The story thus far, in short
Student elections are to be held in the I.N.D University. On the one hand there is Aarav, supported by the Hindu Sammelan. On the other hand there is Fahad, fighting with the backing of the Imam of Lucknow and local maulvis.
Ironically they have been friends in school now driven apart by different ideologies and communities.
Enter Shanaya. The hindu girl, totally in awe of Fahad and his best friend.
Next day Aarav met his close bum chums in college. They were a Sangeet mandali, a small group of boys who sang, played musical instruments and danced. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. At times they regaled a small audience with their devotional songs. Aarav was proficient in playing the harmonium, his friend Siddharth was good with the dholak ( indian drums) Jaideep played the manjira (cymbals), Govind the khanjri (tambourine). Once in a while the band would break in to bollywood songs. They would also sing devotional songs to the tunes of popular bollywood hits.
Aarav told his friends about this election offer. They were very excited. Jaideep thought that Aarav would win hands down. Siddharth was sceptical. “ I don’t have a good feeling about this. Plus we will loose our music man. We will get in to politics and electioneering.” Govind said, “Come on Sid, we can make our campaign musical. We can sing songs and send our message across to the voters in the university.” Govind butted in, “Its going to be a lot of fun.” Aarav looked at Siddharth. He was the wise one. He was a hindu, but heavily in to the Buddhist practice. He would chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” the buddhist chant of the Lotus Sutra for hours on end. He smiled and consented, “Maybe its going to be fun. My feeling that something bad may happen because of these elections is perhaps coming from my mind. It’s not an intuition.” “No no no Sid. Lets hear it. What’s your inner feeling ? ” “Forget it Aarav.” “No Sid I want to hear it.” “My friend every election in the University has been violent. There has been shooting.. and deaths. So my fearing for your life and safety is only normal and logical. That flashed through my mind when you spoke about contesting the election. It has nothing to do with my intuitive buddha mind. Neither is it a premonition. Only my fear.” Sid laughs and says, “Lets go for it. Will be a blast man.”
With Sid consenting , the friends get very excited and in this joyous moment Aarav makes the decision to fight for the president’s post in the University. Sid’s intuition or feeling of doom was forgotten in moments later as they all celebrated. But Aarav remembered Sid saying that they would become political by fighting this election. He swore to himself that he would always remain truthful to the cause and never use falsehood to win.
Aarav conveyed his decision to the Hindu Sammelan who were very pleased with his decision. Almost relieved. Bhalerao told Aarav, “You will win. Next week we will introduce you to a few boys and girls from other colleges whom we have chosen to assist you. In fact you will need some of them to contest with you for different posts in the students union. Right ?” Aarav nodded. “ I am going to give you some very committed boys and girls.”
The Sammelan got busy in finalising Aarav’s support group. They not only had to help Aarav’s campaign but also make sure that he stays on course. Doesn’t get swayed against the ideals of the Hindu Sammelan . Or throw in the towel and accept defeat prematurely, because the road ahead was going to be very tough on him. There was high possibility of violence and threat to his life.
Fahad emerges out of the masjid after his Friday prayers ( namaaz ). He is tall and lean. Looks much older than his years. He is handsome but in a cruel way. Behind the beard his lips are thin. It is his eyes which sometimes give away his inner being. An inner life filled with turmoil and rage. But at the same time loads of love for his own community. He suffers from the same disease that a majority of human beings suffer from in today’s day and age. Selective love and compassion.
In a different world he would have made a good Captain or Major in the army, because he looked battle ready even now.
Outside the masjid he is met by Aftab.
Aftab gives Fahad the news about Aarav running for President in the forthcoming election. Fahad’s face which is like a bronze statue, shows no sign of any emotion, that he feels at hearing this news. He nods.
Fahad knows that he has a problem at hand. He immediately realises that Aarav is a card being played by the hindu hardliners to make sure that Fahad and the rest of his group loose this election. Just like the Imam of Lucknow and maulvis of the local mosques had come to persuade him that he will have to contest the elections, the hindu radicals have also realised the importance of the University elections. They must have gone to Aarav, he thought. They know that the University President of the students union holds a considerable sway over the thinking of the students for the next four years. And since these students are first time voters in the next general elections, the President’s ideology and leanings are bound to have influence them on who they vote for. So on learning that he was approached by Imam Shahabuddin and few other maulvis of the mosques in Rampura, the hindu hardliners must have decided to play their card and approach Aarav, a Pandit’s son.
He vividly remembered the Imam saying, “ Fahad this is a do or die situation for us.”
He knew that he couldn’t let them down. He couldn’t let down his entire community which had been feeling low and persecuted for the past five years.They had lost a lot of face since the Babri Masjid demolition. Fahad wasn’t born then but he had heard the tales of the communal violence.
The hindu girl
Shanaya Choudhary is a rich girl. Her parents are separated. She lives with her father. Her mother is a well known socialite in Delhi. Shanaya has been born and brought up in Rampura and is attached to her roots. Delhi is too polluted and populated for her liking. She prefers the comparatively quieter life of Rampura, where the green fields are just a few miles away. There is a beautiful waterfall at a two hour drive. Rampura is surrounded by hills in the distance. The weather is pleasant throughout the year. Of course it gets cold in the winters when the northernly winds blow. And because of the large, well equipped and beautiful University campus, Rampura has become the hub of education for many nearby towns and cities.
Shanaya is beautiful but she does not give too much importance to looks. She is turned on by intellect. Despite Rampura being a small town, Shanaya is very modern in her outlook. She has travelled the world and now the world travels with her when it comes to styling her hair, selecting clothes and make up. Rampura being a picturesque town attracts students from various parts of the world. Shanaya is a great ambassador for the University. She edits a magazine for her college which is very popular online. The world is interested in knowing about india at the moment and her magazine showcases not only the University, but India as a whole. India seems to have graduated from the country of snake charmers to a country of Yoga, spiritualists, Taj Mahal, holy rivers, the Kumbh, colourful festivals and as a land of diverse cultures and religions, yet being a nuclear power and at the same time a large market for the leading multinationals of the world, who today compete with one another to get a foothold in the indian market. Rampura has showrooms of all major brands of the world. It has malls and different kinds of food cuisines. Her magazine showcases most of this.
She is proud to be a secular Indian and she is not in favour of the brand of hinduism that the political parties and the religious leaders are trying to propagate today. She writes fearlessly about her views in her editorials. Her father is a rich dude who can afford to finance her magazine, which only in name is a college magazine. Her layout, articles and flashy pictures are designed by the best in India. At times by the best in the world. After all what cant money buy in today’s world ? Shanaya and Fahad are best friends. In fact the only person Shanaya looks upto ( is not her father, Shekhar Aggarwal) but it is Fahad. She feels that Fahad is a modern day Che Guevara. An idealistic revolutionary.
Fahad can best be seen through the eyes of Shanaya.
She truly sympathises with him. She feels that he is fighting fo justice and free speech. Fahad often says to her,
“ In today’s world the muslim is an easy target. Be it the police or the armed forces in Kashmir, the poor muslim is being targeted viciously and ruthlessly. Its easy you see, after 9/11 to term every muslim a terrorist. He is persecuted at airports, schools, housing colonies and government jobs.”
She shares his view that his community is being persecuted, traumatised and looked at suspiciously. She doesn’t believe that any kind of love jihad shit is happening in this country, like the hindu hardliners propagate. Religion doesn’t matter to Shanaya, if you are in love, you are in love, big deal. She believes that there should be freedom to love. The girl or the boy can belong to any community. Love transcends all barriers of religion, caste and creed.
She wears short skirts. Fahad appreciates her boldness. Shanaya asks him, “Fahad if you like me in these clothes then why is Shabnam forced to wear a hijab to college ?” Shabnam is Fahad’s sister. “That’s her choice.” “Really ?” “Yes.” “Can I talk to her that once in a while she should wear something cool.” “You better not. She is very orthodox.” “And you ?” “I am liberal.” “Will you allow your wife to wear what she feels like?” He is silent.” I mean would you like a modern girl to be your wife?” “Would love that.” “You wouldn’t curb her freedom?” Fahad stares at her and then breaks in to a smile and says, “No.” “Doesn’t sound convincing Fahad.” “Test me.” “How?” “I am sure you will think of a way.” His smile widens. The two look in to each others eyes, trying to gauge one another, then Shanaya bursts out laughing. Shakes her head. “You are being naughty, aren’t you ?” Fahad is silent, keeps looking deep in to her eyes. He enjoys Shanaya’s beautiful oval face. Her full lips. Her jet black hair. Fair skin (since his own is wheatish. Or rather honey brown as a girlfriend had once said to him in bed.) Shanaya is tall and slim. She looks fragile in front of Fahad’s muscular body. Shanaya’s shoulders look extremely slim in comparison to his broad shoulders, Fahad thinks. The two make a great pair in college. A lot of students envy their friendship, such is the bond between the two.
When alone Shanaya would often think of Fahad’s eyes. They were hazel brown, highlighted by dark circles under his eyes and they were so deep and still that you often thought of a bottomless lake when looking in to them. One could never fathom the depth of Fahad’s thoughts. There was a mystery to him that she loved. She found all these qualities fascinating. Attraction is such a mild word, she would often think, even love. What she felt for Fahad could not be described in words.
And then she thought of Aarav Shastri. She had received the news from her friend Aashna about the new development. She felt anger and contempt. ‘How could a nobody, a joker think of challenging Fahad, who was an uncrowned king of the college and why just the college, of the I.N. D. University.’ Aashna is silent. She doesn’t see any harm in Aarav contesting. But keeps her mouth shut.
Shanaya decides to write against Aarav in her magazine. But that would have to come later. At the moment she was writing an article on Fahad and his brilliant leadership qualities.
Do check out my new book ” The Secret Law of Blessing ” on Amazon:
Now available in hindi too. On Amazon and Flipkart. Click on any of the links below :