5. During the annual Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony, our family used to arrange boats with a special platform for carrying idols of the Lord from the temple to the marriage site, situated in the middle of the pond called Rama Tirtha which was near our house. Events from the Ramayana and from the life of the Prophet were the bedtime stories my mother and grandmother would tell the children in our family.

6. One day when I was in the fifth standard at the Rameswaram Elementary School, a new teacher came to our class. I used to wear a cap which marked me as a Muslim, and I always sat in the front row next to Ramanadha Sastry, who wore the sacred thread. The new teacher could not stomach a Hindu priest’s son sitting with a Muslim boy. In accordance with our social ranking as the new teacher saw it, I was asked to go and sit on the back bench. I felt very sad, and so did Ramanadha Sastry. He looked utterly downcast as I shifted to my seat in the last row. The image of him weeping when I shifted to the last row left a lasting impression on me.
Kalam very beautifully portrays the cultural diversities and unity among people from different sects of life in Rameswaram. The town was well known for the Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy temple, where Lord Shiva resides. The Kasi Yatra is a very famous ritual for Hindus across the world. It involves visiting all famous temples. Rameswaram is the only major South Indian town to have a temple that plays a predominant role in Kasi Yatra. The other three include Dwarka, Puri and Badrinath, which are located in North Indian states. Of these, Rameswaram is the only Shaivite temple, and the other three are Vaishnavite temples. It is also home to one of the twelve jyotirlingas (The shiva linga), which is believed to have been worshipped by Lord Ram before he set out to wage war with Ravana, and free Sita. Lakhs of pilgrims come from across the world to visit this temple on a daily basis.
Ramanathaswamy temple*, Rameswaram
Although Rameswaram was a place with temples, it also had people from all other religions co-existing peacefully. Kalam recalls the Shri Sita Rama Kalyanam ceremony when the statue of Lord Ram is carried in a boat to the marriage site in the middle of a pond called Ram Thirtha. A ceremony would be performed on the marriage day of Ram and Sita, and devotees would flock around to watch this. Kalam's family arranged boats with a pedestal for carrying Lord Ram's idol to the pond. His mother and grandmother even narrated stories of Ram along with the life of prophet Mohammad, making him grow into a culturally inclusive person.
Kalam recounts an incident that happened when he was in the fifth standard. Although he was brought up to treat everyone equally, some people did not follow this in their town. A new teacher who had come to the class noticed that Kalam, who was wearing the cap of Muslims, was sitting along with Ramanadha Sastry, who was wearing the sacred thread of the Brahmins. He believed in the hierarchy of caste and religion and ordered Kalam to sit in the last row. Children are not aware of such filthy thoughts or practices that exist in the adult world. Ramanadha Sastry, who did not understand the situation started weeping since he was separated from his best friend. Such instances can leave a scaring image on children's minds as it did with Kalam.
Haidan abdan Syakuro Shutterstock.jpg
Muslim kid wearing cap**
Words with difficult meaning:
PedestalA raised platform
ProphetGod's messenger
Weeping Crying or shedding tears
DowncastLooking sad
Elementary schoolA school where children are taught up to grade five