by Shayan Khan (Pakistan)
I don’t know how many of you have heard the saying in typical punjabi accent “Lor Lor Ai” (Lahore Lahore Hai – Nothing beats Lahore) about Lahore, Pakistan, the city I was born in and where I grew up. I, for one had never used this term. Lahore for me is home. Period. It’s a place where my close-knit divorced parents’ reside, my father always making sure he is a three minute drive away, as having a second family doesn’t change his love and need for being literally a phone call away from his daughters. The whole of my extended family, friends and most importantly my grandparents who are practically another set of loving parents, define what Lahore is for me.
Also, Lahore means good food and great hospitality. From the interior part of the city to the ever popular local dhabas (roadside food stalls commonly found in the sub-continent), we are the biggest foodies the world will ever get to see if only Travel Channel takes the chance that Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York took and visits us.
Then one day I got married and it led me to live in the U.S. for a year. I was living in an apartment in the downtown amidst Americans, so seeing somebody South Asian would make me want to jump outside the window or more realistically open it in time to say hello. They made me nostalgic. Any and every person who looked remotely Pakistani or Indian unconsciously put a smile on my face because they felt like home. Yes, we (India and Pakistan) got caught up between borders but like families and neighbors resolve their matters and live in friendship; we too need to live amicably. Because it’s getting too old, it’s childish to pick a fight for so long, no religion advocates it, and most importantly it involves lives. And start with empathy. Someone’s life is as significant or more than your child’s or your parent’s. This is what leaders in India and Pakistan should understand.
I have studied, researched and taught business and strategy. It talks about pretty words like ‘synergy’. In almost each class I attended, the Professor would come in and ask with an expression of possessing wisdom, “So class, what is synergy?” The sleepy head’s hand would quickly pop up and he’d spurt the words before anyone else could say ‘Sir, when the sum is greater than the whole’. Of course it is. By the end of the four year programme the class sings in cohesion when the question is repeated for the umpteenth time, “when-the-sum-is-greater-than-the-whole-(yes-we-know)”. But, hey, what is synergy again? I think we still need to get that right. India and Pakistan are neighbours. And as it is, it’s not as if we are progressing as a society. At least, sort what can be sorted. Like resolving issues that both population face – health, illiteracy, water crisis, corruption to name a few. The least that both countries can do is to let young people from both sides synergize, connect, meet and interact with each other. Ironically, in the year that I was in the U.S., I was presenting a research at the American Marketing Association Conference in Chicago being held on the 14th and 15th August, 2015. It was there that I got to meet so many of the renowned Indian Professors and getting to know them made me feel ecstatic. It was the first time I was presenting my work at an international platform like AMA and the confidence that my work received from all the Indian academicians there was motivating. Their supportive eye-contact, the more than the regular number of nods reassuring me through their body language and lastly the literal pat on my back with many congratulations that I received at the end of the conference made me feel blessed in an inexplicable way.
Later, we Pakistani and Indians celebrated our Independence days together by taking pictures and indulging our inquisitiveness about what it’s like on the other side of the border. Of course, we invited one another over to our places but our smiles knew that there was a higher probability we meet again in some other country at some other conference.
Since I don’t want to end this on a sad note, just something that always amused us all was how I went on greeting everyone with my crisp Good Mornings at 7 a.m. But the moment I saw someone South Asian I went onto say Aslam o Alaikum, Sorry Professor….Namaste…I mean, Good Morning! (Flustered). They’d all lovingly forgive me with an understanding of how our values have engraved in us to see someone elder of our ethnicity and offer a greeting. How our values and culture are so similar, and yet there is so much that keeps us apart.
It’s been a long time since the British Raj left…let’s celebrate our independence. Let’s celebrate it together without the enmity and hostility that we have harboured for so many decades. Lets revel in friendship, togetherness and all that brings us closer.
This article was edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Vadodara, India)
Shayan Khan is a researcher and lecturer of consumer behaviour, marketing and strategy with a love for food, travel and books. She is a member of the Lahore chapter of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and also an alumni of Global Youth Peace Festival, Yuvsatta. Shayan lives in Lahore, Pakistan.