Hailakandi (Assam): With prayers on his lips, a Muslim man drove his auto-rickshaw as fast as he can in a curfew-hit town, so that a Hindu woman who was in an advanced stage of labour could reach the hospital on time.
They made it and a boy, aptly named 'Shanti', was born on Sunday when curfew was in force in Hailakandi following communal clashes just two days ago.
Accompanied by district superintendent of police Mohneesh Mishra, Hailakandi deputy commissioner Keerthi Jalli visited the residence of Rubon Das and Nandita, parents of the newborn, on Wednesday and said, "We need more such examples of Hindu-Muslim unity and amity."
She also congratulated Maqbool, Rubon's neighbour, for helping his friend at the time of distress, overriding the communal tension prevailing in the district.
One person was killed in police firing and at least 15 people were injured, while more than 15 vehicles were damaged and 12 shops vandalised and set on fire in some parts of the town during communal clashes on Friday, forcing the authorities to clamp an indefinite curfew in the district.
Two days later, Rubon was frantically calling his near and dear ones for help. He needed an ambulance to take Nandita to hospital as she was writhing in labour pain.
In between the calls, Rubon said, "I was trying to calm my wife down saying someone will surely come to take us to hospital in Hailakandi town."
The S K Roy Civil Hospital is a few kilometres away from their Rajyeshwarpur Part I village.
However, no help came for them in the curfew affected area and, in the meanwhile, Nandita's pain increased.
At that time, Rubon's friend and neighbour Maqbool heard his predicament and rushed to his residence with his auto-rickshaw.
As Maqbool was driving the vehicle, speeding along the deserted roads, the only thing haunting him was whether he would make it on time to the hospital.
"I was trying to comfort them.... telling them everything will be fine. But I myself was praying," said Maqbool.
His timely help paid off and Nandita delivered a healthy boy at around 5.30 pm. Both friends heaved a sigh of relief after knowing that the condition of both the mother and the child was fine.
Rubon at once decided to name his son 'Shanti' who was born amid curfew following a communal strife.
The good news spread, with the administrator of the hospital Bhaskar Das describing the incident as a classic instance of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
Cuddling the baby, Jalli said, "It's good to know that the baby has been named Shanti by the parents with the hope that lasting peace will return to Hailakandi."