festival of Holi, lest people brand them as one trick pony (ie. one festival exception).
There are other Muslim families also in the society and some of them were lesser involved and a few who totally ignored the event; this article though is not about them.
Do me a favour. Unsubscribe all news media, news channels or politicians – anyone and anything that only speaks and works for money and divisive interests.
Only after that will it all come down to you, me and us.