Sunday, 25 October 2009

One people divided into warring nations

Moreh is a border town between Burma and India in the state of Manipur. If you go there, you'll hear a strange language spoken - Tamil. When Indians were kicked out of Burma some 50 years ago, many Tamils who had settled there began the long walk back home. Some came all the way back. Many decided to just cross the border and stay there. Hence the Tamil in Moreh.

At the other end , the famed Grand Trunk Road once stretched all the way to Lahore. And you could go from there to the Khyber Pass. Undivided India stretched all the way from Burma to Afghanistan.

Today we are a divided race. Split into half a dozen countries which don't see eye to eye with each other. What a tragedy.

One of my most memorable trips was the one I made to Pakistan about four years ago. Its not easy for Indians to go to Pakistan, as its not easy for Pakistanis to come to India.  When the opportunity came for me to go there, I grabbed it with both hands.  I could go only to Karachi - visas are city specific.  But it was such a lovely trip.

Karachi is the Bombay of Pakistan. And it looks and feels exactly like Bombay. After all, we are one race.  Everything that is good and bad about an Indian city, applies equally to Pakistan. The average guy on the street is wonderfully warm and welcoming. There was only welcome for me as an Indian; not once was there even a hint of anything else. We speak the same language - separated only by a different script. We eat the same food - the same roti, dal, sabzi. We watch the same movies and do a jig to the same songs. We love the same stars - Amitabh, Shahrukh, Aishwarya, et all.  We are as crazy about the same funny game. Except when India plays Pakistan, we usually cheer for each other.

Many common misconceptions of Pakistan that Indians have is just plain wrong. Pakistan in not rabidly religious - its as religious or unreligious as India is. Middle class Pakistani women in Karachi are as free, dress as smartly and are as liberated as Indian women. We share the same hopes, aspirations, joys of life. Just as I yearned to travel to Pakistan, my colleagues there yearned to travel to India. How wonderful it would be if I could go to Lahore, to Peshawar and someday even to the Khyber pass.  To my Pakistani colleagues, it was the yearning to travel to Bombay, to Kanyakumari and gaze out into the three seas ......

Alas, this is unlikely to be much more than a dream in our lifetimes. We have fought three wars.  We have been separated for more than a generation.  Both of us have enormous misperceptions of each other. Hatred has been stoked. Mistrust is rife. We are one people who have become enemies.

We can help in a small way. Until the internet came, we had little opportunity for contact and understanding . But now, social networks abound. It should be easy to reach out. And yet it rarely happens. I bet that none of our blogs has a single Pakistani or Bangladeshi or Burmese follower. And I bet few of their blogs have an Indian follower.

On the ground, we'll probably be divided for sometime to come. Maybe a longtime to come. But in the blogosphere, we can become the one undivided race we truly are.  Worth making our small contribution.   Mufti saab, follow my blog; and if you write one; I'll be your first follower.

For my Indian friends, I'll leave you with a song from across the border, which you have surely heard and enjoyed.


A journey called Life said...

OMG.. what a heart warming post.. extremely well wrtitten and a power packed message conveyed.. one of ur posts that is going to stay in my mind for a long long time..

Sandhya Sriram said...

Really touched with the post.

Last week, i was watching the movie - "Dil Bole Hadippa". its about how an old coach of a punjabi village which plays kind out county matches with their karachi friends and loses every year and brings his son back from england to train his team to win.

Somewhere, i feel that winning over pakistan in cricket or some sport is like a key selling point for many of these movies. I think one key reasons why instinctively we all indians do not connect to pakistan as a brother nation is because of how the Indian Movie Industry has projected it which is thriving on capitalizing this hatred. the next of-course is the closed nature. we cannot travel mutually. people do not speak. and of-course the wars and terrorisms which is still red in the hearts.

there can't be a better solution that what you have said. If hearts meet, then borders disappear. but it is really gonna take a long long time.

Exkalibur666 said...

Wow.. a very nice post.
The whole hatred thing is stoked by vested interests in both India and Pakistan.. i have driven in n number of cabs driven by pakis all over north america..never had a problem.
The media should also stop it. Every cricket match they say "India is playing arch rival pakistan" instead of say "India is playing its neighbour pakistan".
Sometimes I am left wondering whether patriotism and religion have done more harm than good. Even a nazi was considered a patriot in his day.

Ramesh said...

@AJCL - Thank you for the wonderfully kind words - what a pat on the back for a blogger.

@Sandhya - Thanks. There's a lot of negativisms about both countries and unfortunately people to people contact has not been possible - if we do, we'll realise how similar we are.

@Excalibur - There is a loot of genuine pain on both sides - the generation which experienced partition cannot accept brotherhood. But life must move on. In today's word, media, religion and everything else is keeping us apart. But the next generation does not bear the scars of partition and if we relate people to people, I believe the enimity will go.

Durga said...

That was a wonderful post Ramesh! I've never thought on those lines hitherto and it certainly got me thinking now... It is indeed possible for each individual to break the barriers (read, mindset of the individuals) and one must strive towards it. After all, what are we going to take with us when we pass on?

Anonymous said...

A warm post. I realized the oneness in the university campus here, where the Indian and Pakistani students shared a lot of similarities and are real good friends...Also sharing the space are a few Iranian friends:)

Lakshmi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lakshmi said...

Great post, Ramesh - I really wish our dream of friendship and camaraderie between the 2 nations would come true some day...

A few months ago, I watched this movie "Khuda Ke Liye" - Had I not been told that it was a Pakistani movie, I would have sworn it was a Bollywood movie!

This movie was about religious fundamentalism at its worst on one side, and unfair prejudices and misconceptions about Muslims after the 9/11 tragedy on the other.

The movie portrayed the same feelings, thoughts and ideals that we Indians have - exactly what Ramesh experienced during his visit

Hope Khuda shows us he path to peaceful co-existence.

Reflections said...

Such a beautiful post Ramesh....loved it actually. I could agree with every single thing u've written here.
Mainly because we had this Pakistani family living opposite our apartment for almost 20 years. We may not have been bosum friends but got along very well. They loved our appams & stew & we used to enjoy their Mutton Biriyani. We swapped music & movies cd's regularly. Whenever in need we depended on eachother without a qualm. I actually love the way they speak their language....the word 'aap' is accorded to even the smallest individual in the household.

During the cricket matches we were unashamedly patriotic but there was never any bad blood. They simply loved everything Indian & yearned to visit their relatives there. There's more, there's lots more....maybe I'll post about it someday:-))

Reflections said...

"Hatred has been stoked. Mistrust is rife. We are one people who have become enemies."

It's such a pity really!!!!!

kiwibloke said...

Nice post. some times wonder if all form of 'organization' (viz., religion, country, race, color)that we have invented only aid in limiting mankind rather than elevating us to be ubermensch. I hope Thalassa will be a reality some day and my little bit in that direction is having given up any and all kinds of 'organization'
PS: Can never forgive you for enforcing authority as the 'boss' and depriving me of the opportunity to travel to Karachi. I desparately wanted to do that and you used the boss veto! Ha Ha!

adesh Sidhu said...

You are right. We are same people who divided by lines created by man.

I regularly read Karan Thapar's column and he is also of the same opinion.

Deepa said...

A topic very close to my heart! I am a Kashmiri by birth and my brother a Punjabi. And having seen what a mess politics can make of unsuspecting civilian lives, I can understand what u mean.

Me and my husband bumped into this Pakistani couple on a trip to Niagara and they made it a memorable day. The gentleman was so warm and did not hold back while giving some very valuable suggestions and lessons of life just as if we were someone his own! This whole divide is not in the minds of ordinary people of the land. Its just a skewed and screwed idiosyncrocy of a psychotic lot.

Ramesh said...

@Durga - Thanks.Yes individuals can break barriers. Indeed that's how most barriers come down.

@athivas - Right. University campuses are great exampe of fraternisation.

@Lakshmi - Thanks. Didn't know about the movie - should watch it.

@Reflections - Hey, thanks a lot. Yes, when we live abraod, we all make South Asian friends of differen nationalities. Would love to read your post - please do write it.

@kiwi - Very perceptive observation. All "organisation" gives affinity to people but also divides. The worst form has to be public religion - which has caused so much divisions throughout history. hah Ha - that was one situation where I was glad I could roughshod you !!!

@Adesh - Yeah Karan Thapar has great opinions on this topic.

@Deepa - Yes, when we live abroad, we connect to other South Asians easily. When we live at home, it doesn't come so easy.

Srivats said...

I am taking a bow!

Waah I am speachless, is this same ramesh who writes numbers! i love this flip side of yours, I just love it.

I share most of your thoughts on this subject, but I am guilty of having certain perceptions, I think i should meet someone and get that trust, or i guess I should trst them first.

As you say it would be lovely to corss borders to greet and meet each other.

Your words however small they are have started creating a positive ripple, and it would defn help.

Sayoni is lovely song, thanks for making me remember it.

I wish I could follow thier blog, hopefully would find some.


J said...

I have a colleague who is Bangladeshi, turned Pakistani, turned Canadian. It is so easy to relate to him, as you say, "when we are abroad". I have this romantic notion that some day, the south asian countries will be borderless but the way things are going, it seems so implausible. I realize that you meant for your post to be optimistic but it makes me sad to think of what could be but isn't - all because of politics.

Ramesh said...

@Sri - Thanks mate. Yes, trust needs to be built first. And I too am not sure where to find blogs from Pakistan or Bangladesh. I wonder if there's the equivalent of Indiblogger ?

@J - Some day, the borderless situation will come. After all its only in to last 60 yars that fences have come. For millennia, there weren't any. So some day ....

Half Indian said...

You should be the winner for the peace award.
I don't know how many people have internet at home in India or Pakistan. But I felt that the percentage could be still very low......Blog is still not so popularly like other countries, as well as viewer and follower.
IT is Indian strong subject, net working needs to open more......

Ramesh said...

@Dave - Lovely to have you visit my blog. Xie Xie ni. Indeed not a high percentage have access to internet, but the numbers that do is still large. At least on line, we can be friends.

Priya Ganesh said...

So True. Unlike you I did not have the opportunity to travel to pakisthan but befriended many of them during my innumerable trips to the USA - a rather unlikely place to forster this friendship.

The most memorable one is my first winter in Wisconsin of all places and I had my first taste of home cooked meal in 4 weeks with this pakisthani friend of mine who asked his wife to make a special veg meal for me and they all ate the same meal with me.

It still is the best dinner I have ever had - thanks again Aamir Bhai.

Ramesh said...

@Priya - Yes, it amazes me how easy we are with each other, out of either India or Pakistan, but not so when back home. Aamir Bhai, shukriya.

Anonymous said...

My two cents: I just googled and got this forum of pakistani bloggers. Guess, it is similar to indi-blogger.

Anonymous said...

Having left that here, I should also add: There are also politically inclined blogs in the forum. I only wish we could ignore them...

Ramesh said...

@athivas - Hey - thanks a million. We'll see how things are over there.

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