I’m writing this a little later than I should have. But as they say, “Better late than never”.

Now, this is an incident that took place on the 29th of July, 2014

While a lot of people were celebrating the holy festival of Eid that day, I had the opportunity to celebrate something very unusual and unique; Secularity, in all its essence!.

It was my first day at my new job in Bangalore.  My colleague invited me to have lunch with him and a bunch of others  at his landlord’s place. On inquiring about the occasion, I found out that his landlord was throwing an Eid party. I was more than excited to join him, for a silly, obvious reason; BIRYANI! We thrive on free yummy food, don’t we?

As I reached his place, I was taken aback. The lady who welcomed us did not seem like a Muslim family. On the contrary, she was everything a Hindu in India would look like. The woman wore a bindi, sindoor, bangles, and a mangalsutra.  It got me thinking that maybe I have had the privilege to visit a household with a Muslim husband and a Hindu wife. That thought stirred my excitement, because it’s always a pleasure to be in such a company. Don’t you feel like you’re amidst true love in such households?

Moving on, once we were served the food, I forgot the world and paid my undivided attention to just the food that lay in front of me. A wholesome plate of biryani, curry, salan, raita, and an inviting bowl of something sweet. Naturally, I dug in the instant my eyes fell on it. While I gobbled on my delicious meal, a skinny teenager dressed in white kurta and pyjama came into the dining room, and served more of the delicious food. My friend then introduced the bunch of us to this boy, who was the reason why this lunch party had seen the light of the day.

Puzzled, I smiled and shook his hand. He introduced himself as Deepak, and introduced the rest of his family to us. Soon it dawned on me that this is no Hindu-Muslim love story! My confusion kept building, I had half a mind to believe that my friend had got us to a random birthday party or something of that sort. How could this be an Eid party! I  was in a Hindu household, with pictures and garlands on Shiva, Ganesha, Parvathi, and the likes. How did an Eid party fit here!!

My hopes that I would get to hear a lovely Hindu-Muslim love story was crushed! But, little did I know then that I was in for a different kind of love story, the kind you don’t hear very often!

With all that going on in my mind in the backdrop,  I thanked the boy for inviting us. He replied with a gentle boyish smile, “It’s my pleasure. I broke my month long fast today, and we wanted to celebrate it with as many people as we could.” I couldn’t help, but ask, “What month long fast?”. The boy kept his boyish smile on, and replied, “The Ramadan fast”.

That was it! Those words put me in a state of shock and slumber! My brain couldn’t interpret the information it just received. It was like the mechanism was disrupted by the peculiarity of that information. Then the story unfolded in a matter of seconds. The family was Indian by birth, belonged to a Tamilian household, and were divided from a lot of us by their religion. Only, it was so amazing how they decided to trash that division with great subtlety.

There’s a lot I learned that day, and there’s one thing I took back home. HOPE! Hope in humanity, hope in love, hope in unity!

Where one part of the country was fighting in the name of religious differences, these people were celebrating different religions under one roof. My idea of secularism got a new meaning that day.

I hope we can all be a little like them in our own little tiny ways. Let’s take baby steps, let’s start from the smallest gesture, but let’s start at least!

To people like Deepak and his supportive family! To restored faith in peace and people!

Cheers,

Jaishree

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