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Lucknow, Aug 12, 2011:
‘I do not wish to go back to my mother,’ 12-year-old Akbar says, looking up with love at his foster father Aiku Lal who has brought him up like his own since he found him sobbing and abandoned in a park eight years ago. The boy’s mother is fighting a custody battle in the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the petition moved by his mother Shahnaz in the apex court, Akbar told IANS: ‘I just do not wish to go back to my mother who is not in a position to even continue my studies.’

Lal, who has been not just a guardian, friend, philosopher and guide, but also looked after him as a real parent, shivers at the very thought of parting company with the boy. After all, Lal’s life has been centred around Akbar since 2003, when he found him in a park overlooking the tiny tea stall that he runs for his livelihood in Lucknow’s Qaiser Bagh area.

Significantly, all arguments raised by the mother against her child’s stay with a third person belonging to another religion were trashed by the Allahabad High Court.

‘When there are inter-caste and inter-religion marriages, I see nothing wrong in the guardianship of a Muslim child by a Hindu, specially since the child dotes on him and does not want to leave him,’ ruled the high court Judge Barkat Ali Zaidi, whose verdict has now been challenged in the Supreme Court.

The court had taken serious view of the fact that neither Akbar’s father nor mother lodged a report with the police about their son when he went missing from Allahabad.

It was on a winter evening of 2003 that Akbar, then four, was out with his father on the streets of Allahabad and the father decided to halt at a country liquor shop. Apparently Akbar slipped away and realisation dawned on the father only after reaching his home.

No one knows how the boy found his way to the Qaiser Bagh Baradari park in Lucknow, where Lal spotted him in an abandoned condition, sobbing.

Lal gave the child a new life, but made it a point to ensure that not just Akbar’s name but his religion remained unchanged. Akbar is clearly growing up as a true Muslim under the guardianship of a Hindu foster father, who gets him the best of everything he can afford.

The rustic tea-stall owner got Akbar to learn his Quranic lessons and to offer daily ‘namaz’. And for his formal education, Akbar walks down to the close-by Mumtaz Intermediate College where he is a student of Class 7. This unique father ensures that the boy goes to school in well-ironed uniform every day.

Asked why he chose to remain a bachelor, Aiku Lal said: ‘Well, I was always apprehensive that a Hindu woman may not agree to bring up my Muslim son, therefore I made up my mind to remain a bachelor.’

Looking at the father with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes, Akbar asks: ‘Now see, don’t we make a complete family?’

But Aiku Lal’s only dilemma today is – what would he do if the Supreme Court were to order Akbar’s restoration to his biological mother, who is now insistent on getting back his custody.

‘I am only praying to god that the court does not compel us to part; I know I will have to abide by the court order but that would be the end of my purpose in life,’ he avers with tears in his eyes.