When Milan Das, a resident of Burdwan’s Nurse Quarters in West Bengal, died an untimely death due to a heart ailment last month, his neighbours were faced with a dilemma.
The police tried to trace his family. Unable to do so, they decided to perform his last rites as an unidentified body. But one man refused to let that happen.
This man was Das’ close friend, Rabi Sheikh. He stepped up to take the responsibility of Milan’s funeral.
It was a shock for most of Milan’s neighbours who knew Rabi was Muslim and that Milan’s final rites would have to be performed as per Hindu traditions.
When they let Rabi know, he stood undeterred. Choosing friendship and humanity over religion, Rabi decided to give his best friend a dignified funeral.
Everyone looked on in awe, as Rabi performed all the rituals–right from lighting Milan’s funeral pyre to hosting his shraadh. (A day of remembrance of the deceased, where family members organise pujas and offer food.)
Rabi’s unconditional love for his deceased friend moved people, and it was only a matter of time until the story caught media attention. The Hindu priest who helped Rabi in the rituals described himself as ‘fortunate’ to have witnessed the soul-stirring friendship.
Speaking to Anandabazar Patrika, the priest said, “I wonder if I will ever be so fortunate again. This is friendship winning over religious restraints.”
Rabi and Milan had been friends for over a decade. Recalling the fateful day Milan passed, Rabi told the publication
“We even chatted on May 28 night. Next day I came back from work and heard that he had passed away. I had never suspected this tragedy. We were very good friends. There has hardly been a day in the last 10 years when we haven’t met. He was to be deprived of a proper funeral because he had no family. How could I let that happen? So for the last 10 days, I have been following all rules that are required to perform in a Hindu funeral for my friend.”
This isn’t the first time, a heartwarming incident about peaceful co-existence has come to the forefront.
Only last month, Sikh Sub-inspector Gagandeep became an overnight hero after he braved blows to protect a young Muslim man from a lynch mob in Ramnagar.
The officer said, “I was just doing my duty. Even if I was not in uniform, I would have done the same thing, and every Indian should do the same.” Read his story here.
While tales of communal strife abound, the people in our country prove time and again that they can stand up to the occasion and offer selfless service to another, without sparing a second thought to faith or religion.
These stories reinstate our faith in the country’s historic tradition of communal harmony.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)