"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,
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
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
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