Filled with thousands of apprehensions and concerns, I set off for my first international trip, last year in March. I was supposed to participate in an event organized by my college in collaboration with an Indian one, the reason we were granted a visa in the first place. I thought I could navigate through the streets of Delhi without being identified as a Pakistani because I looked like them, however, the shopkeepers and pedestrians were quick to notice that I dressed and spoke differently.
Even though I tried to blend in, I was immediately caught as a Pakistani
Interestingly, whenever anyone pointed out that I am a Pakistani, none of them meant it in a derogatory way. They just felt amused that I was trying hard to come off as an Indian. It was not long before I realized that all the hatred that we have been fed all these years is baseless, to a significant extent. They were fellow ordinary citizens, just like me, going about their businesses, completely unconcerned by the fact that a few Pakistanis were roaming around their streets.
It was then that it dawned on me that the people on both sides have been conditioned to abhor the people on the other side thereby, completely undermining the sacrifices of our forefathers. After my visit, I am certainly positive that our forefathers did not want us to grow into a passive aggressive nation, one that does not respect their differences.
My clothes and accent were fascinating for them
The shopkeepers at the Delhi Haat, just like other Indians, were quick to notice that I was a Pakistani while I was bargaining with them. They told me that my accent was indicative of my nationality and that I did not need to bargain anymore as I was a guest and they would sell chikan kurtas to me at a reasonable price anyway. Similarly, the women who had their stalls set up outside the biggest shopping mall of Delhi gathered around me and began telling me how much they would like to see themselves and their fellow Pakistani women working till late, without any fear of getting raped or sexually harassed. One of them even expressed her wish to see Pakistani women riding bikes, just like them and I just could not disagree.
I was blown away by how similar the two nations are
You see, our fundamental problems coincide, we go through similar predicaments everyday because let us face it, we were one once. Our eating patterns coincide too, we enjoy the same parathas that Indians do, abundance of onions and spices in food is a norm there too.
Our fellow students at the OP Jindal Global University stayed up all night with us, eating, sharing stories and breaking rules, not for once caring about their curfews. I could only see hospitality, love, compassion and an inherent curiosity in this.
The ordinary citizens on both sides care so much about what is happening in their lives or how to provide for their families that they rarely have time to hate on their neighboring country. It is just that the political egos harbored by the political leaders on both sides of the borders never seem to get any lower and this is exactly where the problem lies.
Happy Independence Day, India. I can only hope that the time is near when we learn to preach love and focus on things that are actually important for the well being of the people, without having to spend a colossal chunk of our budgets on defense and defense institution. There is enough hatred in the world already