Sunshine Story: Here she is! Mumbai's beacon of communal harmony

Updated: 05 April, 2015 08:44 IST | Shreya Bhandary |

Maryam Asif Siddiqui emerged as the winner of a contest on the Gita, organised by ISKCON; 12-yr-old has already read the Bible, is learning the Quran and has finished studying the Bhagwad Gita

Sunshine story  At a time when many adults are failing to look past their differences and some netas are busy sowing the seeds of hatred to reap political rewards, a 12-year-old is living proof that the future of our nation is in safe hands. At a recent contest — ‘Gita Champions League’ — organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in the city, which saw 4,617 students participating from 195 schools, the first prize was bagged by Maryam Asif Siddiqui. The participants were tested on their knowledge and understanding of the Bhagwad Gita, one of the pillars of Hinduism.

Bhagwad Gita
Pic/Nimesh Dave

At the tender age of 12, Maryam, a Std VI student of Cosmopolitan High School in Mira Road, has already read the Bible, is attending lectures on the Quran and has now finished studying a translated version of the Gita.

“What saddens me is that while all the holy books talk about humanity and the virtue of giving one’s life for another human being, many people in our society misunderstand the teachings,” said Maryam.

Wise beyond her years
Participation in the Gita Champions League was optional and open to students from the secondary sections of all city schools. What’s surprising is that, at Maryam’s school, the Bhagwad Gita, distributed by ISKCON, had been taught for barely a couple of weeks before the students were asked to appear for the test, which was held in January this year.

Bhagwad Gita
Pic/Nimesh Dave

This book, which has been distributed in schools across the city, is based on the 18 chapters of the Bhagwad Gita and all the shlokas (verses) have been translated in English for the benefit of students. While the first half of the book focuses on the Mahabharata, the second looks at the teachings of Sri Krishna. Students who participated in this contest were made to answer 50 questions each from both the parts of the book.

Maryam, who has a keen interest in finding out more about the Hindu religion, chose to go through the entire book on her own and tried understanding the shlokas and the moral of the stories explained in each chapter. “One of my favourite chapters was the one with the dialogue between Shri Krishna and Arjun, just before the war. Shri Krishna explains to Arjun why, even though the war was with their enemies, he chose not to hurt them. No religion teaches us to hurt one another,” added Maryam.

On Thursday, when mid-day visited Maryam and her family, she was busy preparing for her ongoing final exams. Maryam seemed surprised that we were interested in writing about her. “Why should I be any different? Why treat me differently just because I am from another religion? Even in school, we have never treated each other differently on the basis of caste or religion,” said the 12-year-old, adding that her parents had taught her to treat everyone alike.

Proud parents
“I have always taught my children not to differentiate between religions. In the end, God is the same and even though my children attend classes to understand the Quran, they have been taught to take equal interest in other books and religions,” said Maryam’s father Asif Siddiqui, who works as an editor with a Hindi magazine called Vartaman Media. The parents and other family members said that they were proud of their daughter for proving extremists wrong and winning the contest on her own by taking interest in the book. The awards for the contest were distributed in Worli on March 15.

Did you know?
PM Narendra Modi had gifted the Bhagwad Gita to Japanese Emperor Akihito during his visits to Japan last September

First Published: 03 April, 2015 06:28 IST

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