On Wednesday, Lalgunda Street in Old Washermenpet area in Chennai – which has been witnessing ongoing protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – witnessed a heartwarming moment that displayed unity, brotherhood, and solidarity. Around 3 pm that afternoon, around 800 people gathered to celebrate a Hindu woman’s baby shower.
What happened on Wednesday, is an inspiration to the rest of the country, says 35-year-old Kathija Beevi, who was among the people present. “Thozhar (comrade) Vignesh has been a part of our protests from the very beginning. He is from a different religion, but has been voicing his support for the Muslims here. It was his desire that his wife’s baby shower should take place here,” says Kathija.
Dressed in a green saree with golden zari, Baagya Lakshmi aka Pavithra was beaming from ear to ear as women wearing the hijab and niqab added bangles to her hands. “We keep saying that this is not just for the Muslims but for everyone. We have been proving it every day. We conducted a wedding here earlier, now a bridal shower has taken place,” Kathija said on stage during the baby shower. The wedding she is referring to took place on February 17, when a couple -- Sumayya and Shahin Shah -- got married at the venue.
The baby shower ceremony was conducted per Tamil customs. The ceremony itself is called valakaapu, and saw Baagya Lakshmi adorned with flowers, bangles, and sandalwood and turmeric paste by the women.
“We are familiar with the practice of adding bangles and applying sandalwood and turmeric paste, we were told about garlanding her and blessing her with akshadai (rice grains used for blessing). About 50 women came forward to do it. We could see that Baagya Lakshmi was very happy. She said she felt no one would have had this experience,” Kathija added.
Vignesh, meanwhile, has been at the receiving end of much trolling on social media, especially from the right-wing, due to his support for the anti-CAA protestors at Old Washermenpet area. “A lot of wrong and negative news was being spread about him by the RSS,” she alleges.
Baagya Lakshmi, who is about nine months pregnant, had expressed a wish, Khatija says: “She wished that when her baby arrives, the CAA should be repealed.
Kathija had a message for the rest of the country too. “This (the baby shower) is an example for India. Even when RSS and BJP do everything to split us, our unity has only been increasing.”