Education and Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde was in for a surprise Sunday when he asked a congregation of 150 students who among them practised Yoga every day.
The only boy who raised his hand was Gulfam Habib Maniyar, son of a welder and student of Class VIII at Vile Parle Mumbai Public School. The subsequent display of Suryanamaskar by him left the minister and many yoga experts in the gathering beaming.
For Tawde, the display of yoga by the 12-year-old seemed to be a personal moment of glory. The minister’s plan of starting yoga for students in schools had met with stiff opposition from Muslim groups who had claimed that the practice was against the tenets of their religion.
“It was really good to hear that of all the students and teachers, it was just one Muslim student who practises Suryanamaskar every day. I congratulate his parents for not stopping him from doing so. It is better to keep yoga away from religious biases as it has nothing to do with religion,” said Tawde.
For Maniyar, the daily practice of yoga has been a year-long affair.
A resident of a slum located near Sadanand Road at Vile Parle, Maniyar was introduced to yoga at a camp held in his locality a year ago. Maniyar has been a regular since then and has over the past two months started attending daily yoga classes in the evening after school.
He also seemed unfazed about the entire controversy surrounding yoga and Suryanamaskar and its opposition by his community.
“Hindu ho ya Muslim, body ke liye exercise toh zaroori hai, aur Suryanamaskar karta hoon toh namaaz padhna band nahi kiya hai (Hindu or Muslim, exercise is important to keep one’s body healthy. And even if I am practising Suryanamaskar, I haven’t stopped reading namaaz),” said Maniyar. He said he got up at 5.30 am on Sunday and braved heavy downpour to reach his school at 6.45 am to attend the yoga workshop.
The workshop was held at the Dixit Road Municipal School in Vile Parle. Tawde, who resides in the area, had decided to attend the programme and also did a few asanas.