A university election brings out the religious divide and paranoia that exists in this country today. How two childhood friends have turned foes. Their religious leaders are provoking them to fight each other in the election.
Soon they shall fight over a girl, Shanaaya. Whom will she choose and why ?
Fahad was sitting with the various maulvis of the local mosques. Kamaaluddin said, “I am not surprised that the Hindu Sammelan has fielded a popular hindu boy for the election. They will not let Fahad win unopposed. We shouldn’t be worried about the rest of the candidates who are contesting. They have neither any backing or money power. Most will withdraw their nominations before the election day arrives. But this Aarav Shastri is going to prove a nuisance for us.”
“What should be done ? Shall we get more funding now ? Go for a more aggressive campaigning strategy ?” asked Maulvi Rehmani. “That we will have to.” Fahad said, “ But I have a plan. And if you all don’t mind, I can tell you about it.”
“Please do” said Mullah Kamaluddin.
“ Aarav has been my friend for very long time. Of course now we are not so thick. But I can have a man to man dialogue with him. The best approach is to meet Aarav and have a talk. I can convince him that he will loose the election. Stop him from filing his nominations. Nip his ambition in the bud.”
Maulvi Rehmani shook his head, “If he doesn’t agree, we will have exposed our weakness and that will make him stronger.”
Fahad said, “Even if that happens I will consider it a victory. One should always give the impression to an enemy that he is weak, and then surprise him with his hidden strength.”
Mullah Kamaaluddin smiled, “That is what I call a good political mind. Fahad has it from a young age. I am sure he will do very well in politics some day. And Allah knows that we need good leaders in our community. Fahad you go and meet him. Let me know what is the outcome.” “Sure. I will Mullaji.”
Is friendship dead ?
Fahad and Aarav arranged to meet at their old school maidan (ground). Fahad didn’t want to be seen at the college campus discussing elections with Aarav. Nor could he go to Aarav’s home after a gap of five years. So he called up Aarav and suggested their school maidan.
Aarav reached early and looking around at the school ground, he thought of the childhood days. When he and Fahad had played football in this ground. The camaraderie, high fives and celebrations after winning a match. And the lows if they lost. They were inseparable in those days.
After a few minutes Fahad arrived. Aarav didn’t feel like shaking hands with a stranger. Nor did Fahad extend his hand. They looked at each other and then awkwardly around, for awhile.
Then Aarav said, “ Felt strange that you called me.”
“Why ? We have been friends.” countered Fahad.
Aarav rebutted, “ Shall I remind you how you have behaved recently, in the past couple of years ? I would come to your house with your Aboo and your Ammi. They would meet me in the market and forcibly bring me home. Ammi would feed me kheer but you would stay at a distance, cold like a stranger.”
“ I have changed Aarav.”
“ You changed Fahad since you grew your beard. Is it some kind of diktat that all of you have to grow beards like beehives?”
Fahad looks at him for a few seconds and then says “ No.”
“ So why is every Muslim around the world growing a beard ? Cant be co-incidental, can it ?”
“It’s free will Aarav. My wish. Don’t know about the rest.” Fahad was again silent and then he suddenly asked, “What about you guys ? I see a lot of you wearing this red tilak on your foreheads. Is it some announcement of your Hinduism? Some diktat of pundits in your mandirs or the hindu maha sammelans?’
“Fahad that is the last thing you should be asking the son of a pujari. And you know my dad. You have seen him since childhood. He used to apply a red tikka on your forehead too when you used to come to our home.”
“Thinking back a question arises in my mind. Was he trying to convert me in to a hindu boy?” asks Fahad rather tauntingly.
Aarav laughs, “I don’t think hindus believe in converting anybody. If someone wants to start living like a hindu that’s their choice.”
Fahad gets a smirk on his face and says, “Oh come on. Not the same old argument please. That Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.”
“Truth can hardly be defined as an argument. And as far as the tilak goes, dad puts it on my forehead only on certain days. By the way the tilak is a reminder of the third eye that we all have. The third eye is not a religious phenomenon. It’s the truth that the third eye of any person can get activated. And then suddenly there will be complete clarity about what this life is about. What this universe is all about.” Fahad looks away, making it amply clear to Aarav that such talk bores him. “Enough of theology. Lets talk about the elections.”
“As far as the elections are concerned there’s no way that I will stand down. I will fight you.”
Fahad looks at him, surprised.
“Isn’t that why you wanted to meet me ? The moment you called and suggested we meet, I knew that you would ask me to withdraw from the contest.”
“ But you came having made up your mind that you will contest ?” Fahad retorts sarcastically as if mocking Aarav. Aarav is silent.
Fahad continues bitterly, “You and your community can never be true friends, can you ? They say never make a hindu your friend. He can never be a friend. Only a back stabber.”
Aarav laughs, “Oh is it ! Strangely enough even my community thinks the same of you guys. They say that a muslim’s word has no meaning. He will betray you. His ancestors, the kings betrayed their fathers and brothers. Aurangzeb got his three brothers killed. Imprisoned his own father. Isn’t that the same history of our neighbouring country, Pakistan too? A history of coups. Hangings. Assassinations. Strange isn’t it ? So don’t tell me about me being a back stabber or my community being one.”
Fahad looks at Aarav with contempt and hate. Then he walks away. Aarav says aloud, “By the way this is not a clash between you and me. It’s a clash between two opposing ideologies.”
“Whatever. I know whats cooking in the your crooked minds”
“Really ? Enlighten me my friend.”
Fahad turns and points a finger at him, “You guys are wanting to build a hindu rashtra. A country where there will only be hindus. No other community. And if a poor helpless community wants to still live in this hindu rashtra, they will be second class citizens.”
“Really ? Because for seventy odd years you have been the favoured community.”
“No. We have been vote banks. But we will soon even loose that power. We will not be allowed to vote in the hindu rashtra.”
“How paranoid is that Fahad ? You actually believe this is going to happen?”
“Truth needs no justification or proof. You guys are waiting to get a two-thirds majority in the Rajya sabha. Because without that the constitution cannot be changed. Then article 370 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir will be scrapped and this country will be declared a hindu country.”
“Fahad this is not the truth. Get your facts right. Don’t get carried away. I am fighting you ultimately for the good of this University. Because I know you have become paranoid and filled with anger and hate. You cannot be a fair President of the student union in this state of persecution and paranoia.”
“ Yes I cannot be fair. Because only a hindu can be. Just and fair, right ?”
Aarav implores, “ Fahad how can I convince you, change you..make you the same as you were ?”
“That Fahad is long dead. And for good reason. Lets fight this out. We will see who wins.” Fahad says the last bit and keeps walking. Aarav is left staring at his back, feeling helpless.
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