Najir Husain with his non-biological sister Saru Rai during Bhaitika last year.
KATHMANDU, Oct 24: Film actor Najir Hussian, to go by his surname, obviously belongs to a Muslim family. But every year during the Tihar festival, Najir receives tika from Saru Rai, whom he considers his non-biological sister. The two remember celebrating Tihar together since their earliest days, or since the last 27 years to be more precise.
This ‘family’ bond was tied way back before they were even born. Najir’s mother Mina Begam was originally from Kathmandu but left the Valley and settled in Bara district after she was married off. Mina, who grew up observing ever single one of the Valley’s riot of festivals, always felt an emptiness whenever such festivities came around. But living just a few steps away was the Rai family. And every Dashain, Mina would go to them and make selroti in their house. That was when Saru’s father Lilaram asked Mina to become his sister and put tika on his forehead during Tihar. Mina, who always felt deprived during festivals, could not turn him down, especially as he had no biological sisters of his own. She immediately said yes and they started celebrating Tihar together ever since.
A couple of years later both Najir and Saru were born. From the very beginning, they accepted each other as brother and sister and continued the bond that was initiated by their parents. They grew up playing together and quarreling together and even remember playing Deusi-Bhailo together every year. “There were times when we got into scraps and didn’t talk to each other; we were very young back then,” Saru said. “But we always made up and everything fell back into place,” she smiled remembering such moments from the past.
It was a beautiful relationship. But Najir adds that growing up a Muslim and celebrating Tihar with a Hindu sister was always a matter of some controversy, long before he got into show biz. “Many were those who questioned my faith when they learnt about me celebrating Tihar,” he said. Some even said he was setting a wrong example for the Muslim community. After he got into films, they quizzed him if he was doing Tihar just for publicity. “But none of this ever bothered me, given Saru didi’s immense love and support,” he added.
In all this time, the two couldn’t celebrate Tihar together only for three years, distance being the main hindrance. But technology always kept them connected. “We used to talk on the phone and video chat,” Saru said. “I always felt gratified that Saru didi stayed in touch. She has always been there in happy times as well as sad,” Najir added.
“Growing up in this way I’ve realized that emotional oneness is so much stronger than biological,” said Saru, adding “Every year, I offer tika to six different brothers but Najir has always been special.”