Srinagar: Bharti Sharma and Archana Yadav were elated after receiving a call from their friend Anika Nazir of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district about celebrating Christmas together in Kashmir.
“A lot is being said about Kashmir. But a lot more is always unsaid. There is always another side to any person or any place. We decided a month ago to come together and celebrate Christmas together,” said Anika Nazir, a paramedical student studying at Pathankot, Punjab. “We have always lived in communal harmony and brotherhood. Coming here to a Srinagar church is our deliberate move as my friends decided to go on full-day festive mode.”
Bharti Sharma from the border area of the Akhnoor sector of Jammu and Archana from Lucknow, the City of Nawabs, both are studying medicine at Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar.
“I recently came to Kashmir for my studies. Not just me but my parents too had many inhabitions about this place. I have stayed in many cities in India but Kashmir and Kashmiris are different and welcoming,” Archana said. “The people, places and food are just amazing.”
The three friends planned to go on a Shikara ride and send out a message that Kashmir was tolerant of all religions and faiths.
“Being an outsider, when someone would talk to you about Kashmir and relate it to the grim and stressful environment, you wouldn’t dare to think of moving here. I am lucky to have made good friends here who are compassionate and loving,” Archana said. “The message of Christmas clarifies the essence and purpose of religion. Religion means joy, peace, harmony and love.”
For the three friends, not religion but humanity is the real connector.
They say that the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is not limited to Christians.
“People of all religions, cultures, and nationalities join in the joyful celebrations,” they said. “Religion transcends the confines of time and space.”
Bharti said that being a student of medicine, one is always preoccupied with studies.
“Such occasions give you hope and you learn to live in religious inclusivity,” she said. “In my opinion, no religion should be bound by the confines of borders, nations, and cultures.”
For the three friends, hailing from different regions and religions, festivals like Christmas, come as a palpable source, which communicates living in brotherhood and harmony. “Let this prevail for years to come in Kashmir. We have taken an oath to celebrate all our festivals together,” they said.
While Peter, James, and John are considered to have been closest to Jesus among his 12 disciples, the three friends Bharti, Archana, and Anika have proved to be disciples of the triumphant trinity of communal harmony, love, and tolerance.