Naima, a twenty four year old mother of two, is my neighbor in my hometown in Purnia, Bihar. Naima was Naina until five years ago when she ran away with Nasim the son of a neighborhood fruit vendor. They happen to live with their sons in sleepy vicinity in Maulvitola, primarily a Muslim dominated area encircled by other caste lined community ghettoes.
I vaguely remember, my father sharing in this story of the daughter of a rich ´Marwari Seth´ of Gulabbagh in Purnia, running away with her Muslim boy friend one fine night a few years back. This had led to communal tensions in the area otherwise known for its peaceful cohabitation and interdependence between communities.
He was a fruit vendor of the area and she the girl next door.
Naima and Nasim had met at eighteen. She on her way to the school and he while selling fruits for his father. She was in the final year at school and he a drop-out from Madarsa Husannia in Kadruin Ranchi, Jharkhand.
First Nasim´s story:
Nasim´s mother had a real midnight dream. She recalled one night a ´Buzurg (Holy man) appeared in her dreams and advised her to give away one of the four sons for ´Deeni Taalim (Religious study). “That way all her woes will be taken care off by Allah”, he had advised. Fighting poverty and illness and no stable source of income from her elder sons she chose the then six year old Nasim who fetch her happiness.
Nasim was sent to Madarsa Hussania in Ranchi to tread ´Allah´s´ path so that his family recovers the business losses and his mother her ´good days´. Two days later he ran away from the Madarsa hostel after being brutally beaten up by the head Maulana for not mugging up his lessons. He just ran and ran far to spend the whole night on the streets until the next day when his local guardians could trace him and send him back home.
But this did not deter his mother. She was adamant. She knew he was to be ´sacrificed´ for the good of the family. He had to study and study ´Deen´ (religion). He was sent back to Madrasa Arabia Islamia Juhapur in Ahmedabad, far away from home so that he cannot return. But just when he was picking up studies he decided to leave the Madarsa. This time he left hostel forever to work in Mumbai hotels. He had fought with his classmates for his Anti-Islamic love for life, rugged jeans and Hindi films. He never went back to school and his mother´s woes never ended after that.
Naima who was Naina
Naina was the daughter of a rich businessman in Purnia. Her father was not simply oversized but wore out fits with oversized pockets so that he can fill it up with bundles of money he made everyday at the wholesale business hub. She went to a local school in Purnia and saw very little of her father. Her mother was a kitchen woman who got into the kitchen before Naina woke up in the morning and came out only when she was fast asleep.
Naina loved Hindi films and aspired to look like Hindi film heroines. So she ate less, wore bright clothes and sported deeply outlined eyelids but kept all her dreams hidden deep in her chest.
Nasim and Naina
Naina describes, “We met, first our eyes, then our hearts and finally our souls”. Before anyone knew they had left home for each other´s company far away to Guwahati via Katihar, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar after wandering around for weeks in fear and the newly found freedom.
“At that point, I could have jumped the train, had he wanted me to do so. I just loved him”, admits the love smitten twenty four years old, married for five years and mother of two now. “He loves me too very dearly even today”, “when I had no one he accepted me”, she shyly admits.
It´s been five years and Naina is Naima now, living with her fruit seller husband.
“We just ran away from everyone we knew. No one would have given us a chance”, Nasim adds.
“I had called up from Kolkata, to tell my parents that I was fine. They did not want me back´.They hated me and wanted me dead. I had no where to go”, says Naima.
“Had we returned they would have killed us. So was everyone I spoke to were threatening. Everyone I met had suggestions that we retreat. Our relationship will never be acceptable. It is no joke, we at that point were even considering dying together”.
The Conversion and Explanation: Naima´s story
I read the first Kalma (The Holy verse from Quran) that he said out loud and I repeated. He had written it in Hindi. La ilahaillal Lahoo Mohammadur Rasool Ullahe. This is in Arabic. It means there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger. I did not know that made me a Muslim. The young Maulvi (Qazi) of a local mosque in Guwahati declared us man and wife. He did not even know us but he still agreed”.
That was the easiest thing to do then when everyone is running after your life . Had I not married him I could not have stayed with him. Legally! Also he was not big enough to marry me in the court”, Naima explains.
“My father had called the police. They wanted to get us arrested. His father and brother were picked up on charges of kidnapping me. They spent three months in jail.”
“I tried hard to mediate. But no one would listen. My parents thought I was a kid, but they were arranging my marriage to someone else. They called me names. The whole community, neighbors were ready to testify against us. He would have ended in jail forever. Can you guess if I had returned then what would have happened? This is the fate of a girl´, she adds philosophically.
My father does not talk to me even today but my mother has adjusted. She would call sometime and I meet her in the market place secretively. She is concerned and now also likes my husband as well. But she still does not want me to come home for fear of being ostracized by the community”, Naima says. “That´s because I had gone against their wishes and had brought them shame”.
Naima had to testify in the court against her parents declaring herself a Muslim who wanted to live with her husband. It was only then that her in laws were granted bail by the district court.
“I am the girl who shamed the community”. “But I want to know why only girls are made to choose between people they love”. “Thank God I have sons”.
“I do not have home of my own. I share his family home. They have given me shelter and are family now. It is either father´s home or husband´s girls have to adjust accordingly”.
“I would not get any help from my father. Being a woman I do not have any right to my father´s wealth, property or name”.
“Gradually, I have learnt to cook non vegetarian food but am still a strict vegetarian. My sons know Hanuman Chalisa by heart. You know, woman happen to be more religious and children learn from their mother. I sing to them every night. That´s by habit”.
“Yes, this is also true that my name has changed but I have not. What is in name?” “Had I not changed home, family, relatives, friends I would not have had to change my name either”, “Had my parents, society, community, accepted me as I was. Alas!”
How true! What is in name?
“Naima or Naina would have anyways added, deleted, changed her name for her husband” she says with utmost calm.