A small contingent from Pakistan made a big impression at the World Cultural Festival, raising cheers from the participants even backstage.
Selfies with the Pakistan flag and artistes, discussions over films, culture, politics and cricket kept the 80 members from Pakistan busy.
“Though we faced problems in getting visas, in India we got a lot of love and respect. In the past three days, I have heard ‘Sir’ after my name more than I could hear it in a month back home,” said Khalid Khan , 45, from Peshawar. Art of Living has 3,000 members in Pakistan with centres at Peshawar, Islamabad and Karachi.
Members said it was not easy for them to run ashrams in Pakistan. “Art of Living talks about spiritualism and not fundamentalism but we face trouble sometimes,” said Neem Zamindar, 45.
“A couple of years ago, an Art of Living ashram was vandalised by a fundamentalists. But no one was injured,” he said. Ever since members of Pakistan’s Art of Living maintain a low profile and communicate through closed Facebook groups.
More than 40 members of the contingent had their native villages in India which they want to visit before returning to Pakistan.
Zamindar, whose mother studied in Lady Hardinge Medical College before Partition, said, “My mother told me to visit the college. She remembers her days in Bombay (now Mumbai) where she did her primary schooling. When I meet her, she will ask me if I visited the Gateway of India.”
“She has also asked me to bring sweets from Old Delhi. She was very fond of those sweets when she lived in Delhi,” said Zamindar
Zahoor Motiwala, whose father migrated to Pakistan from Jetpur -- a textile town in Rajkot district of Gujarat -- during Partition, said his father often tells him the story of a pond in Jetpur. He said the colour of the cloth dyed in the pond’s water never faded. “I want see the pond. It’s a story I have grown up listening to,” he said.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Saturday said “Jai Hind and Pakistan Zindabad” should go together for peace and development in the region, which he later denied.
“Boundaries are being broken on both sides, there should be no harm if Pakistan Zindabad and Jai Hind slogans are being raised. We share a history so why not a slogan,” said Motiwala.
Referring to the JNU controversy, he said, “We cannot comment on the particular case but students should have the freedom to express their opinion.”