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70mm War Drama evokes Nostalgia: Movie Review of Kya Dilli Kya Lahore

by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (India)

Directed by: Vijay Raaz

Starring: Vijay Raaj, Manu Rishi, Raj Zutshi & Vishwajeet Pradhan

A 2014 Release

The conflict between India and Pakistan has been the subject of many a popular movies in Hindi cinema (Bollywood). Mainstream movie discourse in both India and Pakistan rests on building upon a hatred of the ‘other’ so as to glorify patriotism and a sense of national superiority. Very few movies have dwelled upon the humane side of this cross-border conflict raging since 1947. It is for this reason that Kya Dilli Kya Lahore (What is Dilli, What is Lahore) presented by renowned Indian lyricist and writer Gulzar and directed by Vijay Raaj comes across as breath of fresh air.

How easy it is to picture camaraderie between a Pakistani solider and a cook in the Indian army? Impossible in the immediate war dominated scenario of 1948 following the partition of the Indian sub-continent into India and Pakistan? The movie builds upon a conversation that these two individuals have with each other while they are fighting for their own country. Samarth Pratap Shastri (Manu Rishi) is a cook in the Indian army, left to guard an army check-post all alone at the height of war. From the other side, you have Rehmat Ali (Vijay Raaj), a young, newly inducted soldier in Pakistan’s army sent by a senior to get hold of a confidential security document from the Indian camp. Hesitant as he is, Rehmat proceeds towards the Indian side, only to encounter Samarth holding on his guard from an isolated check-post in a difficult terrain. What follows thereafter are conversations that are not only funny but also heart wrenchingly emotional.

As Rehmat and Samarth talk, they very predictably blame each other for the mess that India’s partition brought along. Murders of innocents, mayhem, destruction and servering of relationships that had survived peacefully through centuries. We learn that Rehmat belonged to Delhi before being forced to shift to Lahore after the partition and Samarth had his roots in Lahore before he moved to Delhi. The mass movement of Hindus to northern and central parts of India while that of Muslims to what was now Pakistan resulted in many people leaving their homes, cities and their near and dear ones far away, to never be able to return. Both Rehmat and Samarth begin their relationship with distrust, a sentiment that is commonly acknowledged by many Indians and Pakistanis. In the beginning as they talk to each other with the knowledge of ‘otherness’ and ‘hostility’, a wall of antagonism separates them (it is only after some time in the film that they finally face each other, before that continuing to converse through a barrier of distrust in typical Punjabi dialect).

The most poignant scene of the film comes when Rehmat gets emotional as he shares his love for Delhi, the narrow by lanes of Chandani Chowk and Samarth is reminded of the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore where he once lived with his family and Muslim neighbours. To both of them Delhi and Lahore were once home and the displacement caused by the partition has affected them immensely. Both cannot come to terms with the fact that they had to leave their beloved city and friends to settle for a new life across the border. It is a fact that prior to the partition, Delhi was home to several Muslims and Lahore was inhabited by Hindus. The loss of one’s home is evident from the teary eyed faces of both Rehmat and Samarth. Something that most people who experienced the partition can relate to.

As the film progresses, the unthinkable becomes a reality. An Indian and a Pakistani start to recognize the human inside the ‘other’, leading hatred and animosity into oblivion. At one point, Samarth even makes ‘aloo paratha’ (a sub-continental food item) for Rehmat and as both of them share their lives over a meal, borders become insignificant. A gradual realization creeps in among the two that this conflict is a creation of political one-upmanship and self serving leaders who care the least for the sufferings of people on both sides. Rehmat and Samarth become friends who realize and fear that they will be labelled as ‘traitors’ for the last that one expects from a soldier is friendship with the ‘enemy’ whom he is supposed to annihilate. They sense that their nationalism will be questioned and their loyalties doubted. In fact, both of them are repeatedly cornered by their senior officials for being ‘refugees’ from whom loyalty cannot be expected as their heart beats for the ‘other’ side.

The film is filled with heart touching moments of the friendship that develops between two people who though on opposite sides of the border, begin to realize the special bond through which they are connected to each other. Rehmat starts referring to Samarth as ‘bhaijaan’ (brother) and in the same way Samarth also acknowledges the special place that Rehmat has made in his life in a very short time.

One can view this movie from a soldier’s perspective. While the duty of a soldier is to essentially guard the borders of his country from the enemy, he/she is at the end a common person who pines for his family, who wants to lead a normal and peaceful life. War and conflict have a damaging impact on a soldier’s psyche and the movie lets the audience come face to face with the humane side of a soldier. Rehmat and Samarth become friends in a very short period of time under extremely trying circumstances. Yet in the end, they come out with flying colours as they prove to be worthy friends divided by the border, but united by hearts that don’t succumb to human-made divisions. The climax scene is a reinforcement of their unspoken yet deep, pure friendship and love for each other. Kya Dilli Kya Lahore signifies the spirit of this friendship where there is more in common that can bring people together as opposed to keeping them apart. Because once upon a time, the cities of Dilli (Delhi) and Lahore were a symbol of sub-continental unity. Today, even as they belong to different countries, they remain very much similar in character, spirit and love for the one who is on the other side of the border.

This review was previously published on the author’s blog www.68pagesofmylife.blogspot.com


Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere has a PhD in Political Science from The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat and presently works as an independent researcher and writer based out of Ahmedabad. She is the Baroda Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. 

Article: Holi and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent

by Ravi Nitesh

Holi, a festival of colours has lots of stories around its origin but at the same time, the very nature of this festival has a philosophical note attached to it and that is ‘losing one’s identity’. Colours applied in Holi are from a vast range of colours and speaks of the importance of diversity; applying these colours involve ‘colouring everyone’ and doing so, it denotes equality and equal identity. In the color smeared face, the identity, the divisiveness of it, is also lost.

The Indian subcontinent, as a diverse space and with a history of its ‘cultural absorbency’ has brought Holi in different contexts and it is its beauty that despite being called as a Hindu festival by many, it has history tracings among Muslims as well where the context of Holi was specially brought. With its beauty of diversity, our society has brought many beautiful examples of cultural harmony and intermingling. Holi is one such festival that spreads and celebrates universal brotherhood.

In the stories of Holi, it is attached with the ‘Bhakt Prahlad’ story as a festival of victory of Good over Evil and then in another one with Krishna-Radha, it becomes a festival of love. Mughals in India, as we know, adopted many traditions and started many new. Holi was one festival, tradition that was beautifully adopted by Mughal Emperors and Sufi saints.

In the reign of Emperor Jahangir, Holi is called Holi as ‘Eid-e-Gulabi’ or ‘Aab-e-Pashi’ and he even played it with his queen. The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri talks about this Holi festival.

Holi and Mughal Emperor Jahangir

In the reign of Jahangir, it is also called Holi as ‘Eid-e-Gulabi’ or ‘Aab-e-Pashi’ and he even played it with his queen. In Tuzuk e Jahangir, he has written about Holi festival.  

‘Hori Khelungi, Keh Bismillah’ was a poem by Bulleshah, a 16th century poet. He has written in this poem about his desire to loose himself in God. Syed Abdullah Shah Qadri or Bulleshah lived in 17th century in places like Multan and Kasur that falls in present day Pakistan. Bulleshah was a humanist and philosopher and has written poetry on many subjects including social issues. His poetry have been sung by renowned singers of modern time including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Wadali Brothers and others. In his Holi poem, he expressed ‘nam nabi ki ratn chadhi. Boond pari allah alaah’

Holi and Bahadur Shah Zafar

Verses of Bahadur Shah Zafar (Last Mughal emperor of India) has been adopted very commonly by people. It says ‘Kyo mo pe rang ki maaari pichkari, Dekho kunwar ji doongi main gaari’ (Why you sprayed color on me, Now my prince, I will swear you). It is told that during his reign, special arrangements were made to celebrate holi and groups of people singing Holi songs and making jokes were allowed. On this day, making fun even on the cost of princess of princesses and it was not a punishable act that time. Spray of colorful and scented yellow flowers and sprayed through syringes of wood and metals.   

Amir Khusro’s love with ‘Aaj rang hai’ is known to many people when he sung this song for his peer Auliya. Khusro was a 13th century poet, Sufi musician and scholar and spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya. Khusro is known as ‘Father of Indian Qawali’ and also has the credit for the invention of musical instruments like Sitar and Tabla.  Khusro expressed in another verse ‘Kheloongo holi, Khawaja ji aaye’.    

The Nawabs of Lucknow celebrated Holi as a festival of everyone. Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh has written ‘More kanha jo aaye palat ke, Abki holi mai khelungi dat ke’. Wajid Ali Shah also distributed sweets and thandai (a special Holi drink) to everyone in their kingdom.

Even ‘Holi khelein Asaf ud daula Wazir’ is one of the famous lines of renowned poet Meer and has talked about Nawab Asaf ud daula of Lucknow. Meer writes further ‘kumkum jo maarte bharkar gulal, jiske lagta aan kar phir mehendi laal’.  Asaf-ud-Daula was nawab of Awadh in 18th century and is known as the architect general of Lucknow. He shifted the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow and built famous structures like Bara Imaambara and Rumi Darwaza. One of his very famous work includes construction of  Asafi Imambara as a charity project in 1784 to generate employment after a famine. It included more than 20,000 people in construction of a structure that was neither a mosque nor mausoleum. It was also told that to protect dignity of noble and upper class (as they were also affected in famine), common citizens were employed to construct building in daytime and noble and upper class people were employed to demolish the structure on every fourth night. They all received payments for their work. There is still a famous saying ‘Jisko na dein maula, usko dein Asaf-ud-Daula’ means one who does not receive from Lord, will receive from Asaf-ud-Daula.  

Abida Parveen, renowned Pakistani Sufi Singer, beautifully sung verses of the Sufi poet Shah Niaz where the poet says ‘Holi ho rahi hai Ahmed jiya ke dwaar, Hazart ali ka rang bano hai Hasaan Hussain Khilar’ (Holi is happening at beloved Ahmed’s door, Color has become Hazrat Ali and Hasan and Hussain are playing.’

It is also said that even today’s old Lucknow chowk area witness the ‘Holi Baraat’ jointly by Hindus and Muslims that runs along Muslim dominant areas and receive showers of flowers and colours.

Holi was not just restricted to Nawabs and Emperors, it also went to writings of many poets. Even freedom fighter and poet Hasrat Mohani writes ‘Mohe chhed karat nandlal, Liye khade abeer gulal’. 

Even Nawabs of Bengal like Murshid Quli Khan Alivardi, Siraj-ud-Daula and Mir Jafar celebrated holi as well. The shrine of Haji Waris Ali Shah in Deva Sharif observe Holi even in today’s India.

If we say that this is the society we hail from, we desire and we contribute for, what can be more beautiful than this!

Photo Sources:

Holi Celebration

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Holi and Jahangir

http://delhikaravan.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/holijehangir.jpg

 Holi and Bahadur Zafar

https://counterview1.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/holi-shahanshah-bahadurshah-zafar-ki.png?w=396&h=501


Ravi Nitesh is from Delhi. He is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam and Aaghaz-e-Dosti. He tweets at @ravinitesh

The Most Respected, the “Lok Nayak” JP supported Indo-Pak Peace and Disarmament

by Ravi Nitesh (India)

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Source: Internet

The world is moving towards globalization, liberalization and with each passing day it claims itself to be becoming more civilized. On the other hand, the same world is regularly developing more and more tools of destruction, arms and ammunition and even atom and nuclear bombs. The situation of India and Pakistan is no different and these countries proudly claim themselves of being nuclear powers. Both have conducted nuclear tests in past and though unannounced, but the capability of being nuclear armed is more for the reason of dominating each other, instead of any greater public welfare. 

Pakistan and India constitutes a major part in South Asian politics and also have influence over geo strategic decisions of other countries due to the reasons like geographic locations, rising GDPs and good markets. Unfortunately, both countries, despite being neighbor countries, fought with each other in atleast three major wars and several border skirmishes. Billions of dollars have been spent on these fights. Both countries also spend billions of dollars on their nuclear facilities. On the other hand, both constitutes large numbers of underprivileged children, high index of hunger and malnutrition, unavailability of water and healthcare and many other such similar challenges. 

When we look at the political leaders of these countries, we find that most of them take the shelter of nationalism to support developing arms and ammunition to face threat from each other. Most of them try to infuse Indo-Pak rivalry with nationalism. However, the most renowned and respected Nationalist leader, the man who is claimed and respected by all political strands,  Jayprakash Narayan advocated for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Jayaprakash Narayan or JP is among the most famous names in the history of Indian politics. In Indian politics, he is known as ‘Loknayak’, (Peoples’ Leader) who led socio- political movements and became successful with what is known as ‘JP Movement’ in politics. But in his vision, he was much more than a man who formed the first non congress government in India without taking any position in government. He was a strong advocate of peace, non violence and nuclear disarmament, and known for his companionship with Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the great Pashto leader, popularly remembered in India as “Frontier Gandhi”.

JP is known to people for his efforts to fight for democracy during the emergency period imposed by Indira Gandhi and the subsequent formation of the first non-congress government in India. But his contribution to society and nation was much larger and far ahead than being just the leading voice during emergency.

JP was a visionary and had great faith in the ideas of Gandhi. He was born in the year 1902. JP spent his time with leaders like Gandhi and Vinoba and was much influenced in the ideology of non-violence. He advocated for disarmament and talked about disarmament at international level with unilateral disarmament in India. He went ahead with such a vision that why do we need atom bombs or even army? Why is it necessary to fight and to be violent when decisions and solutions can happen with negotiation and dialogue? He envisioned that army should be trained and equipped with non violent tools. On India and Pakistan, he never stood for war and always advocated for peace. He even organized peace marches. 

JP was involved in peacebuilding and accepted membership of three member presidium of world peace army. He appealed for India Pakistan Peace and formed ‘India Pakistan Friendship Association’ in 1962. He also advocated peaceful resolution of India with China. Later he was also elected as one of the five member presidium by Commonwealth of Citizens. 

JP shared a great bond with Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan of Pakistan which continued even after partition. They worked together for peace between and in their own countries. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and JP together formed ‘Insani Biradari’ that worked for peace and communal harmony.

JP was a great visionary even in other fields. Way back in 1930’s, JP without terming it as ‘sustainable development’ shared a similar idea that the we all belong to one community of human and live on this earth. We must utilize the resources of our earth in the manner that it would remain available for future generations. He said that these natural resources are non-renewable and have limited capacity to serve. 

Though JP could not live more to make his idea sustain, but his ideas and vision of peace and non-violence is still relevant and is of very much importance in terms of present situation in South Asian Politics. Our conflicts are rising and we are over-exploiting our natural resources. It is imperative that we bring back JP by implementing his vision, his ideas. Like during the emergency, JP, the People’s Leader, shall come to the rescue of the grieving India and South Asia.


Ravi NiteshRavi Nitesh is from Delhi. He is the founder of Mission Bhartiyam (India) and founder member of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. He tweets at @ravinitesh

Celebrating Chaliha Sahib with Hindu Friends in Pakistan

by Zabeehullah Memon

jhule-laal-idol-khairpur

In all religions, people celebrate their respective festivals with glorious faith and happiness. The celebration of any religious festival shows devotion to one’s religion/faith. Festivals keep religions alive.

Chaliha Sahib is a unique festival which is celebrated by Hindu community in Sindh province of Pakistan. This festival is celebrated in the remembrance of Laal Sain/Jhule Laal. During this festival, people of the Sindhi Hindu community fast for forty days to observe penance. They pray in their holy temples by doing Aarti and by singing Bhajans or spiritual songs. On the fortieth day, they take Barano of Laal Sain from temple and go to the river for the immersion of the idol while expressing their happiness by dancing and singing Bhajans. They then also pray on the bank of the river.

Chaliha sahib jo melo is one of the longest and most awaited festivals among the Sindhi community. The origin of this festival, which sees devotees fasting for days on end, originated in Sindh (now in Pakistan).

jhule-laal-idol-immersion-in-river-khairpurBefore this festival had started, my Hindu friend invited me to join in the festival celebration. He had narrated to me the history of this festival. The story behind this festival had compelled me to go with him. I enjoyed a lot with them, though I have celebrated different festivals with them but this was first time in my life that I celebrated Chaliha Sahib Festival. They showed a lot of respect and love for me. In this great festival, I was not accompanied by any of my Muslim friend but there were many Muslims in the celebration of this festival.  I felt very comfortable with my Hindu Friends. They celebrated their pious festival in a peaceful manner. They were friendly with me. In these festival days, they regularly go to temple and pray to God  (Jhule Laal/Laal Sain) by singing Bhajans and Aarti.

I believe festivals such as these, which bring together people from the Hindu and Muslim communities can help build peace, end communal violence and promote interfaith harmony. This demonstration of love, togetherness and brotherhood is the way to remove hatred between Hindus and Muslims, bridge the gap between the two communities.


zabeeh-memonZabeehullah Memon is from District Khairpur, Sindh (Pakistan). He is working as a district coordinator at Progressive Youth Forum, Khairpur.

“Things Changed When I Wore My Pakistani Jersey”: Experience of a Pakistani in India

by Talha Asif Dar (Pakistan)

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I have travelled to some countries and being a social person, I have Pakistani friends studying or working in many countries. What has been common amongst many of my friends is that either they have an Indian housemate, or their best friend is an Indian.

Therefore, I already felt that Indians were similar to us, and had a desire to visit India. One of my biggest dreams was to visit the Taj Mahal, and Amritsar, from where my grandparents had migrated. Amritsar is just 50 kms away from my home in Pakistan but it was difficult for me to go there due to visa issues. All the foreign travelers coming from Europe and the US whom I met in Pakistan used to cross the border into India with ease, but I was unable to do the same despite being so close geographically. It was a true example of “So near yet so far”.

Even though I had already met a number of Indians while travelling around the world, and many of them became my friends, I was still a little worried about how ordinary Indians would react during my visit to India when they realize I was from Pakistan. All of my friends and relatives were worried for me. All my friends to whom I extended an invitation to join me said, “Marna hai? Sari zindagi Indian jail main guzarni hai? Tu pagal hai, hum pagal nahi hein” (Do you think I want to get myself killed? Do you want to spend the rest of your life in an Indian prison? You must be mad, we aren’t).

I hadn’t imagined that what was waiting for me was the friendliest visit I had ever experienced. I started getting an idea of the same even before landing in India. I use a website called ‘couchsurfing’ to find hosts in the cities I travel to. You can meet or stay at someone’s home for free with the help of this website. This community is all over the world, and its purpose is cultural exchange and to help people who are travelling on a budget to find a homestay.

Usually, it is a bit difficult to find a host for a South Asian or a Middle Eastern guy. One may have to send requests to dozens of people to find a host. However, I was surprised that just after posting a public post about my impending trip and before sending requests to individuals, I started receiving a bunch of invitations from Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh. There were so many people who were interested in meeting or hosting me.

This was just the beginning. I was already late and had missed Pakistan and Bangladesh’s match. It was Pakistan vs. India the following day and I received a call from FedEx that my passport had reached Lahore. I picked up my passport, came back home to pack my bag in 15 minutes and headed straight to Wagah border which is just a 20-minute drive from my home.

As I crossed the border in the afternoon, it was already time for the flag ceremony a lot of spectators had gathered for it. It felt different being in a new country. However, there was no difference in terms of culture: similar people, the same language and same surroundings. As I reached the immigration counter, I was pleasantly surprised to see the immigration officer listening to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s qawwalis. While he was entering the details of my documents in the system, we kept talking to each other in Punjabi. He told me that almost every Indian Punjabi guy is a fan of Pakistani stage dramas and many Indian women like to watch Pakistani dramas on Zindagi channel.

Then I went to customs and as soon as they got to know that I had come for the T20 World Cup, they started discussing cricket with me. Being a talkative person myself, the discussion on cricket continued for the next 30 minutes. My next destination was Amritsar railway station. When the rickshaw riders learned that I was from Pakistan and that my grandparents had migrated from the same city in 1947, they offered me a free ride to show me around the famous places of Amritsar.

Talha Dar travel to indiaLater while I was looking to buy a train ticket for Delhi, I bumped into two Sikh brothers who were looking for the same. They asked me if I was from Delhi. When I told them I was from Pakistan, they initially didn’t believe me. But then they invited me to join their family. Their parents were also very happy to meet me and within a few minutes they started treating me like I was a part of their family. The entire family looked after me until they got off the train near Delhi, making space for me and my luggage in the crowded train, sharing food and lots of stories with me. By the time that eight hour train ride ended, I had made many other friends as well.

So, this was my first half day in India and I already knew that the next couple of weeks would be a lot of fun. I met hundreds of people during the next fortnight and experienced a lot but I would share some of the stories as sharing all of them would need an entire book.

As I could not make it to Kolkata for the Pakistan vs. India men’s match, I decided to go for Pakistan vs. India women’s match at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in Delhi. My faint hearted mother, who gets worried even when I go from Lahore to Islamabad, had pleaded that when in India, I shouldn’t walk around wearing Pakistan’s jersey. Being the obedient son that I am, I followed what she said and wore another tee over my Pakistani jersey. As I was looking for the entrance gate, I met an Indian fan Arifuddin Ahmed and we started talking to each other. When he asked me which city I was from, I told him Lahore and was again met with disbelief. When he did decide to believe that I was indeed in fact from Pakistan, we became friends.

talha-dar-2I reached my stand and as I sat on my seat, I realized that I was the only Pakistani fan between thousands of Indian fans. After a few minutes, I removed the tee I was wearing over my Pakistani jersey and brought out my Pakistani flag from the bag. The guy sitting next to me, who had all his attention at the match, noticed after a couple of minutes that I was wearing a Pakistani jersey. He asked me if I was from Pakistan and when he learned that I was from Lahore, was happy and welcomed me, asking some questions about Lahore with a lot of curiosity.

Then more and more people started to realize that there was a Pakistani between them and happily greeted me. When India’s innings finished, I started walking around and a few people started to talk and take pictures with me and Pakistan’s flag. Soon, there were hundreds of people around me, taking pictures with me. The most surprising thing was they were borrowing the Pakistani flag from me to take pictures with it. Pakistan won on the match and many people congratulated me.

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Lahore Dry Fruits Store in Delhi

Delhi and Lahore have so much in common, they are truly two sister cities. Lahore has Shahi Qila while Delhi has Lal Qila; Lahore has Badshahi Masjid and Delhi has Jama Masjid; Lahore has Delhi Gate while Delhi has Lahore Gate; Lahore has Jahangir’s tomb while Delhi has Humayun’s tomb; Lahore has Shalimar Gardens and Delhi has Qutb Minar. Old Lahore and Old Delhi look so similar. The language and food are also quite similar and if one walks the streets, one will notice during street fights that even the abuses are the same!

talha-dar-3After a couple of days, I went to Chandigarh to watch Pakistani men play New Zealand. I met a Pakistani guy there and we decided to see Mohali and Chandigarh together. We took a shared rickshaw to go from Mohali’s Sikh museum to Chandigarh’s rock garden. The driver didn’t have change and we were short of Rs. 10. When we were unable to find any other solution, I offered him 20 Pakistani rupees. First he thought that I was an Indian and was just joking, asking me what he would do with Pakistani currency. I asked him he could go to the currency exchange and get Indian notes. I was taken aback by his response when I showed him Pakistani currency and told him that I was from Pakistan and that I came here to watch cricket. These were his words, “I won’t get this note exchanged. I will show this to my children. I will keep this with me all my life as this has come from Pakistan.” We had to change the rickshaw before entering Chandigarh premises as diesel rickshaws are not allowed there. He stopped a new rickshaw and bargained for us with the driver, telling them that we were his brothers.

I had gained enough confidence now that I had started to walk around in Pakistan’s jersey. I went to Pakistani and Bangladeshi women’s match after a few days in Delhi. As I was looking for an auto rickshaw after the match, two auto drivers started quarrelling with each other for the rider like it happens in Pakistan. As I was wearing Pakistan’s jersey, a senior policeman came out from a departing police bus thinking that there was some trouble. He approached me and asked if everything was alright. As I told him everything was fine, he told one of the drivers to take me to the place I wanted to go to, and took down his vehicle’s registration number, to make sure that I didn’t face any problem due to my jersey. I thanked him to which he replied that I was not just his country’s guest, I was like his younger brother.

Talha Dar with Richa from KolkataI met so many other people in Delhi and Kolkata through couchsurfing, who showed me around, invited me to their homes for dinner, and introduced me to their families and friends. I made such good friends in Kolkata, who looked after me and then gave some gifts including traditional foods from Bengal for my family. I really wanted to watch a match at Eden Gardens, so my couchsurfer friend Richa said she would try to get me a ticket for Bangladesh and New Zealand’s match. She mentioned in her social circle that she was looking for a ticket for her Pakistani guest and within 30 minutes a friend of hers offered a ticket as a gift.

img-20160329-wa0002-001Sharad, another friend I made through couchsurfing in Kolkata, invited me to his home for breakfast and dinner every day. As his grandparents had migrated from Sialkot, his parents could speak Punjabi and it felt like home at his place. Each time they prepared almost a dozen dishes, especially from Bengal.

I was also able to meet some Indian friends I had made in Australia. They left their commitments and came to meet me, showing me around and taking me to dinners. Those were such happy moments, those people whom I had first met in Australia were meeting me now in India but what was common was that both times, I was the one who was travelling so they hosted me graciously.

I came back to Lahore on the 15th day which was also the last day of my visa. I made so many lifelong friends and memories during this trip. I would love to visit India again to meet my friends and see more of India.

With all this, I realized that ordinary people of Pakistan and India are eager to get to know each other, and feel very happy when they meet someone who has come from across the border. We can eliminate so many misunderstandings if only people to people contact can be increased.

This article has been edited by Madhulika Narasimhan (Delhi, India)


Talha Asif Dar has done MBA from Bahria University, Islamabad. After doing a 9 to 6 job for a couple of years, he decided to quit that and start travelling. He is a crazy sports fan and travels the world to attend sports events, and starts backpacking once the event ends. Talha does freelance work to support himself and his travelling. One of his biggest wishes is to see peace between Pakistan and India.

Sindh Culture Day Special: An Introduction to Sindh, Sindhi Culture

Sindh Culture Day (Ekta Day) is celebrated every year on the first Sunday of December across Sindh (Pakistan) to highlight the centuries old, rich cultural heritage of the province, especially it’s traditional topi (cap) and ajrak.

Today on Sindh Culture Day, we introduce you to Sindh and Sindhi Culture. 

The word “Sindh” is derived from its life stream, the river Indus, known to the people by the name of “Sindhu”. The roots of Sindhi culture and civilization are believed to trace back to one of the world’s oldest civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization. 

1. Ajrak

The word Ajrak is derived from an Arabic word “azrak” which means ‘blue’. Ajrak is a block-printed cloth with deep crimson red and indigo blue background, bearing symmetrical patterns with interspersed unprinted sparkling white motifs, mostly stars. Source

Ajrak is an important Sindhi cultural symbol. The Ajrak is traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization (one of the earliest world civilizations) as archaeological remains of a male, priest-like statue wore a shawl resembling Ajrak symbolism has been found.

The ajrak is an integral part of Sindhi culture and traditional. They are presented as Ajrak are presented a mark of respect and hospitality to guests and people of high esteem.

2. Sindhi Topi

The Sindhi Cap or Sindhi Topi is a circular/cylindrical except for a portion cut out in the front to expose the forehead. Intricate geometrical designs are embroidered on the hat, and very often small pieces of mirror are sewed into it also. In Sindhi culture, the Sindhi cap is often given as a gift or as a sign of respect, along with the ajrak. Source

3. Sindhi Biryani

The Sindhi Biryani is one of the famous dishes of Pakistan. It is among the most famous and loved Biryanis. The Sindhi Biryani uses over twenty spices and is one of the most flavorful biryanis.

4. Sindhi Language

Sindhi is an Indo-Aryan language. The vocabulary of Sindhi comprises of words from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Prakrit.

Sindhi is one of the oldest languages of the sub-continent, with a rich and extensive folklore and literature. It is one of the major languages of Pakistan, spoken mainly in the province of Sindh. It is the third most spoken language in Pakistan. 

Sindhi is now written in Arabic Naskh Script, formally adopted by the British in 1853. Sindhi is also written in Devanagari script in some parts in India. Before the adoption of the present script, Sindhi was written in a number of different but cognate scripts derived from Devanagari. Read more at http://www.sindhishaan.com/article/language/lang_04_04.html

5. Sindh is the land of Communal Harmony

Sindh is the land of great Sufi saints that included Abduallh Shah Gahzi (R.A), Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (R.A), Jhule Lal or Lal Shahbaz Qalandar or Lal Sai and Sachal Sarmast who preached about peace and communal harmony.

The Sindhi Culture is an integration of Hinduism and Islam. It is regarded to be more of a Sufi culture. This can be noted in their folklore, songs, poetry, lifestyle, customs and traditions.

Here we list some more interesting articles and information source from India and Pakistan to help you explore more about Sindhi Culture: 

  1. Jhulelal or Zinda Pir: Of river saints, fish and flows of the Indus   http://scroll.in/article/801677/jhulelal-or-zinda-pir-of-river-saints-fish-and-flows-of-the-indus

  2. Jhulelal.com – Online Sindhi Community http://www.jhulelal.com/index.html

  3. Sindhi Shaan http://www.sindhishaan.com/article/language/lang_04_04.html 

If there is any error, kindly let us know. We also invite your thoughts, verified information to develop this blog. Kindly contact us at aaghazedosti@gmail.com

Submission Guidelines

aaghaz-e-dosti-indopak-peace-blog-poster

We invite articles, poems, cross-border travel experiences, friendship stories for our blog or Indo-Pak peace resource hub. Send your submissions at aaghazedosti@gmail.com

Submission Guidelines

  1. We publish analytical articles and opinions on peace and Indo-Pak issues. However, we do not publish one-sided and biased narratives.
  2. We do not re-publish articles. If your article has been previously published elsewhere, kindly inform us.
  3. If you do not receive an email from us in 3 days about your submission, kindly feel free to send your article for publication elsewhere. 
  4. For articles, travel experiences or travelogues, the minimum length is 500 words.
  5. For cross-border friendship stories, the minimum length is 350 words.
  6. For Non-English Poems: We welcome poems in Hindi and Urdu but they will need to be written in roman script. We also welcome poem submissions in Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto or any other language spoken in the subcontinent but we will require a rough translation in English. 

Send your submissions along with your 2 line bio and head shot to aaghazedosti@gmail.com

A Pakistani’s visit to India during a war-frenzy subcontinent

by Urwah Sultana (Pakistan)

urwah sultana indo-pak article

“Islam teaches Tolerance not Hatred, Universal Brotherhood not Enmity; PEACE and not Violence.”

The relations between Pakistan and India have been subjected to strains by numerous political dilemmas and conflicts of history and present that include the Partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir dispute and the many military conflicts which have been fought between the two States. These two States of South Asia share historic, cultural, geographic and economic links but unfortunately their relationship has always been filled with hostility and doubt.

Peace between these two States seems nearly impossible on political level but the ground realities are very different from this common and popular perception.

urwah sultana from pakistan visit indiaBeing selected for the Global Youth Peace Fest – 2016  hosted by Yuvsatta was the first step towards my childhood dream to visit India. I was so excited to explore something new, things that I had been watching only on the TV screens. But on crossing the Wagha Border, my excitement couldn’t stay longer as I didn’t find anything new beyond that Line. Same air, sun, land, faces, language, dresses and even love! So I realized that we are recognizably similar, equally welcoming and extremely hospitable.  

From the Indian Immigration office (Attari) to the Conference venue (Chandigarh and Shimla), I had interacted with people from the Military, Police and with Civilians and found that humanity and peace is the priority on both sides of the white line (border).

I had landed in India when the subcontinent was suffering in a war-frenzy environment. It was a highly intense political situation of Indo-Pak and jingoism was at it’s peak in both countries. But the security given by our host as well as the cooperation and love of the volunteers made us smile even in such times. Infact, the security, the protocol as well as the media attention to the Pakistanis made other country delegations jealous of our relation!

GYPF 2016 Urwah SultanaThroughout these seven days of my trip, I developed memories that are going to last forever. Some of my memoriesurwah sultan visit temple in india of my India Diaries are the visit to Rock Garden, Sukhna Lake, Sector 36, Sector 17, Market Sector 22, Elante Mall, Piccadilly Cinema, Chandigarh Institute of Hotel Management, Gurukul Global School – Chandigarh, Dev Samaj College, the beauty of Haveli Restaurant Jalandhar, Mandirs, Gurdwaras, the amazing Christ Church Shimla and the great Shimla Mall.

When I remember my Indian travel, I can never miss out on the yummy food – Pani Puri (Gol Gappe), Momos, Vada Pav, Pao Bhaji, Palak Paneer, Lassi, Chholy Pathoory! I had never experienced such a variety of Vegetarian food before.

There is too much to experience and explore in the India so I hope to revisit this country as I feel that war, hatred and bloodshed will never let the establishment of peace in the subcontinent. During my visit to India, I met enemies who were hospitable and loving! I never knew that enemies could be this way! If those that I met were enemies, then I wonder how friends would be like. So let politics guide us, not rule us!


Urwah Sultana is a Lahore-based social activist. She recently graduated from Punjab University in Social & Cultural Sciences and is currently working with Voice Society for Rehabilitation of the Special Persons. She is also an ambassador at the Women Leadership Program of Career Buzz Pakistan.

Kya Dilli, Kya Lahore: An Indian’s Experience of Pakistan

by Madhavi Bansal

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Whenever we think of foreign travel, one thing which makes foreign ‘foreign’ is the cultural difference. While travelling to a foreign land we expect to see different lifestyles, cultural practices, norms, clothing, food habits and values. Whether one would like to call it my fortune or misfortune, my first foreign trip was to a country that was similar to mine, in November 2015, when I visited Pakistan to present a paper at a conference. It felt like visiting a second home.

As I am a peace activist, I had already been able to shed a lot of the stereotypes that people in India hold about Pakistan. Despite the excitement of being able to visit neighbors, I was unable to shake off that little anxiety I felt while crossing the Wagha border. I harboured anxiety about visiting an Islamic country which is known as the epicentre of terrorism, where bomb blasts are a routine and women are rarely seen outside the burqa. What I experienced, on the other hand, couldn’t have been more contradicting. During my six day stay, I did not realize I was in another country. Lahore filled me with a homely feeling, the same that I experience in Delhi.

why-take-the-bus-when-you-can-take-toy-trainWe crossed the Wagha border on foot and I found the immigration process to be smoother than the visa process. We met people who applauded the courage of two Indian women travelling to Pakistan all by themselves and also those who couldn’t stop discouraging us. Our hosts picked us up from the border and showed us around Lahore before leaving us at the UMT (University of Management and Technology) guest house. The rest of the evening was spent enjoying Dholki (a pre-wedding ceremony common in South Asian weddings) at a friend’s place and humming Punjabi folk songs. Next three days, we attended a conference, whose overarching theme was inclusive education. The moderator introduced us to the audience with a quote by Gandhi after which Devika Mittal and I presented our paper titled Attempting Inclusive Elementary Education in India: How Far Have We Come With RTE (Right to Education)? Presenting a paper on inclusive education in Pakistan will always be a special experience for me because the university where we spoke definitely practised what they preached: it had excellent facilities for visually challenged students; ranging from audio guides to Braille. Students were excited to meet and talk to us. We were floored by the display of graciousness by our hosts who left no stone unturned in making us feel comfortable. Their hospitable gesture was evident when they ensured that food for us was cooked separately considering the fact that we are vegetarians.

I also encountered people who are inspired by progressive policies of the Indian government. This enabled me to learn about that facet of Pakistanis which we as Indians rarely know. There are people in Pakistan who do not blame India for everything that is wrong with their country, but are willing to learn from good aspects of Indian society and governance. This strengthened my belief in the peace process. The fact is that not all Pakistanis hate Indians and India could do well to lead by example.

One major irritant of course was the constant watch being kept on us (which is normal in the case of Indians traveling to Pakistan and vice versa) and restrictions imposed on moving out of the campus. We roamed about the city once the conference ended. A visit to Punjab University exposed me to another side of Pakistan and I ended up questioning many things such as separate canteens for men and women, separate lifts and curtailment on mixing up of opposite genders. At the same time, during an evening visit to the National College of Arts, I got to witness a more liberal side of Pakistan with men and women hanging out together, practicing theatre, working on a piece of art or spending relaxed time together in a group.

when-sunny-ji-decided-to-host-us-our-friends-and-our-friends-friends

I have met many Indians who had the opportunity to visit Pakistan and on their return they gushed about the great hospitality accorded to them. For me, Pakistan was a lot like India, and this extends to the oxymoronic, complicated juxtaposition back home where parochial thinking, great hospitality, respect and stereotypes all co-exist. One early morning, I experienced a sexually lewd comment inside Babri Masjid. But what resonated within me for a long time was the fact that I was dressed like a Lahori that day, and I know I was assumed to be one when the comment was made. I believe that a person’s true nature can be judged from how he/she treats his/her own fellow citizens—that morning, they treated me as they would treat a Lahori early morning at Babri Masjid, and that treatment was not of great hospitality. Experiences like this only reinforce the fact that Pakistan is not too far apart from the cultural juxtaposition of our own country, and in ways more than one, Pakistan reminded me of home.

The trip has ended but the memories will be cherished. I hadn’t even come back to India and I was already hoping to visit Pakistan again.  My trip ended in complete Bollywood style–breakfast in Lahore, lunch in Amritsar, next breakfast in Delhi and the breakfast after that in Bangalore. From bhai chalenge aap to bhayia chalo to Anna, electronic city, the ride from Delhi to Lahore was a roller coaster!  

This article was edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere, Baroda Co-ordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti.


Madhavi Bansal is currently pursuing M.A. Public Policy and Governance from Azim Premji University in Bangalore. She is a peace enthusiast, who when not dancing, would be travelling.

Soldiers from India and Pakistan support Peace

by Aaghaz-e-Dosti

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Soldiers are one of the most direct victims of Conflict. But the glory of War doesn’t allow one to recognise it. Soldiers are highly respected and they should be but this respect is used to gloss over the tragedy that defines their lives. The tragedy of War. Soldiers are hailed for the great sacrifice that they render but this is also used to suppress any hope for improvement in their working conditions and family life. The Soldiers are devoid of any agency or voice. There are many assumptions and preconceptions woven around soldiers, imagined as a homogeneous group. The human aspect of being a Soldier is ignored.

It is assumed that Soldiers hate the Soldiers of the other side and want war. It is assumed that Soldiers regard War to be the only option. It is assumed that Soldiers hate the word “Peace”. This article is the beginning of our attempt to burst these stereotypes and highlight the voice of the Soldiers of India and Pakistan. 

58d2709d-b837-4924-8fa9-38fe26e19fbfhiresWe have been working for Indo-Pak for five years now and we have made an active and consistent attempt to reach out and highlight the victims of Conflict, the most direct and major ones being the Soldiers. This article is based on the stories that have appeared in popular media as well as our own experiences and interactions with Veteran, Retired as well as serving Soldiers of India and Pakistan.

It is nice to know about your work (peace workshop in school) but Indo-Pak conflict is a dispute between the political actors of both sides so what is the role of the people in it?”, asked an armymen.

Last year, two of our team members were in Baroda, a city in the Indian state of Gujarat, for conducting workshops on Indo-Pak peace building in schools and colleges. In one school, while they were waiting for the teacher concerned in the reception area, two people started talking to them. One of the persons was from the Indian Army. When he got to know about our joint Indo-Pakistan Friendship Initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti and about the subject of our workshop, he smiled and said, “It is nice to know about your work (peace workshop in school) but Indo-Pak conflict is a dispute between the political actors of both sides so what is the role of the people in it?”

His reaction shocked them. He did not question our efforts or spoke negative about the other country. He only stated that this is more of a dispute between the States. 

Retired Navy Chief of India, Admiral Ramdas, is member of several Indo-Pak Peace Initiatives

Admiral Ramdas, who had served as the Chief of Indian Navy, is a staunch supporter of Indo-Pakistan peace. Admiral Ramdas has been the founding member of several Indo-Pakistan peace initiatives. He had also extended support to Aaghaz-e-Dosti through his message in the 3rd Indo-Pak Peace Calendar – 2015. His message was

“The year 2015 gives us yet another opportunity to resume the Indo-Pakistan dialogue to bring permanent peace in South Asia. Although geography and identities have changed, we have a shared history and we must build upon this, focusing on greater trade and exchange of people-to-people visits for a better future. – Admiral Ramdas”

Indo-Pak Peace Calendar 2015 was launched in Artillery Centre in Nashik (India)

The annual Indo-Pak Peace calendar was launched in the artillery centre in Nashik, a city in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Among the chief guests were Commandant Brigadier P.R. Murli and Colonel Augustine M.T.  The army persons had not only extended their solidarity, but as a mark, the calendars were also displayed at the headquarter of All India Artillery Centre.

Qais Hussain, a Pakistani Fighter Pilot wrote to the daughter of Indian Pilot he shot down and expressed his grief

Qais Hussain, a retired Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Officer had reached out to Farida Singh, daughter of the Indian pilot whose plane he had shot down during the 1965 war. This shot down plane was actually of Balwant Rai Mehta, a freedom fighter and who was the then serving chief minister of Gujarat who flew that day from Tata Chemicals, Mithapur to Kutch border between India and Pakistan. It was piloted by Jahangir Engineer, former IAF pilot. Mehta was killed along with his wife, three members of his staff, one journalist and two crew members.

Qais Hussain wrote to her 46 years after the war, after his retirement but said that he still remembered it like it happened just yesterday. This incident had stayed on with him. The letter had stunned people especially those who claim to respect soldiers but advocate war. Here is an extract from the letter that revealed a soldier’s view about war and peace:

“Mrs Singh, I have chosen to go into this detail to tell you that it all happened in the line of duty and it was not governed by the concept that ‘everything is fair in love and war’, the way it has been portrayed by the Indian media due to lack of information. I did not play foul and went by the rules of business but the unfortunate loss of precious lives, no matter how it happens, hurts each human and I am no exception. I feel sorry for you, your family and the other seven families who lost their dearest ones. I feel greatly grieved that you lost your brother Noshir recently. If an opportunity ever arises that I could meet you face to face to condole the death of your father 46 years back I would grab it with both hands. I would highly appreciate if you please convey my feelings to the other members of your family, who were equally hurt by the untimely departure of Jungoo to the next world.”

Read the entire letter here

In an interview around this letter, Qais had also said that he supported peace initiatives between India and Pakistan. He wrote, “Aman ki Asha is a good initiative and closer people to people contact can certainly play a great role in bringing the two countries closer too. War is never a solution to anything. The days of Ghaznavis and Baburs are long gone and it is high time that both countries strive for a peaceful co-existence and work on this principle.” 

The daughter of the Indian Pilot had also replied to Pakistani Fighter Pilot in the same spirit

Some extracts from the letter:

“It took courage for you to write this. And for me, too, (I say this humbly) it takes the same to write back… Yes, this was the one incident which defined our lives henceforth. But in all the struggles that followed, we never, not for one moment, bore bitterness or hatred for the person who actually pulled the trigger and caused my father’s death.The fact that this all happened in the confusion of a tragic war was never lost to us. We are all pawns in this terrible game of War and Peace…”

Read the entire letter here

Pakistani Air Force Pilot Kaiser Tufail helped Indian Air Force Pilot Nachiketa escape Torture

During the Kargil Conflict in 1999,  Indian Air Force Pilot Nachiketa’s MiG 27 had crashed in POK near Skardu. The Pakistani soldiers captured him and had the intention to man-handle him. But Kaiser Tufail came out for his rescue and stopped his men from torturing the Indian Officer.

Years later Nachiketa told media that Tufail took him to his room and discussed about his likes and dislikes. Tufail discussed about the heart problem of his father and about his sisters marriage as well. Some vegetarian snacks were also arranged for him.

Capt (Dr) Mohinder Singh from Punjab revisits his memories of being stationed at Border Posts

In an interaction with Aaghaz-e-Dosti members, Retd Capt (Dr) Mohinder Singh shares his memories of being stationed at Borders posts. He writes,

“People of both the fighting countries take the things in a different manner i.e. winner and the loser whereas the soldiers are never  the enemy of each other and are always one with each other but carry out the order of their civilian bosses. This has been seen by the author of these lines in the capacity of a soldier at Hussainwala border of India-Pakistan in 1966 and Nathula at Indo-China border in 1964. The soldiers greet each other when their civilian folks are not in sight.”

India-Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace

ipsi-logo-2001At the end of 1999 (Kargil Conflict), Veteran soldiers from the Indian and Pakistani armed forces jointly started a peace initiative called “India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace”. The forum organised discussions wherein retired army officers of both countries would participate and discuss their views for Peace based on their experiences.

The first event of IPSI was a full day Seminar at United Services Institute New Delhi on 23 Jan 2001. The forum has been hosting delegations of Retd Soldiers and their families to visit each other’s country, conducted seminars and even met with present Army Generals of both countries.

In their annual peace initiative of 2013, Maj. Gen. (retd.) M.A. Naik appreciated that ex-servicemen had got the opportunity to talk about peace. He said,

“After spending 39 years in the Army where we planned on check-mating the other side, after retiring when I got this opportunity it felt very odd. But come to think of it, who can understand the value of peace better than those who have lost friends, relatives and colleagues to violence.”

During one such event in 2012, Lt Gen Akhtar from Pakistan had expressed his hope in the youth of India and Pakistan. He said,

“We are still very primitive people and now its time that both countries move forward. Our hopes lie with the younger generation. Now they have to pacify and cement relations”

In their annual peace initiatives, the ex-army men have been sharing their experiences and have been explicitly denouncing War as a solution. Lt Gen (Retd) Humayun Bangash from Pakistan said,

“War is not a solution. We have seen four wars, which is enough to teach us that there is no military solution to the problem. Increased people-to-people contact is what would end the hostility. When people interact with one another, there would be a greater chance of solving issues.”

It is also important to share that while Aaghaz-e-Dosti members are in contact with serving soldiers and people assigned with other roles in the Army, from both sides, they have been told that it will be difficult for them to speak up for Peace till they are serving. This, we feel, is another fact.

This article is only a beginning of this effort. A Soldier’s aim is to achieve peace and so is ours as Peace Activists. We do not think that we are against soldiers. Through this article, we also try to break this myth that all soldiers believe in War as a solution and consider the solder of the other side as an enemy. We want peace and speak against War, in favor of our soldiers. We speak against the waging of war in the name of a Soldier. Killing of Soldiers has to stop and this can happen only if we work to end the conflict, not to sustain it. Killing of Soldiers result from the political inefficiency and lack of political will to solve conflicts. The role of people in this glorification of war is also significant. If we respect our soldiers, we must speak against War. War is not inevitable, killing of innocent lives is never inevitable.


This article has been written by Aaghaz-e-Dosti team members. If you want to republish, mention “Aaghaz-e-Dosti” as the author and provide the original link. For queries, email at aaghazedosti@gmail.com