Two men, two religions, but one soul

Two men, two religions, but one soul
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Friends meet daily for a walk, one blind, the other to lend his shoulder

SHOPIAN: Locals call the friendship of Muhammad Anwar Mir and Chaman Lal the true eighth wonder of the world. Every day from 2 to 4 pm for the past 25 years, Anwar (70) walks two kilometres to Chaman Lal’s home, after which the two set out for a further walk together. Chaman (60) says they have been close friends for 40 years, spending two hours daily in each other’s company.
Chaman Lal is sight impaired but when he takes Anwar’s shoulder by his left hand and a stick by his right, he gets a lion’s stride. They return when Anwar drops Chaman home every day, after over an hour’s walk around the village.
Chaman said that he has not been able to see for the last 25 years, despite all kinds of treatment. “I was not blind from birth but got this problem some 25 years ago. I am not able to see but I always remember the timing of Anwar’s arrival. I become joyful when he (Anwar) opens the door of my room; I am ready for the walk even before he gets here.”
As the two friends set out through the market, people stand still to watch them pass. Villagers say that Chaman Lal was a brave man of strong health, known for his polite manner. Both he and Anwar have said that there is no communalism before God and they will live like one soul till their last breath.
Anwar lives in Bapora village in a single-storey mud house with his family while Chaman Lal lives in Zainpora village, two kilometres away. Villagers from Zainpora told Kashmir Reader that four other Pandit families live here besides Chaman and have done so for decades with love and brotherhood with their Muslim neighbours.
Seeing the two friends together, one fails to tell that the two are from different backgrounds. Anwar, with his grey beard, always has a smile on his face when he walks with Chaman, and so does the latter. The love and affection between them is not restricted to them alone for Anwar’s children respect and chat with him whenever they meet him.
A neighbour of Anwar’s, Muhammad Ismail Malik, told Kashmir Reader that nothing stops Anwar from meeting his friend. “We’ve told Anwar several times not to go if there is bad weather or if he is ill, but he never listens to us. He always replies that Chaman will be waiting for him and they have to go on a walk.”
When Anwar was asked if he had any inspiration for his actions, he replied smilingly, “My prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a staunch example for me. When he was nice to everyone, then who am I to remain away from it?” he said, adding that he always comes to Anwar’s home except on Fridays.
“Not only at 2 pm of day but whenever he needs any help, I come here and take Chaman to hospital or anywhere else. If anybody has a marriage or anyone dies, I come and take my friend there,” Anwar added. Chaman Lal said that they live like more than brothers. “We never gave an ear to anyone’s talk, but Anwar always held my hand and helped me,” he said.
Villagers and neighbours say they want the government to look into their condition and sanction an old age pension for the two friends. Muzaffar Ahmad, who owns a medical shop where Chaman Lal and Anwar Mir regularly drop in to visit, told Kashmir Reader that, “At my shop, they both chat and joke about medical checkups and blood pressure or any other matter.” He added that Anwar and Chaman’s friendship is a slap on the face of those communal elements who want to divide this community’s brotherhood.
Chaman never married. Before the eye ailment, he said, he used to work in his own orchards and paddy fields. He added that he lives in a mud house with two rooms and has his meals at his brother’s home. “Anwar and I used to share every happiness and problem with each other without any hesitation,” he said.
When Chaman Lal told Kashmir Reader that he had not married, Anwar replied to him, “Don’t worry, you are still young, I will get you a wife from Bengal soon.” Chaman laughed loudly at this while Anwar chuckled.