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Interreligious
Understanding

Interreligious Understanding / Presentation

Cross cultural

Photo by Christine Pemberton / agefotostock.com

Cross cultural

Together

Yamunanagar town has a large sign saying 'We are all one' in Hindi and showing signs of major Indian religions - Christianity, Hinduism, Islam & Sikhism

Hinduism has absorbed the best of all the faiths of the world and in that sense is not an exclusive religion. Hence it can have no quarrel with Islam or its followers.

M.K.Gandhi

A Hindu and a Muslim started living together. What happened next won’t surprise you

Part summary / part excerpt from Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty’s article in The Wire.

Walking through the maze of thin, crowded lanes and by-lanes that make up Gaffar Manzil colony in New Delhi’s Okhla area, it was fairly easy to feel directionless after a while. The GPS service on my smart phone refused to be of any help. While many of the lanes were numbered, it was frustrating to note that particular one I was looking for wasn’t. Later, on relating this ordeal to my host Faizal Khan, he said, “You should have asked where Kush’s house is, someone would have certainly brought you here.”

Kush Kumar Singh, a doctor by profession, is Faizal’s flatmate. Strangers to each other until a few years ago, the two have been sharing the space for the last three years. In Gaffar Manzil, a predominately Muslim colony, Faizal underlined, “There is only one Kush, one Hindu resident. So most people know about him.” There is also a larger reality that Faizal pointed out – Hindus and Muslims may form the two largest constituents of the country’s citizenry, but they rarely live as neighbours, let alone sharing a roof.

“It is a social experiment. By staying under the same roof, both Kush and I want to experience for ourselves what is it that makes us different. I am a religious Muslim, and he is a devout Hindu and also a vegetarian. We want to see…can a Hindu and a Muslim live together in amity…can they really tolerate each other…can they engage in more social interactions,” said Faizal.

“Having grown up in a household where a Muslim is not regarded your friend or someone you socialise with, Faizal’s offer to me to stay in this Muslim colony to see for myself how they live, what they think, eat, what they think of the Hindus, was interesting to me. I wanted to have that experience, to see for myself what it is that makes us different, so different that we can’t even think of living next to each other, that we can’t think of socialising with each other, that we, in fact, fear and abhor each other’s presence,” said Kush.

Kush met Faizal in 2010, as a patient in a South Delhi hospital where he was employed as a junior doctor. “We typically go by one’s looks and attire. The moment I saw Faizal in a Pathani suit and a skull cap, I bracketed him as a conservative Muslim man who would have no idea about modern-day thinking, let alone medical science. So when he asked many questions about his ailment, I refused to reply and once even told him curtly ‘it is beyond you’,” said Kush. “I pestered him so much for answers every time I met him that he couldn’t avoid me after a while and we began talking. I told him what I do,” added Faizal with a laugh.

“Knowing that he is a Muslim and also a social worker intrigued me. Till then, I used to think that all Muslims are fundamentalists when it comes to their religion and they do not listen to any other point of view, they never open up to other communities. Then I heard him talking about making an effort to revive a pre-independence organisation that promoted communal harmony. He seemed more interested in talking about social issues than religious ones. I felt I have to know this man better,” remembered Kush.

“Living in a Muslim colony for the last three years,” he said, “has not made me less of a Hindu but it has certainly made me open up to Muslims. It helped my neighbours to open up too. Just as I have never lived among Muslims, they also have never lived with a Hindu. So there are perceived notions about each other.”

Faizal wants to extend their “social experiment”.

“We are looking for a bigger place where at least 15 people can stay together. In three months, we will be inviting people from both communities to live together under the same roof for at least a week and try to know each other,” he said.

Both also pointed out “the need” to widen the scope of the “experiment” beyond the Hindu-Muslim binary.

Hinduism has absorbed the best of all the faiths of the world and in that sense is not an exclusive religion. Hence it can have no quarrel with Islam or its followers.

M.K.Gandhi