Love, Talk, Chat, and Dialogue could be a beginning: 10th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect
“Is it true what they show on Indian dramas about children going for parties alone? Do you go for birthday parties alone?” a student from Pakistan asked his counter parts in India. The question was interesting. The Indian friend in response confirmed that this teenage trend in India is in fact true.
These dialogues were being exchanged at an Indo-Pak Class Room Connect by Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Questioning and challenging the stringent borders, the online people to people interaction was conducted by Aaghaz-e-Dosti on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.
The session was coordinated by Raza Khan, Coordinator Lahore Chapter of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. On the other side of the border were Tulika Bathija, teacher at Ecole Mondiale World School, and Chintan Girish Modi of Friendships Across Borders – Aao Dosti Karen.
Prior to the session, young people from both sides of the border prepared a list of questions with the guidance of their teachers and moderators. The students had received advanced guidance on framing meaningful, constructive and open-ended question allowing the other person to think, reflect and respond in a sensitive manner. The students and teachers braved power failure, technical glitches and managed to communicate their message of peace, love, and people to people contact.
This is how the grade 8 students of Ecole Mondiale World School, Mumbai finally met their friends from Ghouri Wisdom School, Lahore on Skype. Exactly a year ago on March 27, 2016 when the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park targeting the Christian community of Pakistan on Easter, the students (then in Grade 7) has sent had written letters of solidarity and friendship to students of Ghouri Wisdom School sharing their pain and extending a hand of friendship.
In return, at the end of the year and past the pain the grief, the students from Ghouri Wisdom sent colorful, Christmas cards to their friends in India wishing them best and offering their gratitude for offering solidarity.
The Skype talk was an extension to a long lasting friendship forged between children of Mumbai and Lahore. Indian students from Mumbai, true to their spirit sang a Bollywood song, ‘Meri Laundry ka Ek Bill.’ In the background, of course many songs were practiced and rehearsed for the entertainment of Pakistani children.
Questions were asked related to tourism, hobbies, cricket, and ban on Pakistani artists in Bollywood extending to topics of significance to both countries – child safety and gender equality. It was fascinating to see children of different backgrounds across the border bond with each other on issues that mattered to them as teenagers.
As educators, we reflected on these questions, their sincerity, and the compelling nature of inquiry. Is it possible that children think of their public safety in ways we cannot understand? Can Indian and Pakistani children create a safe bubble for themselves in which they can express to each other their anxieties, fears, apprehensions, their joy and giggle over stuff that is mundane and trivial to the disconnected adult? If yes, then this could be the beginning.
When we were unable to find signal and hear each other’s voices, Indian students showed them a sign ‘Wherever you are, we will support you.’ This thoughtful gesture was reciprocated with claps, with excited hand waving and big, bright smiles. What transpired in two microcosms across the border is messages that if India and Pakistan really want they can find ways to connect, love, talk, chat and start a dialogue by overcoming obstacles.
Report by Tulika Bathija and compiled to be published by Aliya Harir and Devika Mittal.