9 People Who Are Wiping Away Hate And Keeping The Spirit Of India Alive
Acts of generosity that restored our confidence in humanity
When innocent lives are lost in the name of food, faith and terror, and invisible walls divide communities, it shakes us to the core. We bring you faith-affirming stories of people who are wiping away hate and giving peace a chance. Everyday stories of ordinary people who, with their acts of generosity, humanity and compassion, have kept the spirit of India alive. People who have stood by strangers and friends alike, through grief and distress, lent a helping hand and pulled them out of trouble.
1. Saviour driver
Salim Mirza, the driver of the bus carrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims rescued 49 of them during the shocking attack from insurgents last month. Displaying exemplary courage and presence of mind, Mirza drove on, through a hail of bullets and the dark mountainous terrain, on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway until he found an army camp where he stopped the bus. "I just did my duty," the driver from Gujarat's Valsad district later said. Unfortunately, seven passengers lost their lives and over 30 were injured. Munir Khan, IG Kashmir, was quoted saying: " … the passengers were all praise for the driver ... Had he stopped, more lives could have been lost." The Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat govern-ments have announced awards for Mirza for his exceptional bravery.
2. Celebrating together
During the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha in September 2015, around 1,300 people showed up to offer their prayers at the mosque Madrassa Rahamatiya Talimul Quran in Mumbai. The mosque happened to be next to a pandal where Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations were on. When the good folk at the Seva Sangh Ganeshotsav Mandal realized that the mosque could not accom-modate everyone, they invited the rest to their pandal so they could offer prayers. The community recalls a similar incident four years before this, when Eid coincided with Ganesh Chaturthi, and both the communities offered their prayers together in peace and amity.
3. A friend forever
When in September 2015, Santosh Singh, a construction worker, passed away after being diagnosed with tuberculosis and jaundice, his closest friend Razzak Khan Tikari performed his last rites following Hindu rituals. Tikari, a resident of Betul, Madhya Pradesh, and Singh had been friends since childhood. Since Singh did not have the support of his extended family, Tikari stepped in to perform the final rites and even helped Singh's wife, Chhaya, and their eight-year-old daughter financially. Tikari was quoted as saying, "He was like my younger brother. It was my duty to perform the last rites for my friend."
4. Jailbirds show the way
Harmony can be seen in the unlikeliest of places. In this case, it was a prison. To show solidarity with their Muslim friends, five inmates of Ludhiana central jail decided to fast during the holy month of Ramzan in June 2015. Inmate Atul Singh told The Times of India, "Since our Muslim friends celebrate Diwali and Gurpurab with us, we reciprocated … by fasting."
5. It takes a village
A little over an hour away from Ludhiana is a village called Nathowal with a population of under 10,000. The residents of this region in Punjab live in harmony and celebrate together during festivals through the year -- be it Raksha Bandhan, Gurupurab, Eid or Diwali. In late 2015, the Sikh and Hindu communities came together to help repair the Jama Masjid, an old mosque in the village. They also contributed significantly towards the finances for the renovation. The locals of the village take great pride in their solidarity and their continued efforts at upholding peace.
6. Women to the rescue
A panic-stricken 27-year-old, Ilyaz Shaikh was rushing his pregnant wife Noor Jahan to a hospital in Mumbai's Sion area in a taxi, early one October morning in 2015. Stuck on the narrow roads of the Vijaynagar area, Noor Jahan went into labour and, to the couple's utter shock, the cab driver said he did not want her delivering in his vehicle and dropped them to a temple nearby. On seeing that Noor Jahan was going into labour, a group of women, who had come to offer prayers, rushed to help her. They instantly created a make-shift delivery room in the temple with available bed sheets and sarees and helped in the birthing of a healthy baby boy. To commemorate this gesture, Noor Jahan and Shaikh named their son Ganesh.
7. Spreading the word
Abid Alvi from Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, has translated the Hanuman Chalisa into Urdu, with a mission. He wants Hindus and Muslims to build bridges and understand each other's culture, belief systems and strengthen brotherhood, unity and love. He also wants Urdu books to be translated to Hindi. Rajeev Sharma, from Kolsiya, Rajasthan, came pretty close. He read about Prophet Muhammad, was inspired by his teachings and decided to write a book on him in Marwari, a regional language largely spoken in Rajasthan. Sharma wrote the book to spread the message of peace and allow people who cannot read Arabic, Urdu, English or Hindi to be exposed to the teachings of the prophet.
8. A cake shop with a difference
Growing up in Kolkata, Abeda Razeq, vice-principal of the Jewish Girls School (where she was also a student) was surrounded by Jewish culture. Her father's best friend, a Jewish man, was the owner of the 115-year-old confectionary, Nahoum and Sons. As a young girl she worked at the store, and helped pack sweets during Eid, Easter and Diwali. The lone survivor of the Nahoum family now lives abroad, and the store's operations are run by many of the Muslim employees. Razeq studied Kolkata's unique Jewish-Muslim relationship as a researcher and hopes to keep Jewish culture alive. In fact, her school has become a symbol of Jewish-Muslim harmony in Kolkata. This also echoes in different parts of the city -- certainly in the three synagogues that are run by Muslim caretakers.
9. Charity begins next door
For the last 35 years, many volunteers from the Sufidar Trust have been serving iftar at Chennai's Wallajah mosque that has existed since 1795. During the month of Ramzan, the cooking begins at 7:30 in the morning every day. Then, it is packed and taken to the mosque and is ready to be served at 6:30 p.m. as iftar at the mosque. Sufidar Trust was set up by Dada Ratanchand in Madras around the time of Partition and grew in its aftermath, to help its members to work with the less fortunate and maintain communal harmony. Today, 81-year-old Narayan Das, a volunteer, helps coordinate the food supply and ensures that every person who visits the mosque to pray is served. While another volunteer, Ashok Khubchandani, a businessman, used to serve as a child with his father, he and his son now do it together. He told The Hindu: "Dada Ratanchandji believed that service to mankind is service to God, and these are God's disciples. This is our way of doing seva."
A version of this story and images appeared in thebetterindia.com.
Sources: 1. theindianexpress.com, 11 July 2017. 2. dnaindia.com, 26 September 2015. 3. India Today Television, 8 October 2015. 4. timesofindia.com, 3 July 2015. 5. timesofindia.com, 8 October 2015. 6. huffingtonpost.in, 5 October 2015. 7. thewire.in, 26 June 2015; hindustantimes.com, 26 October 2015. 8. edition.cnn.com, 5 July 2017. 9. thehindu.com, 14 June 2017.