What a young Muslim girl taught me

I won’t be entirely wrong if I am to assume that you opened this link just out of curiosity. What on earth could a young Muslim girl teach a catholic priest? While I do want to assure you that you are not a victim of ‘clickbait,’ a mechanism employed by social media to get you to click on their link using some scandalous or super, super exciting title to accompany what we would call in Indian slang a ‘faltu’ post; this post is really about what I truly learnt from a young Muslim Girl.

Again, I did not need to title this article by highlighting the faith of the girl. I could have said that I learned something from ‘a girl’ and yet I want to stick with this title for a purpose. We can learn just about anything from anyone provided we learn to be open. Sadly, even I find myself prejudiced at times. The charged political rhetoric has set us all off on an edge elevating our unspoken prejudices to openly hateful comments. This is the reality we have now come to experience especially in India today.

Muskan is true to her name. She must have been born smiling for her to be given that name. Muskan’s eyebrows never furrow even when she gets an overdose of my well-meaning teasing. I met Muskan thanks to Naomi (the daughter of Lenny and Nadia Soares). Muskan and Naomi hang around as if they were joined at the hip at birth. There is a constant joyful camaraderie and that would explain her regular visits to our home in Goa and my endless opportunities to give her a good ribbing.

Quite recently I suffered another Bell’s Palsy episode; this time on my left face. For me and for my doctors, this unusual recurrence has truly made this idiopathic illness more of a mystery to this never-ending saga of my medical history. My face was left like it was wrecked and while I continue to trust in God some part of me left me deflated and angry.

Wallowing in self-pity I saw Muskan as she rode her bike to the house. I waved out to her and did what most decent human being would do, enquire how the other is. “How are you?” I asked. This is a question I get asked a million times and I am sure you do too. “How are you,” can either stall your day for the next fifteen minutes, listening to the medical woes or personal troubles of the other or could get you a quick if not dismissive, “I am fine” or “I am good.” I usually answer people with one of the two cursory responses especially if I don’t want to engage in a conversation. Muskan however did not say either of the two. To my, “How are you,” she shot back, “I am blessed.” She was not fine, she was not good, she was blessed!

“I am blessed!” What an amazing answer. I call it amazing not because she uttered these words for the first time in human history but I was amazed because a girl, all of sixteen could feel the blessedness in her life enough to express it loudly for all to hear. Here is a teenager who understood the meaning of life. I have no illusions that this girl is dancing every day on a cloud for I am sure she faces all the challenges that a teenager does, yet her maturity is reflected in her approach to life. She sees her life with all its challenges as blessed.

I had to sit down to internalise this one. I too am blessed, but I could not see it. Sure, I could have done without this round of my facial paralysis but then again it could have been a lot worse. The MRI could have indicated a brain tumor but it did not. The medical tests could have read like a rap sheet of bad news but it did not. A young girl taught me that day to acknowledge the blessedness that God gives us, even when the storm clouds roll in and the cloud burst does not seem to end.

Being blessed does not mean that life is a song and a dance. Our Blessed Mother Mary was hailed by her cousin Elizabeth as ‘blessed among women’ and yet that blessedness entailed seven sorrows that could have broken Mary. Being #Blessed is not just some social media announcement that you got a new car or returned from a great holiday. Being #Blessed means that you can feel the presence of God in the midst of everything life throws at you.

Muskan knows she is blessed and she shared that learning with me. Does it matter what here faith is? Does it matter how old she is? What matters is openness, for God speaks to all of us, all the time. We on the other hand let our prejudices block out the voice of God.


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