RAJKOT: Shabnam Shaikh’s tryst with tragedy began when she was just five. At this tender age, this girl in coastal town of Veraval lost her mother.

Her father Kamruddin Shaikh, a truck driver, was clueless about her upbringing. But she soon started getting the love of parents from her father’s friend Meraman Jora, also a truck driver.

She got all the happiness and freedom to follow her religion while growing up in this Hindu household. When she turned 14, another tragedy struck when her father suddenly left the town never to return again. But are back for Shabnam, now 20, as Jora family got her married to a Muslim man few days ago.

Joras, who have two sons and a daughter, have scripted a touching tale of in this town where clashes between the two communities were common till few years ago. They got Shabnam married according to both Hindu and Muslim rituals. ”We raised Shabnam like our daughter. We gave her all the freedom to follow her religion and language. She also learnt the Quran and regularly offered namaaz and celebrated Hindu festivals with equal joy as hers,” Jora told TOI.

Jora, however, got worried about Shabnam’s future when she turned 20. He had no idea about the whereabouts of her father, who had left in 2012 saying that he was going to Ahmedabad. Jora then approached some local Muslim leaders and found a suitable Muslim boy named Abbas, a resident of Talala taluka’s Javantri village, who drives an auto rickshaw. He wanted to perform Shabnam’s ‘kanyadaan’ according to the Hindu rituals and the was to be performed as per Muslim rituals. “Finally, it was decided that the marriage will be performed following rituals of both religions,” he said.

Jora’s son Gopal said, “We have always considered Shabnam as our family member. Her in-laws also agreed to our proposal of performing the marriage according to both rituals.” The marriage began mehndi and the traditional . The nikah was performed in the presence of Muslim cleric. Shabnam said, “I grew up in a Hindu family where I have received more love and affection than in my own family. I got all the freedom. I consider them to be my rightful parents.”

A local Muslim leader, Hasam Mushagra, said, “This is the biggest example of Hindu-Muslim unity. Followers from both the religions should learn from this gesture.”

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