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Say a little prayer for me in the language of love

Recently, I saw the blurb of a book which asked, "How many of you (Hindus) have seen the inside of a Muslim home and how many of you (Muslims) have seen the inside of a Hindu home?" The question provoked a spark of anger in me because I do not view relationships through the prism of caste, community or religion.

However, I understand what the distinguished writer was trying to say - we are so insulated in our ways that even when we talk about tolerance, we still don't dare step beyond the boundaries of our community, caste or religion. 

When I say this in North India, I am told, "You have only read about Partition. You haven't lost a family member or seen a tragedy unfold before your eyes - it's easy for you to talk like this." Maybe...

However, one of the many advantages of having grown up outside India and then during my teens, in Kerala, is that I never learned the social distinction between "Hindus"and "Muslims." There was never "we" versus "them" debate - it was always "we."  It didn't ever matter that we had different names for Gods or for our beliefs. 



My father is a doctor. A majority of his patients are from the Muslim community. Whenever there is an occasion in our home and prasad is distributed to everyone, no one refuses and if they have, my father would not take offence. Once I asked my father, "What is the saddest moment in your life which you wish you could change?" 

His reply was, "My best friend Dr. Moideen had to stand outside a temple for my marriage because he is a non Hindu and cannot enter - but I had told him to come in because it doesn't make a difference to me. He said no, this is not about you and me - it is about faith and I cannot disrespect or dishonor your faith."

Today, when I see my Facebook timelines filled with angry posts from Malayalis ranting for or against beef, hitting out at each other's religions and the beliefs, I find myself longing for the bygone era when a Dr. Raghu and a Dr. Moideen could eat their meals together, their wives could cook whatever they wanted without worrying about the different names of God or the beliefs they personally held on to. 

It was the same in Africa, where the Asian community always stood together. The Indians, the Pakistanis and the Sri Lankans were one people, alienated from their homes and cultures and therefore, more loving and welcoming in celebrating unity in diversity.

When my mother and I first joined my father in Africa, we were first welcomed to the new country by Mohammed uncle, a Pakistani. 

A lovely meal was prepared by his wife and we stayed there for a day till we could shift to our new home. Even after we shifted to our new home, the two families remained close and always invited one another to celebrate important occasions. This meant that Eid was celebrated in Mohammed uncle's home with his family and Onam and Vishu were celebrated in our home with his family. 

There was never a talk of "Hindus" or "Muslims" and yet there was always warm understanding. Aunty took care not to serve beef to my family when we were invited to their home and my mother took care to make sure there were several non vegetarian dishes when they were invited. 

In Africa, where we lived, I would head out to Kasim Uncle's home where I spent time with his daughter. Kasim uncle, a Pakistani, was one of our dearest friends till we left the country. 

That reminds me of something very tiny but significant. 

Months ago, I received a WhatsApp message from a friend who wrote to me from a Gulf nation. It read like this: " Just wanted to let you know that the gift you had sent is special to us. My mother uses the prayer mat daily, the one that you gifted. In our daily prayers, we pray for the well being of your family too."

This message warmed my heart and restores my faith in myself. 

Continents away, religions apart, there is a family that remembers me in their prayers. We have different paths that we believe in. Our gods have different names and so have the holy books we follow. 

Whenever I see angry posts on my Facebook timeline, people hitting out and accusing each other in the name of religion, I remember this friend, whose family prays to a different God in a different way but they find it in their hearts to include me in their prayers.

Can we look deep within ourselves, look beyond our prejudices, nurture love and trust each other despite our differences once again?

That, to me, is the essence of God, religion and prayer.

And when you do pray, say a little prayer for me.
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