THE TALENTED ACTOR ON RAMADAN, HIS EID PLANS AND A UNITED BELIEF IN HUMANITY
by MOHNISH SINGH
BOLLYWOOD actor Saqib Saleem has always celebrated Eid with his family, but due to the coronavirus lockdown, he may not be able to do the same this year.
The rising star is currently in Mumbai, quarantining with his actress sister Huma Qureshi, while their parents are in Delhi. The talented actor is looking forward to the lockdown being over and has exciting projects on the way, which includes being part of highly anticipated Bollywood film ’83. He is making full use of the time in self-isolation, which has included cementing his spiritual connection.
Eastern Eye caught up with Saqib over the phone during lockdown for a deep conversation about spirituality, his Eid plans under Covid-19 restrictions, finding positives and plans for when the curbs are finally lifted.
The month of Ramadan has been different due to the coronavirus lockdown. How have you felt about it?
Ramadan is a month where you pray to God for yourself and everybody in your family. It is the month of sacrifice where your willpower is tested. I take the positive side of it and feel that this (coronavirus) is God’s way of testing our willpower to know how strong we are mentally and emotionally, in every possible way. In this lockdown, we have fasted and tried to find the positives. We need to understand that this situation is very genuine, and we don’t have any solution till now, and the best way is we be in lockdown.
How have you coped being in lockdown during Ramadan?
Initially, I thought that it would be difficult in Ramadan during lockdown, but now I don’t feel there are many difficulties. Like I say, I am very privileged. I have a house, a place to sleep and food to eat. It’s not difficult at all, but you still have that feeling of fear. You usually go out to read namaz in the mosque, but now you cannot; you have to read it in your house. Obviously, you feel that restriction, but it is necessary. We have to tell ourselves that we don’t have to feel bad about it. Today, if we roam around and 10 days later what if we may not be alive?
In the month of Ramadan, it is a custom to reach out to the needy and help them in some way. But amid the Covid-19 restrictions, how have you been able to reach out and help them?
Like you said, you have to help out people. Of course, in the month of Ramadan, you have to do it. But I genuinely feel that be it Ramadan, Diwali, Holi or any such opportunity that God has given you, please give to others, and so do we. It’s not that I am individually doing something. We are doing it as a family. We have a thing called zakat in Ramadan. There is a calculation to it. You have to give some part of your income as a zakat. So, of course, that is there. There are certain families in UP (Uttar Pradesh) and other parts of the country where we try to help.
Tell us more about how you give back?
There are a lot of children that my mother takes care of – their education and everything. There is, of course, a lot of charity work we do, but I don’t like talking about it. I thing that is my own personal thing and it’s better if we don’t talk much about it, because if I do charity and talk about it, then it doesn’t serve the purpose. The other day somebody said, ‘Oh, he donated to the PM Cares fund’. We were on a zoom call. One guy asked, ‘How much did you donate?’ That does not matter. One might have donated Rs 10 or Rs 10 lakh or crores, it just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that he thought of donating and helping someone. So I feel that right now is not the time to discuss about who all are donating and how much. Whatever your capability is, everybody, especially in this time of need, should open their hearts. It is the time where, we as human beings, need to show our character.
How spiritual are you?
I am very confused. Of course, I am a Muslim by birth, I go to the masjid on a Friday to pray as much as I can. I go and offer my namaz, but at the same time, I also celebrate Diwali; I also celebrate Christmas and Holi. So, I don’t know what my take on religion is genuinely. See, I am still exploring, but I feel I only believe in one thing genuinely and that is just being a good person. When you speak to somebody or you meet somebody, whatever that person’s name is, be it Rahim or Ram, that should not bother anyone. The only thing that should matter to you is whether he is a good or bad person. So I take it like this.
How has spirituality helped you?
I feel I have to become a good human being and not operate from a point of religion ever. No matter which religion I follow, be it Islam or any other religion, that is my personal belief and connect with the almighty. It’s my personal thing and I will keep it that way. I don’t want to force it upon anyone nor do I want to tell it to anyone. That is the right way to live. I feel that one should search for their own personal connection.
How have you found some of those spiritual connections?
I have read the Quran about 10-12 times. Yes, of course, I learnt a lot while reading about what the almighty wants us to do in our lives. And then, I have friends from different walks of life and belonging to various religions, who tell me the same things their God wants from them. So, what it tells me is that there is only one God. We have found our beliefs in something; others have found their beliefs in something else. That doesn’t make them any better or lesser than us. So, we have to, as a society, stop thinking he is from another religion. We have to stop differentiating on the basis of religion and start differentiating on the basis of whether one is a good or a bad person, rather than making a judgement based on religion.
How are you planning to celebrate Eid this year?
It depends on how the situation is going to be like. I genuinely wish if I can celebrate it with my parents more than anything in the world. Usually, during Eid my parents come down to Mumbai or we visit Delhi. We try and celebrate Eid together as a family. I hope the practice continues, but it does not seem possible this time around, to be really honest. So I don’t know. I will celebrate Eid with Huma (Qureshi) this time at our home in Mumbai. We will be connected to our parents virtually.
Have you been making full use of video calling during lockdown?
Nowadays, we video-call anyone and everyone without any shame. The option of video-call has been around for four to five years now, but I have genuinely started using it properly for the first time now. My mom video-calls me three to four times a day. Of course, I will miss them if I don’t get to spend Eid with them. But like I said, there is nothing else we can do about it.
How do you look at the entire coronavirus crisis?
Whatever has happened, we should learn from this. If you remember, right before the coronavirus pandemic, there were students being beaten up, riots that happened in the country, protests; there was this CAA and NRC issue going on. Everything has been forgotten. We have moved on and this is what I keep telling myself that this will also go away. I just want to say that whatever we are doing now and in this hour of need, we are together in this.
Tell us more…
At first, we were separated. This virus in a weird sort of way has got us all together. Be it Hindu or Muslim, both are sitting inside their houses. Nobody is touching each other, there are no riots because if you touch or hit a person, the virus starts spreading. The riots, which we could not stop, the almighty made sure that it stops. This is how I see it.
You have a really positive outlook…
I really want to be positive about this because I feel this is also a time in all our lives where nobody wants any more negativity. We have had enough of it. We have all been depressed and upset for a very long time. So now only positive thoughts should be there. Only then our mind-sets will become positive for the situation to get better.
What is the first thing that you would like to do after the lockdown is over?
I don’t know what’s the first thing I am going to do after the lockdown is lifted. But I can tell you that once everything is normal, I want to call everybody who has reached out to me in this lockdown, as well as everybody that I have reached out to in this time. I want to throw a big party. I want to call all these important people who have extended their love to me during this period. And that will be my day. I will hug them and tell them what they mean to me. If somebody is our friend, they should know we love them and that’s it. But I think what these months in lockdown have made me realise is that you really need to tell people what you feel about them because life is very unpredictable.