Holding onto her finger, his face stared at the ground that passed beneath his feet, kicking the odd stone, skipping over a lonesome hole and letting his eyes follow the lone plastic bag that swayed in the air. He did not know where it might be tomorrow and what was it doing yesterday but he hoped that it had once been the proud possession of a kind hearted man. Today it was alone, ignored, defeated but hopeful. As he lifted his head towards the skies, he saw the crows hover up above and as they glided past each other, they slowed down and perched themselves upon on a minaret. This was the minaret of the Nawab Masjid, a mosque in the heart of the Muslim colony of Bhendi Bazar. He looked at the hand that was holding his and the aroma of rose that came from it, the sleeve of her burqa was a dark shade of pink, matching the colour on her nails. In the 6 years of his life, he had never seen the colour on those nails change nor even fade. Maybe she was born with such nails, maybe he might grow up to have them too.
The ground beneath his feet turned into hard cemented steps, he felt his knees bend as he ascended into the great hall that shielded him from the scorching sun. He took his free hand and felt the wall next to him, the slippery dust caught on as he felt the coolness spread over his palm. There was an air of familiarity here, the ground was now in the form of patterns, traversing from beneath his feet and over his eyes, under his arms and into the far reaches of the ceiling above him which was in the shape of a large dome. He felt as if he was in the presence of something high and mighty.He had felt a similar feeling someplace else. The carpet below his feet pricked his feet as he walked on it, he had the option of coming on to the floor but it was too cold. He lifted his foot and looked beneath it to see red marks poked in like holes. Like small craters they flourished over his bare white skin. She told him to kneel down and start praying. As he closed his eyes and knelt down, he remembered the day before.
Echoes of bells ringed through his ears, the smell of incense sticks flooded his nose, there was crowd, there was clutter and all he could see in the darkness was a man's hand reaching out to his and clutching it tightly. His neatly combed hair was now a ruffle, the red tilak on his forehead was a smudge. He was shouting out in despair for a while now but none paid heed to him. Finally, a face appeared from the darkness and with both arms, lifted him up from the darkness and out in the open. A fish out of water he felt like, the brightness blinded him for a bit but he was relieved to be out there. If he was the fish then what lay in front him was the sea, a sea of hundreds clad in white and red, slowly trudging through the corridors of this shrine. The sign above him read 'Santoshi Mata Mandir' and his feet were hurting just as they are today. He looked at the hands holding him, firm hands they were, hairy with a shade of salt and pepper on them. He felt the number of rings on them and counted up to a total of 4. Two of them had stones on them and the other two were gold. The rings were as cold as the floor of the temple. He looked up at the face and it was one that he had always been a little scared of. The bristles of his moustache stood like sentinels and his eyes stared straight ahead as if they were hunting for food. Between his eyes was the tilak brandished right up to his hair. He stared at the tilak for quite some time, till he was shaken from his thoughts back into the masjid.
He was back home now, surrounded by those who loved him and those who defined him. The lady with the pink nails and the man with the red tilak stared at him as he stared back at them. His eyes were moist with tears as he wailed to the two about his day at school. Children picked on him for being an outcast, even the teachers weren't very nice to him either. This was not the first time this was happening, it had been going on for the past few months ever since he started going to school. The man and woman did not know who to blame, was it themselves, was it the community or was it the crazy mania that had surrounded this country. They did not wait to think over this, they could not change it. They decided that till the time was right, they would be his teachers. He would learn of the world, what lies beyond the boundaries of this land and make sure that he gets to visit those lands one day. He will learn to love one day and be loved as well.
For he was not the son of a Hindu or a Muslim, he was the son of humanity.