An open air class held every evening in the temple premises in Agra’s Sanjay Colony offers an unusual insight into the state’s culture, as 18-year-old Pooja Kushwaha also a Grade XII student, turns into a teacher at dusk, and gives lessons to 35 Muslim kids in the area.
The mother of one student age 5 called Alisha, said she is very pleased to have Pooja as her kid’s teacher.
Pooja who reads the Quran in Arabic, said years ago there was another woman of mixed faith, Sangeeta Begum, in the area, who was born to a Muslim father and Hindu mother, and used to hold Quran classes for the kids, and as she grew interested in the holy book she started attending Sangeeta’s project and began attending the classes, in which she made steady progress and soon headed all the others in her class.
Personal circumstances made Sangeeta Begum discontinue her classes and she asked Pooja to continue to keep this legacy alive. Pooja does it for free as most of the kids are from poor families with no money to offer, and in any case she will not accept it. As the number of students grew, her house became too small to accommodate the kids and the elders readily offered her the premises of a temple for her classes.
Pooja’s sister Nandini also gives kids lessons in Hindi and Bhagwat Gita.
One of the city’s most prominent Muslim leaders, Haji Jamiluddin, 70, said it is heartening to know such rare examples of communal harmony exist in the city.