Ahmedabad, Oct 8: The atmosphere is all charged up — youths are dancing merrily to the tunes of garba beats, children playing with empty water bottles and people of all ages and walks of life watching the gaiety. One can see nuns taking rounds of the garba venue playing perfect hosts. Yet, few know the man behind this garba event at this Christian college campus.
Meet Naved Siddiqui, who has been organising the Navratri fest at St Xavier"s College for 20 years now. A Hindu festival, Muslim organiser and a Christian institute as venue. At a time when religious intolerance holds sway, this is a perfect symbol of communal harmony. So what is it that keeps Siddiqui organising garbas every year? “I have been brought up in a very culturally accepting environment. My father was a psychology professor at St Xavier"s College. The campus gave me a chance to meet people from all walks of life. I love seeing people dance and their faces light up with smiles once the music starts."
Siddiqui is part of The Old Xavierites" Association (TOXA) and has been actively involved in social work. He also bagged the 'Outstanding alumni award" for his contribution towards work for his college — a Christian missionary. “We normally organise cultural and literary events to fund for social causes," Siddiqui says. This 39-year-old businessman who deals in infrastructure development, has a Hindu business partner.
Siddiqui says, “I want to work towards spreading harmony between people such that we can co-exist and prosper together as one community. I feel sad when Muslims are seen in bad light. We are solely responsible for our plight today and I strongly feel that Muslims should not be pitied. I believe literacy is the key to the major issue the community is facing today."
In "93, he had worked towards educating poor children studying in classes X and XII. He, along with a group of youths, also prepared students for competitive exams in Khanpur.
He had also worked for earthquake victims as well as "02 riots victims. “Our TOXA team collected funds for people in severely-affected places like Bhachau and Samakhyali. We also distributed clothes and money to riot victims in 2002," Siddiqui says. Right now, it"s the festival of nights that"s keeping him busy.