This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
By Salman Rashid
The White Trail: memory, justice, healing
visited my ancestral Jalandhar for the first time in March 2008. Until then, my family did not know what had become of my grandparents (paternal), two aunts, a great grandfather, the family s servant and his wife and five children. My grandfather had not thought it necessary to leave hearth and home and move the family to Pakistan. But they did not remain in Jalandhar either, as my uncle learnt in September 1947 when, as an intern at Irvin Hospital, Delhi, he volunteered to serve in the refugee camps of Jalandhar. The Settlement Commissioner told him that no Muslims remained in Jalandhar. My uncle did not have the courage to check out the home in Railway Road that was named after him. He never found out what had happened. In 2008, I went to Habib Manzil in Bhagat Singh Chowk, Jalandhar. I introduced myself to the man minding his hardware store. His name was Iqbal Singh. We spent some time together. At one point, he suddenly asked me if my grandfather was a doctor. Then he said he had heard what befell my family. It took Iqbal three days to remember who had mentioned that dreadful event to him. And so by a unique quirk of fate I met Mahindra Pratab Sehgal. That is the story I recounted, invited by Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi, on the fourth day of a conference on Making Democracy Real that my wife Shabnam and I attended last month in Panchgani, a blissfully peaceful hill station in the southern state of Maharashtra, east of bustling Pune. The session was titled Memory, Justice, Healing . Before a hall full of people from around the world, I talked about my experience of meeting Mahindra Pratab whose father had how I kept my emotions from running away. I almost broke down when I said my last sentence, We [the people of India and Pakistan] are, after all, brothers. After the session many participants came up to speak with me. An hour later I noticed Rhea D Souza from Mumbai leaning against a doorjamb, waiting for me to finish. I realised she had been there since the end of the session. Shabnam and I had already befriended this delightful, profoundly sensitive young woman who wrote poetry. We had spent a good deal of time with her. With an emotionchoked voice Rhea said she had something to say to me. Taking me by the hand, she led me back into the now empty hall. Taking a deep breath, looking into my eyes with tears glinting in her s, she said, I am very sorry. Then a sob broke through and like a wave swept away her self-control. She wept. I held her and she sobbed repeating again and again, I m very sorry. She wept so uncontrollably that she made me cry with her. For five minutes, perhaps more, we clung to each other letting the tears flow. The next morning at breakfast Rhea gave me a slip of paper. She said she had written a poem shortly after waking up, and titled it The White Trail. The title, she said, came from the white lines left by her tears as she wept herself to sleep. The poem is about the story I told, about a time long before Rhea was born, before I was born, when in one moment a nation of people was maddened by hate. This poem is about being human and feeling the pain of a fellow human. I share it below. The White trail The white - that was not so pure Rough coarse Almost invisible Trying to camouflage But definite. Its path. On a rampage It corroded everything The carefree hearts The innocent smiles The trusting hugs The dreams.. Of Colourful wooden tops Left its taste In the mouth Of the future The White of anger Of Blind righteousness Of Absence Of Loss Of Hopelessness Of the void & Of displacement Of tears Unshed I look up Taste the salt on my lips I am surprised By the intensity of pain It s not mine Or maybe, It is. The white trail Has found its way to me Across the Borders After all. A deep realisation A coming Home A Finding I am just another you. A Silent Prayer Escapes. Dear God let me never forget this. Rhea D Souza Jan 11, 2014
Panchgani, 2014: Rhea with Shabnam and Salman Rashid Jalandhar, 2008: Salman Rashid in the courtyard of his grandfather s home, with Mahindra Pratab Sehgal led the mob that killed my family in August 1947. I told the story as Mahindra Pratab Sehgal had narrated it to me in March 2008. Having heard it again and again from a repentant father, he was not only like an eyewitness but had also inherited the murderer s remorse. Listening to him it was clear that he wanted to talk to someone from the family that had been wronged in order to wash his guilt away. His father had taken this guilt to his pyre four decades earlier. To know that the elder Sehgal was remorseful for his deeds and that he bore his remorse to the last day of his life shows that he was very human even if he was momentarily swept away in the tide of politically generated communal hatred. I don t know how much the talking of that distant event helped Mahindra Pratab, but his willingness to unload showed me that the catharsis did him good. When he passed away in March 2011, I felt a deep sense of personal loss, as my last connection to that past was now gone. Although the foul deed could never be undone, for me the knowledge that the perpetrators had repented was wages enough for the grief the surviving family members -- my father, uncle and aunt -- had borne with exceptional
The story behind a poem by a young woman about a time long before she was born, when people were maddened by hate
and unbroken fortitude all their lives. It was another thing that I was too late. Those who had directly been wronged were no longer around to know that someone was sorry for what had happened. I don t know how long it took me to finish my story, but I know that of the two hundred odd people in the hall, it was a rare person with a dry eye. I also don t know
B R I E F S
It s all good & but please never discuss Kashmir!
similar tastes and interests. It was quite funny - Udit used to throw hints at me and I conveniently ignored them until I finally gave in. I guess from there on our story began a sweet courtship whilst in our fantasy college world! Udit: I first met Shermeen in the Bentley cafeteria within a month of starting college. We met again a few times and became good friends. I asked her out in April 1995 and she accepted after a few days, giving me a card that only said Yes! She is my best friend, my conscience and has actually become the correct side of my brain. We kept the relationship going long-distance, meeting once or twice annually after I graduated in 1998 and returned to Delhi. She d graduated and returned to Karachi in 1997. It was a bit hard to communicate via telephone between Pakistan and India, but we managed. I left for the US for employment. Her parents had never received confirmation of their suspicions, but my parents knew all about us. So in 2001, we decided to take things to the next stage and Shermeen discussed it with her family. evolving personalities, lives, roles, and responsibilities rather than our ethnic backgrounds. India takes forever to give my wife a visa and insists on processing her Pakistani passport instead of her Canadian one. I advise couples to beg and plead at the embassy; if you get angry, you re doomed. Misconceptions Shermeen: I never really came across any silly questions or comments about Udit or his background. In fact, my family and friends were immensely excited that they would get to travel to India. Bollywood plays a big part for us in keeping track of Indian culture. Udit: Conservatives, fundamentalists, non-drinkers, sexists, Indiahaters are all stereotypes that Indians are fed about Pakistanis. One must go to Pakistan and see how similar we are. Yes, there are pockets of extremists but these exist in every country. Lingo Shermeen: Vaila! and haanji! Udit: Masla , ya Ali-madad. I am consequently better able to articulate things to my Pakistani colleagues at work! Cricket loyalties Shermeen: Pakistan. Udit: Always India! In retrospect Shermeen: We ve grown up with each other. Looking back, maybe I would ve gotten married a bit later. My advice to couples is, you are different from each other, but always be fair and tolerant. Udit: Given the chance again, I would have stayed and started my career sooner. I d advise people to have faith in themselves, not in fate. Don t compare differences between the two countries; focus on how much similarity remains. People, society, even parents will acquiesce to your desires eventually. And yeah please never discuss Kashmir! Laaleen is an Islamabad based writer. Twitter @laaleen; Email: email@example.com This piece is adapted from her series When Hari Met Saleeha in Libas International, 2013
Tehrik-e-Niswan in India
he Cultural Action Group of the Karachi-based activist organisation Tehrik e Niswan is visiting India, with Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Odissi dances based on the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sarojini Naidu, Amir Khusro and Maqdoom Mohiuddin. After three performances in Hyderabad, the group performed at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Last performance: KC Open Air Theater, JNU, New Delhi, Feb 19, 9 pm.
India Show in Lahore
By Laaleen Khan
Don t compare differences between the two countries; focus on similarities, advise Shermeen Karim and Udit Gambhir
ollege sweethearts Shermeen and Udit first met as undergraduate students at Bentley University in 1994. The couple patiently maintained a seven-year long distance relationship until they got married in 2002. After that, the couple lived first in Toronto and then in Singapore, where Shermeen worked at RBC Capital Markets and the Bank of Nova Scotia. They now live in Singapore. Shermeen is from Karachi where she worked as a banker and trader after graduating from college. She continued her banking career after their children, a daughter and son, were born. In her spare time, she pursues photography. Hailing from New Delhi, Udit balances his corporate life in finance with volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity; he has raised funds for the CARE Foundation India and Pakistan s flood victims. Udit isn t the only one in his family who found love across the border; his sister Gaurika also has a Pakistani spouse, Faisal Sherwani.
uyers and visitors thronged to the highly successful three-day India Show that concluded in Lahore on Sunday. Over a hundred Indian companies displayed their products at around 130 stalls, many of them manned by woman entrepreneurs, at Lahore s Expo Centre. Many appreciated the Pakistan government s gesture of allowing several Indian products from Negative list to be included.
Uniting in Bhangra
By Ahmed Nadeem
Shermeen: Udit and I got engaged and married during severe geopolitical issues - the bombing of the Indian Parliament, Kargil and 9/11, visa issues, no flights between India and Pakistan. Yet we survived
How they met
Shermeen: We were both students at Bentley. Introduced by common friends, we became friends immediately. After few months of socialising, we realized that we were attracted to each other, maybe because we had
and managed to have a wonderful, memorable wedding. It is still an extremely long process for me to get an Indian visa. I have to apply on my Pakistani passport, even though I travel everywhere else on my Canadian passport. So whichever city we move to, we make sure we get familiar with the Indian visa section staff at the consulates. Udit: We never lived in India or Pakistan together, but there were challenges: religion, practices, political tension between our countries. None were insurmountable or such that they could not be laughed off. We ve had our ups and downs but because of
How a group of Indian and Pakistani students came together in the Land of the Rising Sun
t was at while boarding Shinkansen, the famous Japanese bullet train, in Japan, that a group of Indian and Pakistani students first encountered each other. An awkward silence prevailed. We stood facing each other, silently waiting for the train to arrive. Three days later we broke the ice somewhat at a football match against each other. But what really brought us together was the cultural night. There were 22 of us, students from Aitcheson College.
The Indian students were from Chennai and Mumbai. We were attending the SAARC Nation JENESYS *(Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths) , 2.0 Programme, an initiative aimed at exposing teenagers from South Asia to Japanese culture. At the cultural night, we were apprehensive. Unlike delegates from other countries, we hadn't prepared anything. I gave the Indian group an idea they liked. I got the music and passed it on to the coordinator. We Pakistanis and Indians held a small meeting to discuss the plan. Moments later, our countries were called out. I went on stage. I could see that my Indian counterpart was also tense. But looking at each other, we found hope and determination. The music
started. We began to move. Soon, the entire hall was screaming, carried away by Abrar-ul-Haq's catchy song. We stepped it up and joined our feet. Hands in the air and feet everywhere, this was bhangra. Students from Bhutan, Nepal and even the Japanese joined us. It was a sight to see. Pakistanis and Indians, shoulder to shoulder, coordinating our moves, we formed a moving line. It was like childhood friends dancing together. With hands on each other s shoulders, we got off stage and circled the hall. There was an electric feeling of happiness in the air. We received a standing ovation. At dinner, for the first time, we Indians and Pakistanis joined our tables together. A rather
witty fellow from Mumbai convinced the coordinator to play the music again. As the beat started, food was forgotten. On the last day, we found it difficult to part. With a heavy heart, we bid our friends from India farewell. Our interaction remains a reminder of the love we have inside for each other. If a group of students who had never met before could do it, we all can. The writer is an A-level student at Aitchison College, Lahore. NOTE: Ahmed Nadeem also wrote Crossing that white painted line, published in this page on Feb 12, 2014. His by-line was inadvertently omitted from the print edition.
THE FIRST STEP LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
Feedback, contributions, photos, letters: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: +92-21-3241-8343 Post: aman ki asha c/o The News, I.I. Chundrigar Road, 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.