Celebration of Humanity – The Arzoo Experience

In my previous post https://jitumisra.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/if-i-would-have-been-a-minority/, I had raised the issue of minority in general and Muslims in particular in the context of Ahmedabad and Gujarat. This post however intends to bring out a positive story of harmony. Through my personal experiences I am coming across pockets where the divide between the Hindus and Muslims are no longer, thanks to dedicated efforts of young people, who are tirelessly working for the unity in diversity.

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One of my best experiences on harmony has been among Arzoo kids, with whom I have been interacting for last two months.

Arzoo is an informal learning centre located in Ahmedabad. Its children are from nearby slums, both Hindus and Muslims, learning not only under one roof but also as one community and family. There is a great degree of acceptance between each other.

This week when I went to the centre to facilitate learning, I found most of the children looked tiered and exhausted. This was mainly due to fasting both by Muslim and Hindu boys and girls. For Muslims, it was the holy Ramzan month and for Hindus it was a local 10 days Dasama festival. I did not know that small boys and girls observe fasting during Dasama rituals. I then asked why they fast. Most of the children had no proper answer. The only answer they had that it is because of ‘sradha’ or love for the goddess Dasama. I explained that anything we do in life there is an objective. For example, we wear cloths to cover our body and get rid from heat or cold. Similarly there should be an objective for fasting. Perhaps I was becoming over rational and it was not right for the context.

I subtly shifted to storytelling. I asked children to share the story of Dasama. Some of them knew, but many also not. Those knew were also unable to explain orally. Gulnaz, a Muslim girl then intervened. She not only explained the story of Dasama, but also showed her compassion and acceptance to her Hindu friends. I then asked “how do you know the story?” Gulnaz said: “we have been living together and sharing each other s festival, food, happiness and sorrow. We also celebrate Janmastami and Diwali. We don’t see any difference. Arzoo has moulded our lives harmoniously. In fact we are planning to visit shrines of all religions and experience equality”.

I was completely floored with such words from a young girl. It was not a politician’s speech. It was neither a media debate on television. This is actually a big lesson for all of us, who talk in length about equality and secularism and blame on politicians and other factors. We have to actually cherish such small acts of kindness and harmonious living. Finally I wish there are more Arzoo like centres in India, all working subtly for the celebration of humanity.

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