Love Jihad11 mins 9.3K 11 mins 9.3K
Tears welled up in her eyes, streaming down her cheeks and onto her fingers which were clutching the prison bars; one or two slid down her fingers and landed on Syeds’s who was holding the bars from the other side. She had so much to tell him yet she stood there speechless, deciphering the entire episode of that day. Syed gently held her hand with tears in his eyes. His voice trembled as he spoke, “I have and I will always love you. If it weren’t for you, I would have never redeemed myself. You have shown me the righteous path that I will walk on for the rest of my life.”
Gayatri knew she had to leave him at this point. She was proud of him; he had shown exceptional heroism today. He swayed a bit but then aren’t we humans? Don’t we deviate from our values and principles sometimes? It was hurting enough to see him behind the prison. But aren’t we all prisoners - prisoners of power, greed, wealth, ego, lust and sex?
It was a difficult day; a day that will be remembered forever. Not only for Syed and Gayathri, but for so many people - it was a day of learning, perseverance, courage and finding oneself. While most of them had proved weak and selfish, Syed and Gayathri had emerged as winners and grew stronger. Syed and Gayatri didn't mean to fall in love. But love happens when you least expect it. It creeps up suddenly. When someone needs attention, care, conversation, laughter and maybe even intimacy. Love doesn't look at logic, or at backgrounds and least of all, religion.
Gayatri was from a very conservative South Indian family that went to a temple every Saturday. Syed bought goats for his family every Eid. That said it all. Their paths would never have crossed if it hadn't been for that fateful day. That day when he walked into the coffee shop. Gayatri wondered if destiny chose our loved ones for us. Did we have any role to play at all?
She looked at her watch. Syed was late. They met every Thursday at five pm to catch up. Their conversation lasted for hours. Sometimes at the cafe, sometimes in his car, sometimes in places that she could never tell her friends about. They would never understand. And yet Syed made her happy.
Suddenly her phone beeped. He had sent a message. "On my way. Have something important to tell you."
Gayatri stared at it and realised she had knots in her stomach. Thoughts flooded her mind. What did he want to tell her?
Of late Syed was acting strange. Sometimes he was preoccupied with his own thoughts and Gayatri had to bring him back to this world, to her world. Today also, he looked dishevelled but handsome with that rugged look.
Gayatri wagged a finger at him, “I waited for you for almost 40 minutes and you will be punished severely for keeping me waiting”.
Syed laughed and replied with a slight bow, “Anything for you, my lady”
Gayatri winked at him, “The lady has decided that you will be spending the entire evening tomorrow with her”
Syed laughed heartily, “I would love to.”
They both laughed and joked and shared the experiences of their day. Gayatri worked as coordinator in Media Industry, whereas Syed worked as a Professor for English in Hyderabad University. Both of them had different careers and were very religious minded. Yet both of them thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. They were at ease with each other. Though they belonged to two different worlds, they immensely respected each other’s views and opinions.
“What is it?” Gayatri finally cut the ice.
“I don’t know how to tell you, but I genuinely wanted to share what is happening with me. I know you are a bit troubled to see me lost sometimes, but I must assure you there is no other woman.”
Gayatri laughed at his remark, “There is no room for another woman because I keep you occupied all the time”.
Both of them laughed heartily and then the conversation grew serious and tense.
He told her how he was caught up in a struggle trying to decipher his religious beliefs as he was being challenged constantly. He was part of a group called “Techno Hakeems”. The group believed in science and modernism and their mission was to uproot orthodox, traditional beliefs and taboos. They wanted to educate people about science and to perceive Islam in a more scientific way. They had a website and blogs, a few of which were written by Syed that Gayatri herself had read. They were thought provoking and very modern.
But recently, Syed had to encounter huge pressure from the members of this group as well as his cousins and friends, to merge into a bigger organisation which was actually a cult in itself called the “Modern Mujaheeds”. The merger was a secret; for the world they were the “Techno Hakeems” but all their activities will strictly be monitored and directed by the new reign. In the start he had hated the idea of merging, but then slowly he started to absorb their religious sentiments. He was especially awestruck with their Leader- Lateefuddin and was greatly influenced by his thoughts and opinions, though orthodox and old fashioned at times. Lateefuddin, in turn saw in Syed a true devotee of Islam and with his exceptional oratory and writing skills, he wanted Syed to go a long way in seeding the voice of “Modern Mujaheeds” and helping them spread the love of Islam and the holy war Jihad. Syed was now completely transfixed on this idea that he was a true Jihadi or a Mujaheed and had to play a greater role in spreading Islam.
Syed had then joked, “Only if The Lateefuddin had known, that I love a Hindu girl, he would definitely ostracise me and label me as an outcast.”
Gayatri could understand he was battling with his inner self. His beliefs and thoughts were being challenged and was thereby under constant pressure and stress. She hoped that he would stay strong and wouldn’t do anything stupid. Syed had also told her that Jihad had different meanings, but to him, it was the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin, though this was not the popular meaning and was always grossly misrepresented.
Next day when Ravindar, the sub-editor of the Hyderabad Daily and her boss, came to her for some work, she saw an opportunity and casually enquired about Lateefuddin.
“He is a fascist and he is known to rear a cult called “Modern Mujaheeds” The secret agenda of this organisation is to build Jihadis and brainwash people about Islam and spread violence and terror. You should listen to his speeches. They are so violent, fiery and full of criticism of other religions. He advocates Jihad and is known to mislead innocent youth and use them for his selfish motives. He is trouble. Our undercover journalists are very close to revealing the truth and the secret agendas he has been working on. I am hoping this will be a major news for us next month, once we have placed our hands on something substantial.”
Their discussion was disturbed by a beep. It was Syed’s text, “Go home immediately. It seems there will be some trouble near your office. I can’t explain more, but please leave for home.”
Gaytri had texted back, “I need to talk to you urgently. Can you meet me please?” She had to warn him about the so called Lateefuddin and Modern Mujaheeds.
The phone beeped again, “I will meet you in the evening at the usual coffee shop.”
“Are you okay? Anything urgent?” questioned Ravindar, sensing that something was wrong with Gayathri.
Gayathri gave a simple excuse that her mother was ill and she needs to head home – the explanation did not seem to bother him.
Halfway to her home in the bus, she realised that she left her mobile on her desk. She had texted Syed that she was leaving for the day and was so preoccupied with her thoughts that in the last minute she forgot her mobile on her desk. Her office was on the 4th Floor in a big commercial building in Jubilee Hills. There were many offices on the other floors and also a shopping complex on the lower floors. She hurried back to her office on the 4th Floor and was dumbfounded by what she saw.
A group of men had encircled Ravindar and she could see knives and hockey sticks and even pistols in their hands. What was she supposed to do? She could not see anyone other than Ravindar, Subodh and one more colleague from the entertainment section. The whole office was deserted. She could not remember seeing the security guard while she was entering. She decided to slip away slowly and call the police. But it was late. One of the intruders had seen her and quickly motioned towards her. She tried to run frantically, but two of them grabbed her and pushed her to the ground where Ravindar and the other two men were lying. They were dressed in black and had masks on their faces. One of them, whom Gayatri assumed as the leader, ordered the members to leave. Their purpose was solved. They had come to give a warning to Ravindar, to stop pursuing his investigation on Lateefuddin and his group. If he continued to do so, he will have to face serious consequences of that and possibly pay with his life.
Ravindar informed her that the intruders had locked all the staff members in the cafeteria at gunpoint. The telephone lines were not working and even the mobile network was blocked. As they unlocked all the staff members, the fire alarm started ringing. There was an announcement informing people of fire in the shopping complex, asking people to get out of the building immediately. There was a fire on one of the floors and the announcement asked everyone to leave the building immediately. As they descended down the steps, there was smoke and a couple of shops were on fire on the lower floors in the shopping complex area. The best thing was to leave the building as soon as possible and save oneself. People were running in a life-saving attempt to desert the building. There was confusion everywhere, smoke from the fire had clouded the view and people were desperately running for their lives.
In the midst of all this panic, Gayatri saw a little girl trapped in one of the shops crying and screaming for help. She had to rescue her. Ravindar grabbed her arm, “What are you doing? Do you want to die? You were lucky once, but not always!”
She was furious. How can they leave a little girl in the realm of fire? But she had no time nor the patience to argue. She fled to the shop where the little girl was trapped. She took her out and while coming out, with all the hysteria around her and people running helter-skelter to get out, she lost her control, tripped and almost fell. She was grabbed and pulled by a strong arm and yanked out of the way of the crowd in a corner. She had closed her eyes, thinking she was almost killed in the stampede, but she wrapped the little girl tightly in her arms to protect her from the stampede. Suddenly, from nowhere, the girl’s mother had appeared, retrieved her child and showered thanks to Gayatri. She had no time to thank her saviour. Everything happened so fast in a fraction of seconds that it was too much to comprehend. She was taking a moment or two to get a hold on herself - she was lucky that she beat death twice today.
The police were arresting a man in a black pathani dress, an activist. The mother of the little girl was yelling not to arrest him and that he had saved her little child. Blood drained out of Gayatri’s face once again. She stood there stupefied, watching Syed being handcuffed by the police. Their eyes met for one moment and Syed was ashamed of himself. He could not face her. The only thought that came to her was “Oh Syed. What have you done?”
Syed had no idea that things would turn out differently. He absolutely had no inkling that shops will be set on fire, property will be damaged, there will be commotion and that the love of his life will be a victim in all of this. He could not leave because he wanted to ensure Gayatri was fine and when he saw her struggling to save the child, he could not bear the thought of abandoning her. He saved both of them from the stampede, but was late to leave and got caught by the police. He was glad that at least there were no casualties, though a few people were injured. But most of all, Gayatri was safe except a few scratches and a small bruise on her elbow.
It was now time to leave Syed to his destiny. She did not know what would happen to him. Will he be released or detained? But she was happy for him - he had found his true calling and he understood Jihad in its true sense by saving lives. She had seen him at his worst moment, he had swayed, he was misguided, he was misled, but he came out clean and unaltered. He came out triumphant and had won his war, his love Jihad. He will never again deter in life and will stay strong and firm on his values and principles and will continue his work with increased fervour in the right way.
This story ends here. We do not know what was in fate for Syed and Gayatri after this. Was Syed released or prosecuted? Did Gayatri marry someone else or did she wait for Syed’s release? Did Syed forgot Gayatri and continued with his life?
But, all of that is not important. What is important is both of them learnt a lesson in their own way, a lesson of love and freedom through an incident that shaped their lives forever. They won their Love Jihad and most importantly, they understood that Love has a higher cause and is not confined to two individuals.