Article: One Soul, Two Bodies – India and Pakistan
by Ankur Chaturvedi (India)
It was a regular day at school. I was in the first grade and our teacher was trying, but not succeeding in explaining to us the intricacies of world map reading. Her finger was hovering over the Indian subcontinent and she was reading out aloud the names of different countries. The problem was that the map was a physical one, not a political map, hence international boundaries were not indicated. She went – “This is India, this is Nepal, this is Pakistan. India and Pakistan were one country once”. We perked up and the questions started. What happened, why did we split? The best question was, and I will always remember this one – how are they different from us? The teacher had no answer. I doubt she has one even today. The Indian education system tries to be objective and fair but when it comes to the shared history of India and Pakistan, there is this inexplicable void in that objectivity.
I have always been an explorer and have always harbored curiosity about Pakistan. How will the country be? Who are the real “Pakistanis”? Luckily over the period of the past few years I have been able to answer most of them. Professional interactions, be it related to chemistry, engineering or even driving, have led to deeply personal friendships. Personal contact can and does break down barriers and pre-conceived notions fed to us by our schooling and society. I am sure I am not the only one who thinks this way. As I mentioned previously, I was lucky that I was able to find all my answers regarding the so called “enemy” nation. A large percentage of our populace is not as lucky. My question then is, how do we educate our student population and make them understand that ignorance is our only enemy.
A large part of this process begins at home. The measures need not be drastic, they may be as simple as not portraying each other’s countries in a negative light. We need to embrace our common history this is one of the things which will ensure a peaceful future. We need to learn more about each other, celebrate our similarities and respect our differences. This can only be done if we increase people to people contact. Both our nations architects’ envisioned our countries relations to be like that of US and Canada. Up until now we have been a huge disappointment in that area. The world today is a global village but we are like two warring clans within that village who don’t even know what their disagreements are. It’s high time we introspect our policies towards each other and learn to accept each other. Coming back to increased people to people contact, visa norms must be eased. Families and friends must be able to visit each other. We should be able to experience each other’s culture’s. Most of all, we need to understand why things are how they are rather than blindly follow rhetoric. This works in practice. I can vouch for that fact. My cousin who is 11 years old was once discussing about geography. The conversation turned invariably towards the subcontinent and Pakistan. I asked him what he felt about Pakistan. He replied uncomfortably that he does not like “them”. When I probed further and asked if he had met any person from across the border the answer was a hushed silence. Later on I introduced him to some of my Pakistani friends and he really took to them. He really misses them today and wants to go visit them! He can’t seem to understand that why is it so difficult for him to do that. To tell you the truth nor can I.
Thankfully the winds of change are blowing as more and more people on both sides wake up to the reality and try to break down barriers separating us. Let us try and do our outmost for the cause of peace and friendship between our two nations. Do remember that it depends on us and not our governments, last I checked we are democracies and in that case our governments are just are representative. Love for another country does not mean betrayal of our own country. The onus of change lies on us and if we play our cards right today, maybe one day my teacher will be able to assert that there is no difference between us, we are just one soul trapped in two bodies.
Ankur Chaturvedi is a Mumbai based technocrat, a chemical engineer by profession, a Ph.D Student and also an amateur rally driver. He is working for reputed Mumbai based API manufacturer- Montage chemicals Pvt. Ltd and also pursuing his doctoral studies in organic chemistry at ICT, Mumbai.