India Uncut

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Despatches 21: The marriage

December 26 could have been the happiest day of Rafiq’s life if the Tsunami hadn’t struck – he was supposed to get married on that day. His nikah was fixed for noon, but the waves came in while it was still morning, and the marriage was cancelled. Rafiq was in the village of Parangipettai, close to a number of affected villages. Instantly, all the men of the community mobilised themselves under the Jamaat, their local organisation, and swung into action.

They took all the veg biryani that had been prepared for the wedding feast, and went and fed it to the affacted people. From that day until the day we met them, a week after the tsunami, they fed breakfast and lunch to the affected people, making either lemon rice or veg biryani. They mobilised their funds superbly, and were well networked through mobile phones. If any village ran short of food, one phone call was all it would take to bring a volunteer rushing over with more food.

Interestingly, even after the government set up its own operation, a few days late, the local people still requested the Jamaat to keep feeding them, and the Jamaat agreed. A deep bond had been formed between the villagers, who were all Hindus, and these Muslim men who rushed to help their neighbours because they believed that to be the way of their religion. Anybody who does not believe that Islam can be moderate is invited to go to Tamil Nadu and check out the work they are doing.

For all the scepticism I have about organised religion, in times of a crisis like this, groups based around religion can provide sterling service. The Church at Vailakanni was an example of this, the Jamaat of Parangipettai is another, and the RSS did excellent work during the Bhuj earthquake and the Orissa cyclone. Faith, that can be so divisive in times of peace, can also bring communities together in times of strife.
amit varma, 2:36 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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