By Artika Raj:
One of my best friends since we were in class 8 is a Muslim. In our 15 years of being a part of each other’s lives, guess how many times her religion has popped up as a topic of discussion – never.
I’m probably reminded of it briefly, just for a nanosecond if at all, when the gang of friends is deciding what to order for drinks, where she skips and orders for something non-alcoholic instead.
A week ago I heard a radio jockey call up a random number in Pakistan, of a grocer’s that she googled off the net, to ask what he thought of India and Pakistan resuming playing cricket. His answer – cricket is a sport that brings us closer, it’s the politics between the two countries that is ruining it. The people on both sides just want to enjoy the game. She asked him pretty directly, do Pakistanis hate Indians? He replied, of course they don’t. But again, politics would have us believe otherwise.
I might be wrong, but never before has the focus been so sharply on our individual faith, a matter of each individual’s choice and privacy. From Godhra to Muzaffarnagar to Atali, religious riots occupy front page space on newspapers these days. My fear is that soon they will be so common that they’ll be relegated to the 5th.
But then there is something like this that gives me hope. In this social experiment, where a Muslim man stands blindfolded asking people to trust him enough for a hug, the result is extraordinary only because we are made to believe that someone who looks like him is not trustworthy.
Ask yourself, what you would have done had you come across him on the street. May your answer renew my hope.