S#[t, my best friend is a muslim.

My childhood memories are full of innumerable trips with my god-fearing family to my god’s abodes across India. Vaishno Devi in the North to Rameshwaram in the South I have done some serious worshipping here, passively. Yes, passively because as a kid, these were more of trips along with cousins filled with food, fun and naughtiness for me.

In time, I stepped out of my house for higher education and these trips became a yearly event, at best. But of course my mom would always remind me to pay a courtesy call at a friendly neighbourhood temple on those special occasions (one every 10 days if you consider the sheer population of my gods). Personally I find the Hindu God Lord Ganesha closer to my heart, more like a friend who gives me strength. On many occasions my friend ‘S’ accompanied me. She always covered her head, folded her hands in prayers and relished the yummy ‘boondi’ prasad at the temple. I never felt she was different or disrespectful towards my religion. Hell, I never even realised we practised different religions. She is Muslim.

The only time her religion excited me was when her family was to pay us their first visit in the hostel. Bizarrely, I half-expected her mother to be wearing a burqa, her father to be chewing paan (beetle leaves) and her brother to be wearing kajal in his eyes. Everything typical Indian movies have taught me about Muslim families. But they were too normal, almost bordering on boring when I saw them. They looked, you know, ordinary, like, say my family. Educated, happy and well, routine. Can you believe my disappointment when I realised she had only one mother (yes, I thought every Muslim had multiple wives, blame it on the movies again).

In the next 16 years of our friendship there wasn’t a single moment when I felt we were off tune with each other just because we worshipped different gods. Why, her father even sat through all the rituals of my totally Hindu marriage ceremony. Oh and when I decided to have kids after dedicating 10 years of my life to my career, I put in a special request to my friend Lord Ganesha in the famous Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai and ‘S’ asked her god at ‘Ajmer Sharif’ to remove any hurdles on my way to motherhood. It’s no coincidence that I am blessed with twins today!

During these 16 years we have discussed tolerance, religion, our children’s future and more. Sometimes these discussions were triggered by unfortunate incidents like the Gujarat Riots. And sometimes smaller but deeper questions like why schools and offices in India never hold any programmes to celebrate Eid, like they do for Diwali, Holi, Christmas and New Year’s. Every single time we would conclude, “There are extremists in every religion and that’s why we need to mould our kids into level headed, caring and kind human beings.” What we never did was blame each other or each other’s God.

Sadly in these 16 years I have had educated and “cultured” people judging our friendship. Some have even cautioned me about how shrewd and religion-focused Muslims are (I wonder what all she has been warned against). Others presented the Partition of India as an example to the barbarism and fanaticism of Muslims. I mostly smiled through it all knowing how wrong they were, but my heart always felt heavy, feeling their hatred for ‘S’. I sometimes wish I could create a better world for ‘S’. One where she is not judged, held responsible or expected to apologise for the terrorists claiming to practice the same religion as hers. The same way as I do not expect to be held accountable for fanatics who slaughtered human beings over allegations of eating beef.

It’s times like these with #ParisAttacks, New York, Lebanon or at home #MumbaiAttacks when I feel the collective and justified hatred towards religious terrorism. But when this hatred invariably spills over to every human being practising Islam, I fear for my friend. And that’s when I think, “S#[t, my best friend is a Muslim.”

Comments (18)

Aziz Ampanwala Posted on Nov 26, 2015

Its the bond of friendship which doesn't restrict itself to religion, apart from that i feel the perspective created by extremist and media (at many intervals) has created a false impression about a SAID religion, but people are now smart enough to understand who is doing what and whom to be with .. I read this part of your life and the bonding of friendship of your freindship is something to back as a learning to many :) Well narrated in short !

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Nidhi and Rohit Joshi Posted on Nov 26, 2015

Very well written. You know I sometimes think every individual that I know or meet doesn't believe that religion discriminates then who are the people who spread hatred in the name of religion and what goes on in their mind? I am sure they don't look like human beings.

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numerounity Posted on Nov 26, 2015

I'm brought up in a mixed environment and taught respectful of every one. As I grew up I saw nasty head of religion and biases. It's strange and at same time repulsive. Guess life has bigger challenges to be wasted on things like - my religion, your religion dogmatics.

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capersrouge.com Posted on Nov 25, 2015

Ohh my god! Did you just show the vision so clearly ? Yes , the world certainly needs to know we humans are just so fearful of each other even after being the BREEDS of the highest order. Fingers crossed and praying lips that we all move beyond and terrorise terrorism with peace someday!

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sneharane1292 Posted on Nov 25, 2015

Amazingly written, Charu! I can relate so much to this. Even I had a Muslim friend in school. Sadly couldn't keep in touch after the boards. It's really of profound importance for today's generation to be level headed, kind and loving.


Viharin Nidhi KM (@Viharin_Nidhikm) Posted on Nov 25, 2015

I truly agree with you Charu, no religion can be associated with an individual. While I read this post on Guru Nanak's Birthday, one of his preachings said, before being a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh or a Christian, be a human being first. How well I can relate both now. I too have friends from all religions and I respect and love them for what they are not what religion they follow. I totally impressed with your write up. Congratulations!

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Vikram Kamboj Posted on Nov 25, 2015

Rightly said that friendship knows no boundaries! Great!


Heena Dhedhi Posted on Nov 23, 2015

Just like I said on Swayam's blog terror has no religion no thought no victory….. it is all a farce that every individual needs to work together to eradicate. Unfortunately the evil stay together through thick and thin but not the good. http://www.iCynosure.in, Heena

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Prerna Sinha (@maaofallblogs) Posted on Nov 23, 2015

Charu, beautifully written. I am so touched with your post. My neighbour is a muslim too and one of the nicest and the sweetest people I have ever met. We can't put people in boxes Muslim- Terrorist, Hindu- Tolerant or French-Snob ...Everyone is an individual and it is their action and their karmas that define what they are going to be, not what religion or region they were born in.

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thatguywithstories Posted on Nov 23, 2015

I believe that there is a Muslim who lives in a small town in India , whose thinking is different, from the one who lives in a Mumbai or Delhi and goes to great lengths about proving his/her secularism etc. The common Muslim hardly cares about what goes on in a Saudi Arabia or Syria but the educated folks, are at all times trying to justify their place under the Sun. I will give you a real life example; Years ago, when I was studying in a Christian funded School in Jaipur, our Geography teacher was a Ms. Ansari and she used to sport a big bindi.The year was 1979 or so and Gen Zia in Pakistan had jus seized power. Well, a few months later, she stopped putting the bindi on her forehead when Zia declared that saris, bindis and vasant were unislamic! I still have to hear one cohesive argument from the elite denouncing terrorism.And remember this, till such time the elite continue holding the Syed Ahmed Khans and Iqbals in high esteem, there is going to be continued sense of doubt towards even the ordinary Muslims!

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Nusrat Posted on Nov 18, 2015

Just goes to show that ignorance breeds hate. It's your experience with a muslim girl and her family since you were young (and her experience with you and your family) that taught you that essentially we are all the same. Great story.

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mezba Posted on Nov 18, 2015

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us.


Meg A Posted on Nov 16, 2015

I grew up in Singapore where my classmates, playmates and teachers were Chinese, Muslims, Tamils, Indonesian, Filipinos, Eurosians, etc. My dad introduced us to his Malaysian female friend and her family, whom we visited on their religious holidays. I discovered that the Filipino and Malay languages shared a few words that had the same meaning. We also once had his Tamil friends visit us. I was shocked that the lady was a smoker, too, as I had only seen men smoke cigarettes. I came to like the food from Singapore that even now, I miss it in Toronto, as there isn't really a very good restaurant that represents their different cuisines. Even now, my neighbours are Muslim who don't even visit the mosque. I gave them candies from last year's Halloween prize that I got as I couldn't possibly eat it all. I had dad and son as my guests in the special screening of The Little Mermaid at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2013. They appreciated the event and gave me a box of Lindt chocolates for Christmas last year. Because I had good cultural and gastronomical experiences growing up in Singapore, I wanted to experience that again when I arrived in Canada.

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Meena Singh Posted on Nov 16, 2015

Well written Charu.... We all are humans and connect with love and care and nothing else. Religion is the creation of politicians for votes that's it......

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jayanti Posted on Nov 15, 2015

Fantastic......very well written.....

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Farah Posted on Nov 15, 2015

Thanks Charu..!! Its true healthy relationship grows where the heart connects...

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Seema bali Posted on Nov 15, 2015

Got goose flesh...can feel the intense relationship and unconditional love...which is beyond any religion and culture

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Sonia Posted on Nov 15, 2015

Very well expressed!


Charu Chhitwal

Charu Chhitwal, Founder KetchupMoms has daring tastebuds, a love for travel and an owl for her soul. It’s little wonder then that she loves to write and share her tips and tricks on traveling, food,

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