The story of a tiny Muslim hamlet and a pious Hindu family

Colonel-&-Mrs-Awasthi

Navendu Tripathi

I was brought up my Uncle and Aunt (Bua & Fufa). When I turned a teenager, my Uncle retired from the Army and decided to settle in the outskirts of his regiment’s hometown. The town was Roorkee in Haridwar district, on the border of Uttar-Pradesh & Uttaranchal.

Our house along with two houses of my Uncle’s regimental colleagues was built about 5 kms from the main town, amidst the lush green fields, close to a village called Bijoli. We belong to the Hindu Brahmin community and this was a predominantly Muslim village. My earliest memories are of a mosque right in front of my house, beside which was a ‘kolhu’ (A jaggery-making machine with a sugarcane juice extractor).

Our day-to-day life was quite dependent on the village for milk, domestic help and the family’s favourite i.e. sugarcane juice. It’s best left to imagination how much of juice was bought by us from the ‘kolhu’ and the various delicacies my Aunt made from it—including ras-kheer and so on.

My Aunt had quite a penchant for embroidery, stitching and related skills. During Uncle’s service stint, she had worked with military spouses through the Army Wives Welfare Association to train them for self-sustenance. In fact, as the Commanding Officer’s spouse in a Northeastern base, I remember her leading the unit’s wives to many awards.

In the village, out of boredom, she decided to start a boutique as a business with the help of the local village women. But all women in the village were burqa-clad and getting them to work outside was tough! However, our aged chowkidar’s (guard) wife with her trademark silver white hair, whom I remember calling ‘Bibi’, was the first to show up—clad in a burqa!! My Aunt trained her first and slowly other women and girls showed up as they saw a chance to earn extra money for their families. As the business grew, another neighbour’s wife (a Hindu Brahmin with an ex-army background) pitched in to help train the girls—most of them teenagers.

A small workshop was built just outside the house and, every morning, an army of burqa-clad women turned up at our house. Our mornings usually started with either ‘Ram Charit Manas/Hanuman Chalisa/Bhajans’ playing on the old tape recorder and my Uncle and Aunt praying in a Puja Room (Prayer Room), situated next to the lounge through which the ladies entered. On days when my Aunt would get a little late, she would quickly finish her prayers while the women stood waiting, still clad in burqas and watching here. My aunt would profusely apologise for the delay and get on with the day’s work.

Over the five years I stayed at Roorkee with them, I saw a lot of Muslim girls & women getting trained and sustaining themselves. Whenever a girl was about to get married, she would come to bid farewell to my aunt who always, without exception, gave them a parting gift—as is the ritual for daughters getting married in India. I saw many an emotional parting over the years and, soon, stories of them starting their own little ventures wherever they went reached our ears. To this day some of the girls call my Aunt.

After a few years, my uncle got an offer to be a consultant. After an emotional departure from Roorkee and being now free from all their familial duties (their children were working by then and I was off to college), they used their free time and resources for a lifelong dream of visiting the twelve Jyotirlings of Lord Shiva, of whom they are pious devotees.

Looking back, I so often wonder, if they could, despite their pious Hindu beliefs, empower and care for the girls from a different community, why is it so hard for people today to follow their faith with devotion and yet love and respect their fellow beings irrespective of their beliefs.

As a kid, all this never struck me as odd because ‘being good to fellow beings’ seemed a prevailing ‘common sense’! It was just two sets of people, different in their beliefs, living their lives and co-operating for a common good while respecting and accepting each other despite the external differences. This respect and acceptance is key to communal peace and harmony in a diverse culture. For a society at odds with itself, some of the best lessons in amity and respect for diversity come from the rustic backyards of India’s rural areas.

Navendu 2About the Author
Navendu is an advertising/communications professional, currently working with social media platforms.
He loves reading, writing and traveling when he gets a chance.
He is also a volunteer for Walk of Hope and Manav Ekta Mission.

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15 Comments

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  1. SARASWATI says:

    NEVENDU,ASHIRWAAD,I AGREE,TOO HAVE SPEND MY CHILDHOOD AT DEOBAND,KEEP WRING

    • Thanks for your blessings Saraswatiji, god willing more positive and inspiring stories will come through my pen….Amen Amin Aum 🙂

  2. Excellent article! So inspiring!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this story. I know a lot a of people who are so innocent without any discrimination towards other religious believes. I being born in a Muslim family had very good experiences with my Hindu and Christian neighbours in Maharashtra. But right now we shifted to Kerala. In a place called Malappuram, which is my native place. Here the people are very influenced by the Middle eastern countries. Most of the people here are very orthodox. For them only their religion is the truth and rest all are obsolete!! If this is the way people here are continued to be educated very soon they will cause disharmony for the nation. I am trying to teach my neighbours about other religious believes and I hope they understand it soon.

    • Hi Liyas, thanks for your message. The Walk of Hope passed through Malllapuram too…in fact I was walking too that day….god willing things will change with more efforts like the Walk of Hope 🙂

  4. KG Rugmani says:

    Nice sharing,In the past it’s the case with every Indian house,my mother used to give food packets for my muslim and christian friends,but not even a single spec of superiority was there in my mind,our feeling was that these delicacies are only our specialities they usually eat rice more.Yes we can live happily in harmony with other religious faith…

    • Thanks for your message, glad to hear about your mother 🙂 , may more such people come forward for the Walk of Hope 🙂

  5. Amit K. Sahay says:

    Agreed with you, but the main Problem exist with the current breed of Maulvis and Mullahs of Madrsa who don’t want Muslim to interact with the Hindus, And creat unnecessarily raising the injustice being done with the Muslims and Islamic rights law. The must understanding this country belongs to every one and there can’t be two seprate law for it’s citizens. Other than mullahs and maulvis our pseudo secular leaders and parties too don’t want the harmony between Hindus and Muslims and pampering and appeasing Muslims fir their personal interest.

  6. Hi Navendu very nice story and hats off to ur uncle and aunt..I M FROM THIS PLACE..were ur neighbours Mr.And Mrs.Nandini Garg ..I know the location u r talking about..I am very proud of ppl who took this Manav Ekta Mission..keep inspiring best wishes

  7. saleemlodhi says:

    Highly impressive and and appreciable effort Mr Navendu.Relgion unfortunately has become a tool of hatred and bigotry in our part of the world.Human dimension and positively of religion needs to be focused in the interest of peaceful coexistence.

  8. Such a simply written article, so true and so inspiring. Thanks a lot for sharing and reassuring the faith in humanity.

  9. NARAYANI BALASUBRAMANIAN says:

    So beautiful. Enjoyed reading it thoroughly