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2015, the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies
The Road Not Taken

Time for Tributes

I believe that kindness, honesty, courage, hard work and humility comprise spirituality. With the good fortune of having met people who personified these universal values over the years, and this year, too, I pay my humble tribute to them as the year draws to a close.

By Nigar Ataulla

Being positive in thought, words, actions and responses can make the world a better place to live in. All religions convey the message of peace, love, kindness, honesty, hard work, humility and sincerity. It has been my good fortune to have met people from various communities and religions, over the years, and this year, too, and learned many good things from them. The year will soon end and a humble tribute to them seems fitting, for they have left a mark by being “just themselves.” They do not wear their religion on their sleeves, but they practically follow the universal values of peace, kindness, honesty, hard work, humility and sincerity in their daily lives, and in their work areas, too.
Ananda Bhante is a Buddhist monk from Bangalore, whose Sunday sermons comprise simple tips to lead an uncomplicated life, which cover values of honesty and sincerity. Most unassuming, soft-spoken and non-judgmental, his kindness extends to all who meet him, irrespective of community, caste, gender or religion. He does not impose orders that, “Only if you do this will you gain enlightenment.” There is certainly some magic in the voice of this monk, whose words will touch your heart as it has done mine.
How many of us greet our friends on their festivals? Fr. Ronnie Prabhu SJ, from the office of Archbishop Moras, Bangalore Archdiocese, very promptly sends greetings to all his friends and acquaintances, including myself, on the occasion of their festivals, be it Diwali, Eid or Christmas. “When you light a lantern for others, you are the first to receive its light, so let’s light numerous lights in our and other’s lives,” was the message this Diwali, from Fr.Ronnie. His greetings come from his unconditional compassion for all.
Aman Preet, an old friend, whose name in Punjabi means “One who loves peace”, considers herself as just a human being and does not feel the need to identify herself with any religion or community, though born in a Hindu family. An avid traveler and writer, she is just in her 40s, has transcended the bonds of materialistic life, given away most of her possessions in charity, preferring to live a quiet life amidst greenery. Her reverence and respect for all communities comes from her strong belief that, after all, this world is fleeting and it is the hereafter that one should be really working towards. “Be cautious of your every action, word, thought and deed each day, for you will be accountable for that in eternity,” she tells me.
Zohra is a talented graphic designer. She returned to Bangalore from the United Kingdom after her wedding, with her pretty baby for a short stay here. No frills and fancy UK-accent, she is the same since I last saw her, three years ago. Apart from managing her home in the UK, Zohra also volunteers with organizations working with the mentally challenged and a women’s self-help group. “I have learnt many things being in the UK. I also would want to help the poor in India. I will use my education and talent to help the needy, rather than for the corporates, who are getting richer each day,” she tells me. Her enthusiasm to search for the truth is amazing. From my long conversations with her, I found a reflective and meditative spirit in her to connect to God through her own efforts, rather than through reading books, or listening to sermons.
I see courage as part of being spiritual, and, over the years, I have witnessed this in my two senior colleagues at Islamic Voice, Maqbool Ahmed Siraj and Sadathullah Khan, who for 25 years have been slogging to bring about a positive change of mindsets in the society through this paper. Their “never give up” spirit acts as a reminder to me whenever I feel like giving up!
Readers of this paper have kept it vibrant. Their bouquets and brickbats are encouraging. But there is also one reader whose unconditional affection stands apart. To me, this is part of spirituality. Typing out “letters to the editor”, all the way from Rajasthan very promptly, is Kazi Mohammad Ayub, Shehar Khateeb and Pesh Imam of the Shahi Ikminara Masjid, Jodhpur. To him, I wish to say a big “thank you.”
Years come and go, but what matters is the unconditional love and kindness we extend to each other, irrespective of religion, caste, community or place. “Take wisdom and useful knowledge from wherever it comes from and from whoever, and peace will automatically follow you”, is the golden secret I have discovered, and hope that you too discover it as the new year unfolds in a few days.