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The News International, Wednesday, March 10, 2010 AN INITIATIVE OF THE TIMES OF INDIA AND JANG GROUP OF PAKISTAN

A process of learning to love


Aliya Salahuddin Why would a gora want to become Pakistani? Pagal hai? Guardian trying (to talk about) in spite (of the problems that) Why would a gora want to become Pakistani? Pagal hai? (is he mad?) We predicted this line of thinking before we set out working on the show in 2004. This was, in fact, a formula that would work. George Ka Pakistan - a young, tall white British man with three months to become a Pakistani. What an absurd idea. As the producer of this show I sat late into the nights with the director Ismail Jilani, working out why in the world would George become a Pakistani? Surely falling in love makes you do many silly things and in love he was - with a girl, not necessarily with the land. We, as writers, had the more complicated job of conceiving his love story with Pakistan. Somehow that wasnt very difficult, and after some short forgettable frustrations, a reciprocal love story evolved between George and his Pakistani audience. Even the then Prime Minister was charmed- and George Fulton was handed an honorary citizenship by the government. Six years on from the show, George chose to have his first baby in Karachi. But the real story was on the storyboard itself. How were we, the Pakistani writers of the show, to give expression to this identity? What should we celebrate and how much ugliness should we openly accept as being ours? How were we going to make truce with our beloved land that troubled us the potential of which we admired, the situation of which,

Aliya Salahuddin wonders whether the absurd idea that worked would have succeeded if George was Jagjeet from India, or if there was a show called Aliya ka India? Or would the idea simply trigger another eyeball-to-eyeball moment and blow out the aman ki asha?
In this todays highly sensiwe rejected? Emotions run high tized pace, the ability to debate when the truth is not all beautitruthfully is being lost, within ful and is witnessed by one who Pakistan and between Pakistan is not our own. and India. With my love for my The problem in discussing land so highly politicized by my Pakistan is of both, emotion own, I feel the added burden of and content. Its tricky to be the politics that divides me Pakistani at this time. The from the audience that I am world is not very kind to us and writing for. Its a moment of we have succumbed to giving it deep inner conflict. I am nerway too much importance. By vous about sharing this very doing so, we are now unnecespersonal and painful love story, sarily emotional and irrationally and that too with an Indian auconsumed by our image. It dience for whom I must dress a has made us stand, uneasily, on different part. the defensive. At a time when But why must I assume a criticizing your country makes certain role, only because my you unpatriotic and questioning audience is the other? This your religion makes you a sinculture of false superiority in ner how do you describe your any India-Pakistan dialogue has relationship with a country that isolated those of us who believe is, to making it a country you in accepting our negativities wish it were? How does one and our pain as a necessary intalk, then, as a Pakistani? How gredient to our love. For as long do you say all of this and still as we will allow the right wing, remain a part of the national George with then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who had been a big fan of the show macho voices to amplify, we will debate? do you give expression to the mainstream but acknowledged find ourselves mere spectators When you always have continued disappointments that by the rest of the world; a bar- of a battlefield. I see this space have left you dizzy in the head, ber who has worked for narrowing in my neighbouring unable to fathom a way out of decades on the same street; a country as well. I saw a glimpse this mess that you are a part of sufi saint still standing tall of this in responses to an article as well? I see so many people, against the more radical ideas in the Guardian (Feb 12) on the trying to talk about human all these people explained to endangered freedom of speech rights, about equality, about secularism, about the power of As long as we allow the right wing, macho the people, wanting a greater space for women and a smaller voices to amplify, we will find ourselves space for dogmatic religion. But I also hear them repeatedly mere spectators of a battlefield. I see this scorned. space narrowing in my neighbouring So, without falling prey to the flag-waving, anthemcountry as well singing jingoist tales, we helped George see our Pakistan with care. It was a process George that to become a Pak- in India because some supportcart) race of learning to love. From the istani means to love it, without ers of Shiv Sena decided to gari (donkey ha dd ga e th part in farmers who toiled the lands demanding anything in return. wreak havoc in a move against George taking of Karachi s et with bare hands to make one And surely, love is professed in the new Khan film. Indian readre st e th on ers protested against the labelcluded from the debate on meal a day; students who went very different ways. Is it possible then, for some- ing: Way to tell off a whole to explain that your re- your country. How do you re- to school without a teacher; mipeated rendition of pain and main relevant when your norities who have little rights, one else to enter our realm and county, Can you stop calling criticism is, in fact, an assertion dreams for your nation do not but celebrate Pakistans inde- tell us that we can love, in spite them Hindus nationalists they of your love for the land, you resonate with the loudest pendence day; painters who of the problems that we must are a bunch of goons Here were the secular minded Indiknow that you have been ex- voices you tend to hear? How have been ostracized by the first honestly accept? ans and their secular minded neighbours in Pakistan, sharing a common enemy in the loudmouthed right-wingers and the Western media that is guilty of only choosing to hear that voice. The dialogue between our two nations will have to move beyond political one-upping and talk openly about the problems we share. Ultimately it is our shared stories of pain, difficult lives, great dreams, hard work, humility and resilience that will have to speak with each other across the border, without the make-up, without the imaging. If George could show us the truth about Pakistan, and give and get love in return, could this have worked successfully, if say, he was in fact, Jagjeet? Have our two nations matured to withstand a show called Aliya Ka India? Or would the idea simply trigger another eyeball-toeyeball moment and blow out the aman ki asha? The writer is an executive producer with Geo TV, currently based in London. This article was written for the Times of India.

Aman belongs to the strong and independent


Message from Tarun Vijay, Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, BJP Head Quarters, New Delhi
eace belongs to those who are powerful and independent decision makers. Not to those who fight with their brothers and depend on dollars to live and make merry in New York. They can be subjugated souls, create wars and hold Track Two dramas taking money for their scotches and Vodkas but can never ever touch the pulse of the people who survive on corn and rice. India and Pakistan might be two countries, but they are one people and one culture. I have seen it with my eyes while visiting Pakistan seven times from Taxila to Balochistan. If the white man's mischief was not so strong, playing havoc with our land and people, we would be living much more happily and with peace. Aman ki Asha must mean two independent entities, willing to talk and resolve their conflicts at the negotiating table with full power in their own houses. Two powers who are in control of their destinies and have a mechanism that can effectively control the elements they dislike. The people of Pakistan and India want Aman; they hate the hostilities. From Barmer border to Mirpurkhas and Karachi and Hingol on Gwadar highway, I saw common people lined up to welcome us - when we visited the renowned and highly revered Hindu shrine Mata Hinglaj Mandir with Shri Jaswant Singh, an ardent Devi Bhakta. These were not dramatics by the government. It was for real and very genuine. I wrote the exact scenes in Panchjanya on my return, a newspaper run by those who believe in RSS. Readers were amazed but none complained why I wrote good, positive reflections about Pakistanis. I was able to complete my preparations with help from my best friend, who symbolizes the friendly spirit of Pakistan, Mahmood Shaam. I can anytime give my blank cheque to

INDIA IN PAKISTAN

him and accept his verdict. Such is my faith in him. But when Kasabs come to Mumbai and hateful taliban run amok, the trust shatters and walls are created. How can you do that and still want peace with us? Just for some mad heads? In a situation when many Pakistanis are also feeling enraged over the extremism and violence, its time for the cultural roots to take precedence over everything else. Why should we feel shy to accept we are one people, two countries? Why shouldn't we think what stoking fires in Kashmir has given Pakistan? Is it not the right time to rethink and reshape its domestic policies and concentrate on making Pakistanis happier, more literate, more enterprising and empowering socially disadvantaged sections? Why cant Pakistani rulers think that their best friend can be India alone? China or America extract their price of support. How can anyone else be closer to Pakistan as we can, so naturally? But the hatred for Hindus, which is at the base of anything that emerges from Pakistan against India, must be shunned. It has not helped Pakistan. A smaller country, it could have developed into a haven, with its rich resources and industrious manpower. But it has gone into a pit of bombs and bomb makers and no one knows who is ruling it. And look where India with its Hindu majority and liberal ideas has reached. We would like you to come along as equal friend. Think why Pakistan has missed the bus of future. We are brothers, blood brothers, try to behave like sons of the same mother and with the blessings of Allah and Ram ji, we shall together emerge as the greatest power on this earth. Revive the spirit of 1857, remember Dahir belongs to us all; Mohenjodaro and Panini are a shared legacy. We are you and you are us.

Their asha: to visit home one last time


By Perwez Abdullah in Karachi

ou can leave your home for whatever reason economic, religious, or for security as people have been doing for centuries. But the homeland never quite leaves you. This is also the case with migrants who came to Pakistan from various states of India in 1947 onwards. Their place of birth is etched in their hearts. Many of them, elderly now, live in localities named after places in India. Their food and dress remain much as they were accustomed to back in India.

adding sadly, But I will never fulfill my desire I am hindered by my age, the hassle of acquiring an India visa, and my financial restraints. Irfan Haider Siddiqui lives in Bihar Colony off Bahadur Yar Jung Road (Jamshed Road) with his wife and two children. A self-employed civil engineer, 50-year old Siddiqui speaks with an inflection of words that is the hallmark of people from Bihar.

Septuagenarian Abdur Razzaq Gulbargvi migrated to Pakistan from Hyderabad (Deccan) in 1956 when he was 19, unmarried and happy to be in the land carved to preserve the cultural and religious identity of Indian Muslims. He lives in Hyderabad Colony on Jail Road where shops sell Hyderabadi Achaar and eating joints serve Hyderabadi delicacies like Baghare Baigan, Do Piyaza and Khatti Karhi. The middle-aged and older people speak Urdu with Hyderabadi accents and fondly remember Chaar Minar and Hussain Sagar. Abdur Razzaq smiled when told about Aman ki Asha then burst into song, an old Indian ditty that starts with Mann Ki Asha (hope of the heart). He seemed happy and nostalgic at the same time as he talked dreamily about Gulbarga, 214 kilometers from Hyderabad (now in the state of Karnataka). Times have changed. I have been here (Pakistan) for a long time now but I still remember Gulbarga and Hyderabad. I want to visit my place of birth and roam the lanes and by-lanes of these two cities, he said, his eyes alight with longing for the place of his birth,

You can leave your home for whatever reason economic, religious, or for security as people have been doing for centuries. But the homeland never quite leaves you.
I was very young when my parents migrated to Pakistan but I had the opportunity to travel to my native city Muzaffarpur and Patna many times. My visits gave me a sense of identity and I felt at home with the people Hindus and Muslims. People would welcome my father and me with open arms. I hope the two governments will relax the visa requirements. If they do so I will go there every year, maybe every six months, he laughs. Many (Bihari) families have moved out of the locality, he says sadly, asserting that he will not leave the colony. He smiles at the mention of Bihari Kebab: We call it Seekh Kebab.

Then there is Delhi Colony, near Clifton. Sheikh Ahmed Khushboowala, 75, who lives there, says he has Delhi in his eyes as he fluently reels off the names of peoples and places from his old city. We lived in Kishanganj area of old Delhi. I was 15 when we migrated to Pakistan. I used to go to Shahi Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid for Maghreb prayers. I vividly remember the throng of the people near the stairs of Shahi Masjid. There were eateries around the Masjid (Shahi) and people from Merath were the owners. They prepared delicious Kebabs and Biryani. I do not know if they are still there, he says. There no place on earth that can surpass the uniqueness of Dilli, the city of the people with heart, he claims. He is angry with the governments for restricting the movement of those who want to visit their relatives or simply to visit their places of birth. He is grateful to Jang Group and Times of India for launching Aman Ki Asha. It gives him hope that he might be able visit Delhi once before he dies. Ismail Muhammad Majoo, 70, comes from a village called Kathor near Surat, Gujarat. He has lived in a locality called Kathor House in Nazimabad -- rows of apartment buildings with small two or three room flats. The residents, mostly businessmen and their families, are from Kathor. They speak in Gujarati amongst themselves. My father had business in Rangoon (Burma) but came to Calcutta when the British left the country. We retained our contacts with Surat, going there periodically (from Calcutta). These contacts were disconnected when we came to Pakistan in the 1960s, he says. The community still eats food prepared in the Gujarati way, especially papars (pa-

padoms), gathia (a sort of snack) and sweets. The women wear long skirts and the mean wear pajamas with shorter diameter compared to Bihari or Hyderabadi pajamas. Aman ki Asha is a good effort, says Majoo, adding wistfully, I would like to go to Surat for the last time but there is no Indian visa office in Karachi.

A peace initiative whose time has come...

Destination Peace: A commitment by the Jang Group, GEO and The Times of India Group to create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together, contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.

Aman Ki Asha

Quote of the Week

As a creative individual, an artiste always seeks peace. Let us promote harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Fareeha Parvez
singer

DESTINATION PEACE LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK


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