Maryam Siddiqui, Mumbai-based Indian Muslim, emerged as the ray of hope for a wide population that believes in secularism. The 12-year old girl studying in grade 6th in Mumbai's Cosmopolitan School topped the Gita Champions League (GCL) 2015, organised by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in January.
The little shy girl residing in Mira Road, a Mumbai suburb, is the centre of limelight, as people have been marvelling at her ability to know about Gita. Despite coming from a traditional middle-class Muslim family, Maryam could learn and answer most of the questions asked in the GCL based on Bhagvad Gita, most sacred Holy book of the Hindus. The success of Maryam at the GCL has warmed the hearts of millions of people who felt that this was the new beginning in bridging the religious divide in the society.
Maryam defeated as many as 3000 school children who participated in the championship, with her wide knowledge about the Hindu scripture originally written in Sanskrit. Maryam's school teachers and parents encouraged her to participate in the championship that is aimed at testing the knowledge of Gita and Mahabharata among children.
Asif Siddiqui, her father has inculcated the ideology of respecting all the religions at home, as a result of which his daughter has knowledge of Gita and has also read the Bible. Maryam evidently learnt by heart the study material including a few CDs, books and other reading material on Bhagvad Gita provided to her by ISKON, a few weeks before the championship.
Known for her exceptional grasping power and strong ability to learn things, Maryam sought help of her teachers in acquiring deeper understanding of Gita. "The power of truth is the biggest message that Gita offers to its readers," says Maryam. Her mother Farhana Siddiqi is a firm believer in making the children aware of all the #Religion across the world. "It helps the children stay away from any kind of confusion related to religious discrimination," says Farhana.
A section of parliamentarians from the Indian government have been forcing making Bhagvad Gita as a compulsory subject in all the schools. Maryam, however, feels that its time that the politicians device a streamlined syllabus that gives more thrust on humanity and respect for all religion.
In a scenario, where Hindu-Muslim divide are considered to be the most contentious issue, Maryam's unbiased attitude towards religion at such a young age has been widely discussed. Several politicians and social groups in India have announced awards for Maryam, to boost her positive spirit.