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A Muslim Boy Saves the Prestige of an Orthodox Hindu Boy – How Did the Latter Return the Noble Deed?
Man, thanks to his extreme intelligence, has created so many ways and means for his survival. One such way is religion. By following a certain religion, he creates a powerful group that he uses to fight against other groups due to his allegiance to other religions. There was almost a civil war in India between the two major religions at the time of Independence due to partition. The consequences were horrific, with thousands of innocent people murdered on both sides. Although the consequences were very severe in North India, they were not so in South India. There is still a great danger of caste divisions, which lead to deep animosity among the people. After the Ayodhya dispute, communal violence spread across India. But these communal disagreements did not affect the true friendship of the two school students. This is the story of those two students who had a friendship and affection that transcended the barriers of religion and a bond that was passed down to generations to come.
The name “Guru Prasad” was given to me at birth by my father Vishwanatha Iyer. My father owned a sweet stall which, though small, attracted customers far and wide. Viswanatha Iyer’s sweets were popular all over the country. Being a very orthodox Hindu Brahmin, he used to worship the Guru (Master). For Hindus, the order of reverence is mother, father, Teacher (Guru) and finally God. Brahmins especially are in the habit of worshiping the Master as superior to God because they are the dispensers of all bliss and knowledge. They are the real guides for devotees to attain the lotus feet of God. So I was named Guruprasad, which meant “Gift of the Master”. Friends and relatives soon shortened my name to Guru, except my parents, who wanted to call me by my full name until death.
“Guru, it’s time for school, leave now,” my mom shouted from inside the kitchen, which was her usual way of giving instructions. “OK amma” so saying I started to school carrying my school bag. I’m ten minutes late. My friend would meet me on the street corner. I soon joined him.
“Sorry Meran, I’m late.” We walked as fast as we could. Yes, he was a Muslim named Abdul Meeran who was shot as Meeran. He belonged to a very orthodox Muslim family that prayed five times a day in the mosque. His father was the owner of a bakery. It was very strange for our people to see a Brahmin boy with a ‘tuft’ on his back and holy ashes on his forehead walking hand in hand with a Muslim boy with a ‘kulla’ (cap) on his head. People in our neighborhood could not digest that a Brahmin would accept a Muslim as his best friend and vice versa. Regardless of their displeasure, our friendship grew stronger day by day. I considered myself very lucky to have his friendship only because of Meeran’s great character, his intelligence and understanding of the subjects. We used to share rows with each other in the alternate exams and did not allow anyone else to improve our records.
Our place was a semi-urban center with a population of about two thousand. Most of the ill effects of modernization were yet to be achieved for this city. However, people frowned at us, saying, “See, this orthodox Brahmin boy is holding a Muslim boy. It is a sign of Kalyug and destruction.” Paying no attention, we walked quickly and reached the school when the bell rang.
It seems that our class teacher had entered the classroom earlier. We entered the class just in time and the class teacher was waiting for all the students to take their assigned seats. “Hello friends, are you coming slowly looking at all the movie posters?” he remarked sarcastically. We both went inside with a shy face. I took my seat in the front row and Meeran, a seat in the last row as usual.
When the regular lesson was over, the teacher announced: “Look, students, you must come to school carefully tomorrow. There will be a protest by some political parties in front of our school. Please be careful and if you can’t enter, you can go back home.”
We were confused. Later, my father told me during dinner, “My son, this is against some castes, especially us Brahmins. They are planning to cut the tufts and the ‘Poonul’ (sacred thread across the chest) in protest against the Brahmins.”
I was worried. But I was determined to go to school.
Next morning Meeran and I reached school as usual. Fortunately there were only a handful of protesters shouting slogans against gods and Brahmins. Only one police force was deployed for security purposes.
My master came and said, “Don’t take any chances, go away, go home immediately.”
We started our journey to return.
It was my misfortune to be seen by two protesters.
“Look here is a Brahmin boy. Grab him.”
They approached me. I started shaking. People watched helplessly.
“You idiot fellow Brahmin, why should there be a tuft? Why should you have a cross thread? Is it to insult us? Do you want to prove that we are inferior to you? No, it can never be.” He roared and pulled me to his side holding me tight. He forcibly removed my shirt so that I was standing bare-chested. His associate took out a pair of scissors on his hand and approached me with a menacing look. Although there were dozens of people around me, no one stepped forward to help.
The next moment the scissors were about to cut my sacred thread, but for a heavy blow on the arm, which made him drop the scissors and scream in great pain.
My friend Meeran struck. I was surprised to see his ‘Viswaroopam’ (wonderful and gigantic appearance) who was otherwise a calm personality.
“Hey, what’s this? You’re a Muslim. Why are you fighting for a Hindu?”
Meeran’s response was “get out of here or I’ll kill you”.
They were ready to fight. But a siren signaled the arrival of a police van and the violent protesters fled the scene.
Meeran accompanied me to my house. Seeing me cry, my parents were shocked. Then they learned the sequence of events. My father said, “Meran, you have not saved my son’s life alone, but the prestige of our religion.” So saying, he gave some packets of sweets and bid him farewell.
My friendship with him lasted only four years. After graduation, he went to Calcutta and enrolled in college there. I later came to know that he became an IPS officer and joined the police force.
Some tragic events happened in our family. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 50. Within two years, my mother went to her Heavenly abode. I had to leave my studies and took charge of my ancestral properties and the sweet kiosk.
Times have changed a lot. Incidents in Ayodhya, when a mosque was demolished to make way for a Ram temple, have revived Hindu-Muslim enmity across the country with greater vigor and heat. There was clear hatred between the two sects and in my city they moved to a separate colony outside the city. Since that day, we don’t know what happens to the people in the area.
Even a small dispute will cause a big riot. The government declared our place a communal violence sensitive area.
Despite vigilance, communal violence broke out again. It was reported that a boy from one religion eloped with a girl from another. Shops were burned. Nearly a dozen people from both sides were killed in the mindless violence.
I was sitting in a shop. There were no customers and I was alone. I saw a guy running to my shop in complete panic.
“Lord, please save me, they are coming to kill me”
I observed that he is a Muslim boy. The noise of the rampaging people chasing him could be clearly heard from the next lane.
There was no time left for thought. I asked him to come into my shop.
After five minutes the crowd reached my seat.
“Aijar, did you notice someone from nullah (Muslim settlement) coming in here?”
I didn’t answer. They looked around the shop.
Only one boy took his position on the stairs arranging the packets of sweets. Seeing the sacred thread on his chest and back, one hooligan declared, “Hey, he’s a Brahmin, leave him alone.”
“Where could he go? We won’t let him go alive. We’ll look in other places.”
The boy went down the stairs.
“Thank you, sir, you have adorned me with the sacred thread by removing it from your body, which no brahmin dared to do, and thus saved me. My whole family is indebted to you. Let me bid you farewell, sir.” He started walking.
I stopped him and asked, “Where are you going?”
“To my colony sir,” he replied.
“Don’t go alone, they’ll find you and kill you. I’ll take you in my two-wheeled cart.”
He took the pill and I rode my scooter to his place which was a fifteen year old settlement almost five kilometers away. I was able to see a lot of devastation along the entire route.
“Sir, this is my place, I’ll get off, sir”
I saw his men with guns guarding the colony like a fortress.
“Okay, get down”
When he got off I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“Mr. Abdul Meran”
I was shocked. With little confidence I asked him, “Are you related to Abdul Meeran IPS?”
“Yes, sir, I am his grandson.”
I was amazed. “Are you really?” I struggled for words in utter disbelief
“Where is he now?”
“Sir, he was killed in an ambush with terrorists in North India, sir. After his death, we shifted to this place.”
My heart was breaking. What a shame! The division of communities prevented me from knowing the supreme sacrifice my dear friend had made for the country.
At least I was able to save his grandson’s life by worshiping the sacred thread and making him a Brahmin for a while.
Abdul Meeran, the boy I rescued, couldn’t understand why his rescuer was giving him a royal salute with tears in his eyes.
It was my tribute to a great friend who fought to the end for the helpless.
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