Why can’t India and Pakistan be friends?
My son shot off another query: “Democracy, we have read, is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Why are governments of the two countries not friends just like the friends we made in Lahore?”opinion Updated: Feb 23, 2017 16:29 IST
Visiting one’s neighbour usually means catching up with the latest mohalla gossip, sharing the good and the bad that has happened in each other’s family life and musing about the times gone by. But when it comes to India and Pakistan, a visit to each other assumes an altogether different meaning. I was overcome with feelings of trepidation and worry when I received an invitation to visit Lahore to attend a conference in 2009.
It is supposed to be a dangerous place if newspaper reports are anything to go by. I must confess that I was in for a pleasant surprise the moment I, along with my family, crossed the Radcliffe Line at Attari. We were welcomed with open arms and unbelievable warmth and affection across the border. We stayed in the beautiful city of Lahore for a couple of days, went to Nankana Sahib to pay our obeisance, and visited the mental health facility at Emanabad.
We have so much in common, be it the jokes or problems of day-to-day life. The man on the street is as distressed by the scourge of terrorism there as all of us are here. To my surprise, I did not meet even a single person during my stay who voiced feelings inimical to India. We came back home with wonderful memories of the neighbouring country.
Of late, we have been hearing about Pakistan being the hotbed of terrorism and the plans of some nations to ban the entry of its citizens. The other day, my 12-year-old son asked me: “Papa, how can Pakistan be our enemy when the uncles and aunties whom we met there were so good?” Some questions, indeed, are extremely difficult to answer. I tried explaining that what we hear in the media is more to do with politics, and the situation on the street could be different. My son shot off another query: “Democracy, we have read, is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Why are governments of the two countries not friends just like the friends we made in Lahore?”
I gave up. The world is not so simple. There are good and bad people on either side of the border. I was reminded of the lyrics of a popular song penned by Javed Akhtar:
“Panchhi nadiya pawan ke jhonke
Koi sarhad na inhein roke
Panchhi nadiya pawan ke jhonke
Koi sarhad na inhein roke
Sarhadein insaanon ke liye hain
Socho tumne aur maine
Kya paya insaan hoke”
The world is one family. The sooner we realise, the better it will be for mankind as a whole.
(The writer is a Jalandhar-based freelance contributor)