I stood facing an entire crowd of people. My palms turned sweaty and fear crippled me. I was never much of a public speaker. But today I had no choice. I had a cause worth fighting for. I cleared my throat and adjusted the mike. It was show time.
‘My humble greetings to all present here. Thank you for giving me your time and gracing me with your presence. I’m not here to give some boring speech; I’m here to share my story with you. It all began in Kerala, three years ago. I had moved there for doing my undergraduate course. I was fascinated by the entire state; the language, the food, the greenery, I took it all in. Being from North India, I wasn’t exposed to people and traditions of the South until I arrived there. Within a month in the University, I had adjusted to my new life. One evening, I and a group of friends went to the football ground to goof around and play. After two hours of male banter, pushing, shoving and falling, everyone bid goodbye. The party trickled into just two people; me and Vishnu. Vishnu asked, “Aren’t you going to sleep man?” I said, “In a while Vish. You carry on.” At last it was just me. Then I heard it; a soft moaning and keening, it was a silent lamentation. It seemed like a wounded animal was crying out in pain, just hoping someone would shower some mercy and save it. I searched for the source of the sound. When I found it, I was dumbstruck. It was a young girl, about my age. Her long black hair swarmed around her like tendrils; protecting her from everyone’s eyes. I could only see her back which heaved up and down for every harsh breath she took. I was in a dilemma; do I approach her or let her be?’
‘“Hello”, my voice boomed in the silence of the night; breaking its serenity. Her body jerked, my voice had startled her. She quickly wiped all the tears away and turned to face me. I took in the beautiful sight . Her eyes shone like emeralds in the moonlight and lips slightly quivered. Her tear drenched face looked untainted from all the impurities life throws at us. She looked like a human impersonation of Nyx, Goddess of the Night. She softly said, “Hello.”’
‘I didn’t ask her about her reasons for crying. I introduced myself, talked about college and made a series of bad jokes. At first, she seemed cautious about my presence. Then she warmed up to me and by the end, she was shrieking with laughter.’
‘From that day on, we were inseparable. A meeting by chance had evolved into something else entirely. I and Ms. Nair were in love.’
‘But we didn’t know how much of backlash we would receive until much later. During our final year, there was this propaganda called “Love Jihad” that was spreading around. It was promoted by some political parties and backed up by the media. Everywhere Hindu-Muslim couples were taunted and accused of “Love Jihad.” What does it mean? Well, it is when a Muslim boy woos a Hindu girl, makes her fall for him and then later forces her to convert into Islam. I was oblivious to all this until the spotlight turned on me. Preethi’s father, Mr. Nair was a member in one of the radical parties. He vowed to destroy us. Was it our fault that I was born a Muslim and she a Hindu? It was fate that brought us together the way it did. We were both strong and we promised to fight it all. But then the media pounced on us like a lion seizes its prey. We were ambushed.’
‘Preethi was genuinely interested in Islam. I had not once asked her to convert. She was the one who broached the subject and told me that she wanted to convert. Her decision shocked me and I tried to make her understand that there was no compulsion from my side. She said, “What religion I choose to follow, is my decision and mine alone. I am not doing this for you. I am doing this because I finally feel enlightened. This feels like my road to salvation. Please respect my decision.” I let her do as she wished.’
‘Now everyone says that I’m a terrorist, a modern one. Today, I request you all to put your preconceived notions aside and just listen to me. I am a normal Muslim boy who fell in love with a normal Hindu girl. Coincidentally, the girl was interested in Islam and she became a Muslim. That’s all there is to it, no sinister plans involved. Please let us live in peace because finally we have found what we are looking for our entire lives. We found the missing link that completes us. We are one; half of a whole. Please just let us be’ I joined my hands together as a sign of plea.
A hushed silence prevailed in the room. I could see a few compassionate faces and a few ignorant ones. Then suddenly a man stood up and yelled, “He is a terrorist, catch him.” And my battle continues.
Image source: flickr.com