Meerut: In her heart, the 15-year-old was disappointed when she came second in the competition on Friday. But somewhere this school girl from Uttar Pradesh knew well that her feat was no less impressive than the student who beat her to the first prize, probably more.
Alia Khan, a Muslim by religion from Meerut, had beaten thousands of children across the state to win the second prize for the Gita recitation competition organised by the Yogi Adityanath government.
It is a win that symbolises inter-faith harmony.
Bhagwad Gita, which is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is highly cited and considered a valuable guide for spiritual seekers. The young girl, who recited portions of the holy book dressed in Lord Krishna's attire, may not understand the vision but she knows well that the philosophy outlined in the Gita transcends religion.
Alia Khan's mother, Afroz, said they were praying that she wins the first prize. "It is all because of the prayers and hard work of teachers that she reached till here," she said.
Alia asserted that no one discouraged her from learning the scriptures of a different religion. "Even if someone says anything, I have a straight-forward answer. I do not read Gita for religion. I read Gita for knowledge and we can access knowledge from anywhere," she said, matter-of-factly.
Alia Khan isn't the only one to have achieved this distinction.
A few days back, Afreen Rauf, 16, from a municipal school in Lucknow had secured the first place in Lucknow division. A labourer's daughter, Afreen Rauf, who wears a hijab, said the most important lesson that she had learnt from the Gita was to do good deeds, be honest every time and not wish bad for anyone.
"These are the things we have learnt," Afreen Rauf, who had described Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath as her inspiration to learn the Gita, said.