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At the sound of the bell mom ran to the door, excited to receive my friend Kiran. We went to the same college in Bangalore and shared a room in the hostel. My mother was very fond of him and made sure she made his favourite snacks whenever he came home.
But things hadn't been so rosy three years back, when I had just joined college. While waiting for the bus from Palakkad to Bangalore, my mother showered lavish doses of advice that sounded like threats to me.“Befriend people from our own community. Beware of students who drink, smoke and eat meat. Dear Lord, I hope the ‘modern’ kids there don’t spoil my son.” she had said. According to my mother, people of other faiths couldn't be trusted. I had tried to erase the xenophobia that plagued my family but in vain. They were extremely orthodox and their blind faith made them intolerant to people whose lifestyle and faith differed even slightly from ours.
Precisely because of this, my friendship with Kiran hadn't gone down well with them. They pleaded with me to seek better friends who were ‘just like us’. What if he tuned out to be a naxalite? A terrorist? Our friendship received flak till the day I was down with chickenpox with no one to lend a hand but Kiran. While everyone shied away from helping me, fearing for their own safety, he had called the doctor, obtained the medicines and had nurtured me to recovery. My parents were touched beyond measure by this act of compassion and realized the folly of their baseless phobia.