“Dear friend... India is a good place and so is Pakistan. I hope we can be friends.” This humble plea is an excerpt from a letter written by Fatima Moideen, 13, a resident of Dharavi, to an anonymous friend in Pakistan. Moideen, a Class 8 student from Matunga’s Gandhi Memorial English School, is part of a new cross-border project - the Oral Histories Exchange Programme.
The project involves 2,400 children from schools in Mumbai, Delhi, Lahore and Karachi who will exchange cross-border letters to build friendships. The project was launched this month by the Delhi-based cultural organisation, Routes 2 Roots, in association with a non-profit group from across the border, Citizen Archives for Pakistan.
Organisers have selected two lower-income schools, one middle-income and two higher-income schools from each country to participate in the project. In Mumbai, Gandhi Memorial and Matunga’s Shishuvan schools were selected.
“We have failed to bring peace between the two neighbours in 63 years, but through our children, we can aim to bridge the divide some day,” said Rakesh Gupta, co-founder of Routes 2 Roots.
“By getting to know each other firsthand, children will realise that it is difficult to label an entire country on the basis of actions of a few people,” said Kavita Anand, executive director of Shishuvan School.