I am one of the lucky backward few who are yet to make it to WhatsApp or a smart phone at that. Otherwise, I would have been getting messages from one of the other elite group of our city’s ladies calling me to boycott all Pakistani exhibitions, stop wearing Pakistani suits and stop watching the Zindagi channels and indulge in bashing the handsome hero Fawad Khan. There is a sense of déjà vu about all this.
I am reminded of so many things said way back in 1965, 1971 and 1999.
Then lines of a near-forgotten poet of Punjabi, late Sohan Singh Misha, written after the 1971 surrender of arms by Pakistan’s General Niazi, come to my mind:“Ajab hai ai dushmani di dastan, ghair nu dasiye te ho jaye hairan/Terian faujan ne jad merian Faujan agge si hathiar sutte/Gile wargi gal si kujh rosh vi si/Tu te royea hoyenga rohna hi si/ Mere kyon atharoo si vagge…(Strange is this saga of animosity/A stranger would be surprised to hear of it/When your forces surrendered their arms before mine/There was a grudge in the act and some anger/You must have wept for you had to/But why did tears flow down my cheeks).
It is all the more confusing because I can trace my roots back to Punjab that was left behind in Pakistan even before I was born. Yet, I was brought up on its lore and legend by my family and a part of my mother’s family was left behind too.
I was but four when I accompanied my mother to see her sister who lived in Rawalpindi’s Lunde Bazaar. Her husband was the only Hindu officer, a doctor who had opted for Pakistan army and lived in what was their ancestral home down the lane from ‘Kelean waali Masjid’.
I recall General Niazi and his family came to visit them as his children were keen to meet the Hindustani kids. When my brother and I talked to them, they went running back to mother saying: “Ammi, eh Hindustani bache asadi boli bolde ne’” (Mama, these Hindustani children speak our language.) The bond of language is very strong be it Punjabi or Urdu and so also the tie of culture and ethnicity.
But its two different countries and two different position and the paradise of earth Kashmir at the heart of the trouble so whenever the hostility rises and soldiers are killed this side or that the common bonds are forgotten and a whole lot of anger and hatred is unleashed by apolitical women who like wearing a good lawn suit from across the border or watch a fine Pakistani serial on the Zindagi channel.
Past week we have had a Bollywood journalist Soumyadipta Banerjee crying out in anger, “Dear Fawad Khan. It’s time. Go back to Pakistan. Fawad, you lack courage. You lack conviction. You lack the guts to stand up against the Jihadists of your country who think they are serving God by killing us.” Her anger goes viral and a reply comes from Asif Nawaz from Pakistan:“So the next time you ignorantly claim that your country made Fawad Khan a super-star, always remember that it was due to this very same Pakistani star that you got your two minutes of fame.” To top it all, Zee TV is proposing a ban on anything Pakistani. Meanwhile, innocent villagers are packing their trunks along border villages in Punjab as politicians seem to by crying war.
Are we common people, who like movies and music, going crazy? My friend waves her smart phone at me and says: “You must understand that my group women are either daughters of army officers or their wives. Army men have been killed.” Yes, men die in wars and women and children suffer.
Peace activist Saeeda Diep of Lahore, who was lighting lamps on Janmashtmi is posting videos saying: “Together peace is possible. Let’s join hands”. Psychiatrist Simmi Warraich, whose father was taken a Prisoner of War in 1971 and never found, writes on the Facebook that killing one or the other is not the solution to the problem.
But no one seems to be listening.
Another friend here in my city glances at the WhatsApp messages and says: “Anyway I never liked the Pakistani suits which are passé now.”
And the strange saga of hate and love seems never to end and spills even into the festival season while one hopes for a peaceful Diwali be it with Chinese lights or Indian clay diyas.