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Sushila Devi
       The canal that flowed through Mirzapur divided the village into two equal halves. On one side lay the Hindu settlement, and on the other the Muslim. Perched on the canal bridge, two boys of eleven or twelve were engaged in animated conversation. One was Sayed Hameed Reja and the other, Shankar. Reja was the only son of the Muslim Sardar of the village. And Shankar? Minus parents, he was the poor darling of his widowed aunt.
       Taking out two guavas from his shirt pocket, Shankar said: "Here Reja, have one! I stole it for you! Had nearly forgotten about it! Go on, eat it!"
       Contented, Reja took a bite. "Come on," he said, "let's share it!"
       Reja looked around and stood up
       Soon the two friends parted.
       Reja and Shankar had been to the same school, from their very childhood. They might belong to two different religious camps but none would dispute that they had one soul and body. Not a day could they live without seeing each other. At the slightest sign of illness of Shankar, Reja came running to the Hindu hamlet. Unable to go inside, he would content himself by looking at Shankar through the window facing his backyard.
       Shankar was no different in his behaviour. He might take the mandatory bathe after touching a Muslim, but the slightest discomfort of Reja brought him running to the latter's house.
       Children of two hostile camps, their souls were tied by a single thread of love. Their simple hearts could never harbour hatred.
       It was getting dark. As Reja was emerging with a ripe papaya, Sardar Mohammed Khan called out his name. Reja had never heard his father call him in such a solemn voice. Slowly the child came and stood before his father. "Where are you off to?" asked the Sardar.
       "To meet Shankar!"
       The Sardar's face became grave. "To Shankar, I see!" he exclaimed, "Listen, my son, from today onwards you are not to mix with that Hindu boy! Understood? And if you insist, you will have to face the consequences. Be sure of that! Now get back to the house!"




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