Saturday, October 24, 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.