Love Jihad11 mins 21.3K 11 mins 21.3K
Sitting by the window with the warm Chennai air blowing in her face, she stared at her wrist watch – a regular Titan, but her dearest possession – it was a gift from him, Syed. Even after six months, she still blushed when she took his name in the tranquility of her thoughts.
On that fateful day, she and her gang of girls from her Physiotherapy class had gone to their favorite haunt – the CCD outlet at the edge of Guindy National Park. Other groups from the Dr. MGR Medical University, where she studied also hung around there regularly.
In a domestic accident, a labourer was trapped underneath a heavy-duty refrigerator while brining it down a staircase. Using his presence of mind and his medium weight body, Syed had saved the labourer from being pummeled to death. He had heaved the refrigerator with a shout “Ya Ali Maddad”.
To everyone’s surprise Gayatri had boldly stepped-in and initiated Syed’s rescue from under the weight of the refrigerator. She had led, but her girl gang had fully supported her; and once the girls were at it – the crowd had joined in to move the trapped Syed from under the refrigerator’s weight.
Everybody cheered, clapped and gave high-fives and pats-on-the-back to each other. Gayatri in the meanwhile took Syed aside and asked him to sit down. His hands and arms were still trembling, his face was flushed and he felt pumped and light.
The next five minutes were etched in Gayatri’s memory, because that is when she had fallen for him; and much later Syed had admitted that he was smitten by her in their very first interaction.
She gave him some water and then asked him to have the coffee. She asked him “Can I check if there are any serious injuries on your body?”
He asked “Are you a Doctor?”
“No, but training to be a physio”, she said.
He nodded his agreement and she checked his arms, legs and back for any broken bones, open wounds or any major swelling. Finally, she checked his head for any bumps or bruises.
She said “You feel ok right now but tomorrow morning your body will ache like hell. You may not even be able to lift your arms. Have some hot milk with turmeric and a handful of jaggery tonight, it will reduce the pain”
“So how will I come to know whether I am ok or not?” he asked with a smile on his lips and a twinkle in his eyes.
“You will, on your own” she admonished him mockingly.
“But how can I check myself?” he pleaded
“Come here next Thursday and we will see” she teased and left.
Waking up from her reverie, she booked her ticket to college. She was traveling by bus today from her home in Adyar to Guindy as her younger brother had managed to wrest out from her, her 2nd most prized possession – her Activa which had been gifted to her by her parents on completing her Aarangetram.
She could hardly believe it had been six months of her being with Syed; after all she remembered everything as if it had occurred just yesterday - their first meeting, their second meeting, their first kiss and their first car trip.
After their first meeting, it was an agonizing week for Syed – on one side was the bodily pain of heaving the refrigerator and its after effects and the painful wait for next Thursday on the other. He dreamt of her every night – her dancing expressive eyes, sharp nose and slightly wayward teeth; her lithe form, shiny brown skin, her flowing hair and her wide hips. That week every night he woke up, disturbed and distorted, with images and thoughts of that girl.
Will she come? Will she talk to me? Will she acknowledge my presence discretely? – Thousands of thoughts and emotions crossed his mind but the foremost thought was-Will she talk to me once she knows my religion? But she spoke to me even after I said “Ya Ali Maddad”… she should be ok with my religion then…
Syed lived in Mosque Colony – a few kilometers from Dr. MGR Medical University where he was studying B. Pharma. His aim in life was to start his own medical store. He was from a family of tanners; his father still continued to do the difficult tanning work whereas his two Uncles had diversified into the garage business and repaired cars.
To his family of nineteen, he was the hope of the next generation, as he was the eldest child and most educated. He was a “model” within his family and the neighboring community as he could quote the Koran, went to college and passed every year, had Hindu and Christian friends and never missed prayers on Fridays.
Though he had interacted with girls – his sisters, cousins, residents of his colony, it was always under the watchful eye of elders and almost always for the same reason – teaching English, Mathematics and Science; but this girl was different, he had never felt the way he felt for her in all his 23 years.
The next Thursday had arrived; they had met at the same CCD, both coming early and without their respective groups of friends. They had had coffee and then walked out to take a stroll. Finding a quiet spot under the canopy of trees, they sat there till it was dark. Talking and confiding in each other and sharing their deepest fears, passions, inhibitions, dreams, desires and obsessions.
Their rendezvous time was their most treasured time, each waiting for the day to become Thursday and be with each other. Gayatri used to have extra lectures on Thursdays which had moved to Fridays the very week she had met Syed but she had never told her Amma about it. Syed had to bunk classes and get notes from his friends for being with Gayatri; but it was all worth it – for both of them.
It was only in their 4th meeting that he had asked her “Your name?”
“Gayatri Ramakrishnan, 2nd year Physiotherapy, and your name?” she replied.
“Syed Rasool, 3rd year B. Pharma” he answered.
Sitting in the bus, she could vividly reminiscence the day they had been intimate for the first time. Syed had managed to eke out one of the cars which had come for repair at his Uncle’s garage. He paid for the petrol using the money he had earned as tuition fees. He had pleaded with his youngest Uncle to not let his Father know about his indiscretion. He had chosen a nondescript Maruti 800 lest someone identify the car.
Once in the back seat, she had rested her head on his shoulder and then, after what seemed like an eternity they had hugged and kissed. It seemed such a natural thing to do. Both of them had turned towards each other at the same time, her eyes half shut and then closed once their lips met. The chemistry between them was always instant and electric, both of them seeking refuge in each other’s embrace – in a way shutting out the world by creating one of their own, with just the two of them in it.
Gayatri had shared with Syed her innermost feelings, opening herself bare – her occasional envy of her younger sister who was taller, fairer and conventionally better looking; her mother’s safeguarding and serving the best meal portions to her younger brother, just because he was a male. Nobody but Syed knew of Gayatri’s fear of dogs, snakes and darkness. He also knew that she disliked her maternal Uncle who was waiting to be Gayatri’s bridegroom once she completed her Graduation. Syed also knew that her weakest & strongest point was her Father. Her Father was a well-known figure in Chennai as he was a newsreader on DoorDarshan for the last twenty-five years. She worshipped him and could see no wrong in him; likewise Gayatri was the cynosure of her Dad’s eyes and he often spoilt her silly.
Most of the time, Gayatri would do the talking and Syed would grunt his approval or disapproval and converse in one-liners. Often they would just keep quiet, hold hands and watch the squirrels scurry.
Initially Syed had been reticent in sharing his views and beliefs especially about his religion – he feared she may not understand him or worse still, she may understand but not accept him. But slowly he started opening up – on some days he would be stone cold and Gayatri would take care of him – with her love and companionship – sometimes humming a song, sometimes letting him keep his head on her lap, caressing his hair and holding his hand.
One Thursday he was livid – Is it wrong to be from my religion? Why do they treat me like a pariah when I go to my colleagues’ place to study? Why do the Cops always look at us with suspicion? Nobody gives us equal opportunity and when we fight back they call us lawless and criminal? And why does our community not follow the law of the land? Why do some of our guys pick up arms so quickly?
Gayatri had patiently heard him, with sympathy and love – she had calmed him down. She felt like Parvati that day, consuming and dousing Shiva’s tempestuous temper.
But, since then she had seen a gradual change in his behavior. Over the next few weeks he had dropped hints that some scholars from his community had approached him to write & record and publicize speeches about atrocities committed against their brethren across the world. He had done their bidding and was glad to have contributed to the community’s cause. But their demands were increasing – two weeks back, Syed had mentioned some foreign looking men had met him after the Friday prayers, praised his work and asked him to join the cause more actively.
Gayatri had felt Syed was becoming radical – day by day and that he was slipping out of her hands.
Last week had been the worst, Syed was pumped up because he was shortlisted to go abroad and fight for his religion. The foreign looking men had said that he would receive further training and indoctrination for his assignment. Syed’s knowledge of his religion, his physique and his education made him a very good candidate for the abroad assignment. Syed was ecstatic and he had wanted to know what she thought about his achievements and his new assignment.
For a long time she had not replied; then holding his hands, looking into his eyes, she had said,
"Syed, I have full faith in you, I know you will do the right thing and make my love proud, whatever path you take, I shall always be proud of you”
The conductor announced “MGR Medical” and Gayatri broke her trance and got off the bus. She quickly walked to her classroom. It was 9.25 am, she had lectures till 4.30 pm and then she could go and meet Syed.
After finishing classes, at 4.30 pm Gayatri stepped out of the college and hailed an auto to their favorite CCD near Guindy National Park and allowed herself to ponder.
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 realized she had knots in her stomach. Thoughts flooded her mind. What did he want to tell her?
Her mind was in turmoil - What does he want to tell me? What has he decided? Is he going to take that assignment to go to a faraway land and fight for the so-called cause of his community?
To calm her nerves, Gayatri picked up a coffee and was waiting inside the CCD, from here she could see him come. At last at 6.00 pm she saw Syed arrive on his bike. He walked in to the Coffee Shop, looking for her. He sat in front of her with a stoic expression.
After an eternity, she asked “Are you joining them Syed?”
“No Gayatri, They have all been arrested; they were terrorists and people who spread communal dis-harmony. I almost got arrested with them but I am here because of you and your Love”. If you hadn’t held me together and hadn’t shown me the right path all through this, I would have been jailed by now. Every time I thought of taking the plunge, I would think of you, your love and support, your comforting words and unbridled acceptance of me. The only thing which seemed Right was being with you, nothing else mattered. Today I have won the Jihad of conscience and your true love has been my guiding light”.
“Will you be at my side show me the right path always?” Syed asked.
“Yes, my dear, always” she replied.