“Festivals have a continuity .. a divine presence in our lives .. bringing souls together in prayer and congregation .. in the harnessing of love and togetherness .. in the bonds that build belief, not just in the unknown, but in our personal selves .. the binding that can bring millions in one strain of presence, must be respected and regarded with dignity .. (Big B - DAY 3018)”
The above quote from the post and the picture therein of Big B praying as a Muslim reminds of the popular Muslim socials, particularly,his super hit and most eventful film inhis life - “Coolie” (1983):
Indian cinema’s understanding of enlightened, tolerant Islam is best seen in Coolie (1983). The coolie of the title is Iqbal, played by you, his girlfriend is a Christian and his best friend is a Hindu. His other ally is an Allah-fearing hawk, Allah Rakha who wears a necklace saying ‘Allah’, which glints to advise Iqbal to go on the Hajj. He also helps Iqbal fight his enemies. The film includes miracles such as the survival of Iqbal after a shootout on Hajj Ali’s shrine when, covered in the chador (covering) of the saint, he recites the kalima (declaration of faith) and writes 786 (the numeric equivalent of God’s name) in his blood as he faints. Prayers at mosques, temples and churches accompany his operation and recovery. During the making of the film, you were near fatal accident in real life and miraculous recovery was seen as proof of the miracles shown on screen of your survival.
Bollywood, indeed, is the biggest contributor to India's cultural unite. There was a time when Indians were fanatically divided for speaking different language in different states to the extent that non-Hindi speaking people literally hated Hindi language. However, their lifelong passion for Bollywood films, particularly the songs, has totally changed the scenario. Now the people from Maharashtra to Mizoram and Kashmir to Kanyakumari cannot wait to watch the latest Hindi language film from Bollywood and repeatedly listen to its hit songs and even remember the lyrics of the songs they like. Bollywood has also contributed in a big way to bring together people belonging to different cultural background. Bollywood fosters the spirit of brotherhood which is displayed by filmgoers every day in every show. While enjoying a film, one never thinks to which caste and religion the next person in the theatre belongs to. In fact, everybody sits together in one place and enjoy the film together. They cry for the same reason, laugh at the same joke and sing the same songs.
Sir, the post also takes me back to the past, in the memory lane of Lahore days when Bazal, my best friend, always used to celebrate festivals together with our family, whether it was Eid-ul-fitr or Diwali or Christmas. Everyone in our family loved Bazal and treated him a part of the family, particularly my mother who pampered him to the hilt. All the more, like her own son, after his father suddenly expired due to deadly heart attack. His step mother did not mind this, though some in our neighborhood did. They, the orthodox Hindus, did not digest a Muslim boy mixing so freely with our family, and even allowed to enter our kitchen where my mother would be serving us steaming hot meals, making fresh 'rotis' while we ate. One thing I can never forget about Bazal is watching our first movie together, without being escorted by any adult in our families. Besides giving us the feeling that we were now grown up to go to movies by ourselves, the movie itself, V. Shantaram’s Padosi (1941), made us mature enough at the age of eight years to see the madness of those who hate and fight each other because of belonging to different faiths - Hindus and Muslims - and the film strengthened our friendship to the unbreakable solid level. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGvSReW5bwg
Fast forwarding to today's times, having moved to the U.S., living in San Francisco Bay Area, I was surprised to see our Muslim Moroccan friend, Mina, married to Greg, a White American, religiously and regularly observing Ramadan fast every year without missing even once in the last over 15 years we have been close to her. This calls for big compliment to both of them, the Muslim wife holding on to her religious beliefs even after marriage to a Christian and also the husband, who not only doesn't mind his wife carrying on to practice her religious rituals but fully supports her religious freedom without any reservations whatsoever. Mina goes a step further, she always celebrates Diwali with us, bringing a big cake for the occasion. We too make for her rice pudding almost daily throughout her Ramadan fasting period and thereafter celebrate Eid with her.
The best thing about San Francisco Bay Area is that Hindus and Muslims celebrate their festivals together and may seem unbelievable, even India and Pakistan Independence Days together by organizing joint music concerts. May be, this spirit of friendship and mutual mingling is the offshoot of their working together in Silicon Valley, the hub of computer companies, or in cab business. Even their restaurants have the sign: “Indian and Pakistani Cuisine” and you can never say whether the business is owned by an Indian or a Pakistani. I very much wish this San Franciscan spirit of brotherhood amongst different religious and cultural groups spreads globally beyond all borders.
However, there is one and, perhaps, the only place where we can see the spirit of his post sincerely and totally put to practice in terms of total harmony, where “Festivals have a continuity .. a divine presence in our lives .. bringing souls together in prayer and congregation .. in the harnessing of love and togetherness”, and that place, as we all know, is this unique and pious platform that he has very graciously built on his Blog. I very much wish the enthusiastic spirit of us all, his very dear Ef, sets an example for other such platforms to be set up by other celebrities of his fraternity for their fans, so that together we succeed making this world a better place to live.