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Rediscovering the lost bonhomie

india Updated: Jan 28, 2009 23:45 IST
Ritika Chopra

Two months ago, as the Indo-Pak ties turned cold in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack, 18-year-old Kainat-e-Ali in Lahore couldn’t help but feel sceptical of her scheduled visit to India.

A few intense sessions of convincing parents and two months later, the student of Lahore Grammar School, 55 Main, finally succeeded in making her first trip to India. And Ali, who arrived at the Om Shanti Retreat Centre (run by the Brahmakumaris), Bhora Kalan village (near Manesar), on Sunday, is glad that she did not give in to scepticism.

Ali is among 40-odd Pakistani students, who are in the country to participate in the fifth Asian regional semi-finals of the Space Settlement Design Competition organised by Atlantis Frontiers Edutainment. They leave for their country on Thursday evening.

The competition, held on Wednesday at the retreat centre near Manesar, witnessed the participation of four Pakistani institutions — Lahore Learning Campus, Lahore Grammar School for Boys, Lahore Grammar School (for girls) and Aitchison College, Lahore, — along with 11 others from across India.

For Ali, her experience here has belied expectations. “I was apprehensive about the attitude of our competitors. Contrarily, there was no hostility and no one made us feel like foreigners,” she said.

The interaction even led to some interesting exchanges.

“Even though our cultures are quite similar, students were curious to know about life on the other side of the border. Curiosity led to exchange of currency notes and teaching a bit of our national languages (Urdu and Hindi) to each other,” said Syed Roshaan, 18, of Lahore Grammar School.

However, they are a few who are disappointed on a few counts. “India is the third strongest economy in the world, but strangely the infrastructure doesn’t seem as impressive. The roads, for example, need attention. Our bus ride from Wagah to the retreat centre was pretty uncomfortable,” said Zeenat Amansoor, of Lahore Learning Campus.

“The liberty provided to the girls here is pretty cool,” she added.