“We shared and laughed together at the criticism on our friendship”: Story of Dawood Abbasi (Pakistan) and Pratyush Pandey (India)
As part of our call to share about their friend(s) beyond the Indopak Border, Dawood Abbasi from Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan shared the story of his friendship with Pratyush Pandey of Lucknow, India:
I am from Rahim Yar Khan city in Punjab province of Pakistan. I was born in Paris but lived most my life in Pakistan. My friend Pratyush Pandey originates from Lucknow in India but currently resides in Hyderabad (India). We met in 2009 and studied BBA (3 years) in Paris School of Business. Today, I am considered like a family member by his family.
We celebrated all religious events together. He use to fast every Tuesday and to respect that I wouldn’t drink nor eat during all our time together. Well that’s all mutual respect. Multiple times he visited mosque and I visited Temple with him. We wholeheartedly respected each other traditions and norms which can be concluded by saying that “we taught and learned from each other”.
We both faced stereotypes in our own inner circle like his friends from India and my Pakistani friends would question my friendship and we use to tackle those with strong condemnation and later would laugh discussing those discussions.
During our 3 years tenure, India-Pakistan played few matches and every time we use to invite our friends and watch it all together or planning night outs. Our friendship did managed to bring our other Indian Pakistani friends closer as well. Together we made trip to Amsterdam, organized university events on Eiffel tower and roamed around Paris like it must be toured.
I think it’s all about the environment in our respective country. Indians and Pakistanis who have traveled abroad have no complain meeting and even working with each other. Middle East is the biggest example where millions of Indian and Pakistani mostly work, share apartments and even dine together. It seems so unfair when same people living in their own country criticize/blame the neighbor country for any on-going event. All Indians and Pakistanis must be given chance to travel and have some experience in order to actually understand the true meaning of humanity by staying humble as we share same culture, language and interests. I feel sorry for people who have spent whole life around their own countrymen, community and accordingly they developed the hatred engulfed through the environment, political system. Europe has seen world wars yet it’s countries managed to put all past behind by demolishing borders and united to develop economically, socially and culturally by allowing flow of people traveling to other countries even though most countries have different languages. Why can’t India and Pakistan follow Europe and set aside the past as both countries faces same issues of poverty, terrorism and development of rural areas. Both countries are wasting billions of dollars on military upgrades which seems useless since both countries are nuclear states. Ultimately it’s the civilian paying the real price at the hands of politicians who secretly maintain healthy relation (Modi-Nawaz Nepal meeting, Modi attending Nawaz’s granddaughter wedding) but on front tend to ignore dialogues which can least pave way for stability in both countries.
We as nations are the main culprits for the unstable neighbor relation allowing our selfish policy makers to keep stretching the border line. Relationship between both countries can only develop when each individual of both countries show some optimism and humbleness towards each other. Follow your own heart instead of news.
Do you have a friend(s) across the border, share your story with us. Send us your story along with photographs at email@example.com
They meet after 68 years, with help of a young NRI: Story of Wazir Memon (Pakistan) and Tikamdas Punjabi (India)
As part of our initiative to share stories of friendship beyond the Indopak Border, we share the story of Razin Karu, an NRI who helped unite two childhood friends Mr. Wazir Memon (Pakistan) and Mr. Tikamdas Punjabi (India) who were separated by partition.
“Sometimes, in our lives there occurs an event that changes our lives forever.” – Razin
Razin, an NRI from Gujarat, lives in the US. The event that changed his life is a story that would fill the hearts of hopefuls of Indo-Pak peace and friendship with warmth. Razin found a wonderful family friend in one of his neighbours, Mr. Wazir Memon, whom he fondly calls Wazir Chacha, and who is originally from Hyderabad in Sindh, Pakistan. Having the opportunity to befriend someone from across the border is rare in itself, but Razin stumbled upon a chance to be part of something more significant and special – something that would soon be added to the list of countless inspiring, touching stories involving the beautiful people of India and Pakistan.
Razin and Wazir ji, who would go for their Friday prayers together, were once having a conversation during which the latter spoke about his childhood friend, Tikamdas Punjabi, who migrated to India after the partition. He was reminiscing about this friend, whom he was very close to, wishing he would get to see him in person again. Little did he know that social media today is a place where miracles happen, and he was going to be a part of one.
One day, as Razin was browsing Facebook, and was about to leave a comment on a picture, he noticed another comment, the author of which bore the same name as Wazir Chacha’s childhood friend. And as luck would have it, when Razin wrote to him, he realized it was indeed the same Tikamdas Punjabi! They exchanged contact details and he wasted no time in telling Wazir ji about having found the whereabouts of his dear friend, and needless to say, he was overjoyed.
Tikamdas ji has now invited Wazir ji to visit him in India, and the latter has graciously accepted the invitation, in the hope that being an American citizen will allow him easier access into India! Razin is now excited about witnessing their reunion in person, perhaps as a sweet reward for having brought these two old friends in contact after 68 years!
This story has been compiled by Madhulika Narasimhan. If you have a story to share, send it at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends Beyond Borders concluded with interaction of fellows with academicians from US, India and Pakistan
Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s eight-week virtual peace building course, Friends Beyond Borders, concluded with interaction of fellows hailing from different parts of India and Pakistan with Dr. Meenakshi Chhabra (Lesley University, Cambridge, USA), Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi (South Asian University, India) and Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed (NUST, Pakistan).
Friends Beyond Borders is a virtual peace building course wherein an Indian and a Pakistani has been paired to be “Indo-Pak E-Pals”. Through this eight-week interactive course, the fellows are guided by a mentor who gives them weekly plans/activities based on a curriculum designed to familiarize them with the ‘other’, its culture, society, politics and the existence of divergent narratives. In addition to resources prepared and prescribed by Aaghaz-e-Dosti to develop their understanding, the fellows converse with each other on the given theme.
This was the first session of Friends Beyond Borders. The first session had 24 fellows from India and Pakistan. The fellows and also the mentors were from Delhi, Chattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Lucknow, Meerut, Kashmir, Vadodara, Mumbai and Pune in India and Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Karachi and Hyderabad in Pakistan. Their occupations included college students, research students, advocates, journalists, NGO workers, activists and businessmen.
In addition to the regular and theme-based conversations, the fellows also interacted with academicians through video conferencing. The academicians were Dr. Meenakshi Chhabra from Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, International Higher Education and Intercultural Relations, Lesley University (USA), Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi from Department of International Relations, South Asian University (India) and Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed from Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, NUST – National University of Sciences and Technology (Pakistan).
The academicians spoke on different topics that included the Indo-Pak relations and the influence of/on International and South Asian Politics, the role of education as a constraint in peace building, the narrative of partition in both countries, the role of religion extremism and the role of people. The sessions were interactive.
Dr. Dhananjay Tripathi from South Asian University spoke on the political relations between India and Pakistan and the influence of/on International and South Asian politics. He talked about the major conflicts between the two countries, the perspectives of both sides. He talked about the victims of conflict and the need for conflict resolution for the benefit of both countries. Peace is the prerequisite for development on both sides.
Muddasir Hasan, a fellow from J&K (India), talked about the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. While Kashmir is seen as a land of dispute, no-one is thinking about the inhabitants and how they are suffering immensely because of the conflict.
Salma Noureen, a fellow from KPK (Pakistan), had highlighted the issue of how peaceniks are often regarded as “anti-nationals” and “traitors”. Dr. Tripathi responded that it is the peaceniks who are patriots in real terms. By demanding peace and dialogue, they denounce conflict or the loss of the lives of their countrymen and the deterioration of economy.
Dr. Meenakshi Chhabra talked about “Education and Conflict: Possibilities of peace through Education”. She talked about the dominant narratives of partition existing on both sides. Partition remains under-studied in both countries. Both countries have developed a biased, one-sided and opposing perspective on partition. She talked about the damage that this has done on the mindset of people on both sides. She shared her findings from the research that she has undertaken on this topic wherein she had interviewed three generations of Pakistanis and explored how they viewed partition. She had shared an interesting observation that the people who have actually experienced partition and suffered do not have hatred for the ‘other’.
The fellows Fayaz Shaikh from Pune (India) and Muhammad Zuhaib Arain from Hyderabad (Pakistan) had also shared the narratives that they have studied. They talked about how the partition narrative still holds importance. The people still believe and shape their understanding of not only the ‘other’ country but the ‘other’ religious community on the basis of the narrative that they have been taught.
Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed spoke on “religious extremism and Indo-Pak conflict”. He spoke about how in both countries, communalism and religious extremism continues to be a major challenge. In both countries, any debate or thinking on religion is not acceptable. Religion continues to remain in the hands of those with a political agenda.
Richard Salafia, a fellow from Mumbai (India), regarded the bias in history writing to be one of the reasons for this.
Faisal Latif, a fellow from Islamabad (Pakistan), also talked about the impact of the stereotypes and bias sustained by education and popular media. There is a need for us to think critically about the ‘difference’ that is sought.
The first session of Friends Beyond Borders has been concluded. This initiative will be continue. The second session is expected to commence in the later part of this year.
Press Release issued by
Aliya Harir & Devika Mittal
Our friendship helped us to understand the insane conflict: Story of Ali (India) and Fozia (Pakistan)
As part of our call to share about their friend(s) beyond the Indopak Border, Ali Abbas from Hyderabad, India shared about his friend Fozia Akhtar from Islamabad, Pakistan:
“We had met during Global Power Shift conference in 2013 and became friends. It has been 2 years of our friendship now and we cherish the bond that we share. While friendship makes one a better person, our friendship has also helped us to understand the insane conflict. We feel that our friendship has sustained not just because of our common interests or the similarities that Indians and Pakistanis have but because it has enabled us to think about the conflict that exists. It has given us the platform to realize, to seek for ourselves the truth of the constructed borders. It has enabled us to realize the value and inspire us to work for peace, for humanity.
Our friendship has made us realize that we are not just similar in terms of our language, food, culture, basic challenges but also in our desire for peace and friendship. However, what we have in common is also a biased and TRP obsessed media. On both sides, the TRP-obsessed media tries to show the other nation as culprit, villain or traditional enemy even without waiting for confirmed reports or truth. But this does not deter us as we both realize that peace and friendship are the only sane way forward. We cannot progress without peace with our neighbor. It is, as Fozia rightly said once, the needs of the average people of both countries would only get fulfilled when they share love and not arms.”
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Friends Beyond Borders I: Aaghaz-e-Dosti facilitates 28 people to make friends beyond the border
With the aim to facilitate people-to-people communication and create a culture of mutual respect and understanding, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has launched a new initiative called Friends Beyond Borders to facilitate bonds of friendship and understanding between Indians and Pakistanis.
Friends Beyond Border is an eight-week virtual peace building course wherein an Indian and a Pakistani has been paired to be “Indo-Pak E-Pals”. Through this eight-week interactive course, the fellows or the Indo-Pak E-Pals are guided by a mentor who gives them weekly plans/activities based on a curriculum designed to familiarize them with the ‘other’, its culture, society, politics and the existence of divergent narratives. It aims to develop critical thinking, acceptance and respect for differences in order to celebrate similarities with a belief in peace and friendship as the sane way forward.
For the first session, Aaghaz-e-Dosti received a total of 80 applications from people of both countries. Applications came from different parts of India and Pakistan which included major as well as smaller cities and towns. The applicants varied in terms of their age and profession. The applicants also differ in terms of their motivation to join the course. While there were some for whom this would be the first attempt to reach out to people across the border, to know about the culture, many, Muhammad Zuhaib Arain from Hyderabad (Pakistan) being one of them applied because he carries an emotional bond as grandparents had migrated from Amritsar.
Preference was given to people who had no friends beyond the borders. The selected fellows are Akshay Mankar, Anjali Katoch, Ankush Vats, Aasma Pratap Singh, Aamir Bin Masood, Fayaz Shaikh, Guneet Singh, Jasmine Singh, Madhavi Bansal, Muddasir Hassan, Manish Harish Yadav, Preeti Kumari, Richard Joseph Salafia, Yashika Pahwa from India and Adil Ahmed Dayo, Awais Mumtaz, Ch Faisal Mehmood, Faisal Latif, Fatimah Shah, Imtiaz Akram, Madeeha Dogar, Mohammad Saad Farooqi, Mohammad Zuhaib Arain, Nihal Tabbussum, Rizwan Ali Shinwari, Sadaf Kashif, Salma Noureen, Zaman Bhatti from Pakistan.
The fellows come from Delhi, Chattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Vadodara, Mumbai and Pune in India and Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Karachi and Hyderabad in Pakistan. Their occupations include college students, research students, advocates, journalists, NGO workers, activists and businessmen.
The Indo-Pak E-Pals are guided by mentors. The mentors of the first session are Abdur Rauf Yousafzai, Imrana Qasim, Suraiya Islam and Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah from Pakistan and Devika Mittal, Ilma Iqbal, Madhuri Mittal, Madhavi Bansal, Madhulika Narasimhan, Sirish Agarwal and Shruti Achesh from India.
Every week is based on a specific theme. The fellows are given activities, points of discussion and resources. At the end of the week, they submit their report. The first five weeks had them to know about each other, learn about diversity in terms of religion, language, culture etc in India and Pakistan, role of the media, the challenges faced by both countries and a general introduction to peace and conflict resolution.
In the first week entitled “Getting to know each other”, the fellows were asked to know about each other, have conversations on daily life across the border and clear any stereotypes and misconceptions. They were also asked to write on a paper the name of their friend and his/her country and click a photo holding it.
After learning about the culture and diversity in India in second week, Sadaf Kashif from Lahore reflected in her report, “India and Pakistan are almost the same. Our culture, traditions, customs and school of thought are quite similar. The countries are located in Asia plus they face the same everyday problems and that has made their people think alike, which is very interesting.”
Yashika Pahwa from Delhi noted the same thing about Pakistan. She wrote, “Similar to India Pakistan is also a very diverse country, with many tribal groups residing in different parts of the city.” She and her friend Madeeha Dogar who is from Islamabad focused on exploring diversity in terms of cuisines which is their shared interest.
On the role of media, Akshay Mankar from Chattisgarh and Salma Noureen from KPK wrote, “If we ignore the TRP part, Indian Media is always highly suspicious of Pakistan, which we cannot altogether label as hoax, but the continuous dose “do not trust Pakistan” to the public is rather not good and a big hurdle in peace process as the nation is democratic and if people’s view are negative, their representatives too, cannot take any substantial, and daring step in order to bring peace or negotiate or make compromises for peace. Likewise, the Pakistani media is always in the illusion that Indian military strength is an offensive one and is developed by keeping Pakistan in view, which is not at all true. Though they are not as aggressive as the Indian media, but they misunderstand India in all possible ways. They repeat the rhetoric of India being an existential threat, questions upon Indian secularism and Indian democracy repeatedly and thus qualifies as the only media to question those things.”
In their joint report on who benefits from peace, Awais Mumtaz from Lahore and Preeti Kumari from India writes “The beneficiary of peace is the general public. Peace is beneficial for everybody, for the fuller development of all individuals. Peace ensures the value and protection of life which is the ultimate goal of humanity. So in this sense peace benefits the general public like us who never want to indulge in wars but promote the sense of brotherhood and serenity on both sides.”
The coming weeks will have them to discuss about the core issues of conflict and the victims of conflict.
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Story of Junaid (India) and Waqas (Pakistan): They were just a few feet away…
As part of our call to share about their friend(s) beyond the Indopak Border, Muhammad Waqas from Gujrat, Pakistan shared the story of his friendship with Junaid T Golandaz of Mumbai, India:
“About a year ago I happened to meet Junaid T Golandaz who is from Mumbai, India, through a weather forum – as we both are weather lovers.Through this forum our friendship developed and with the passage of time, it turned into a strong bond between us. It has been almost one year, and we have come to become each other’s best friend ever. However, and most importantly, we wanted to meet each other in any way and nature gave us a chance, since Junaid was coming on a trip to north India: Chandigarh-Dharamshala-Manali-Amritsar. His last stop was Amritsar where he was to attend the flag ceremony at the Wagah Border.
It was the 3rd of Janaury 2015, and we made a plan to at least see each other at the Wagah border, though it is really very difficult to find someone amongst hundreds of people across the border line. I went to Lahore and he came from Amritsar. It was a foggy day with nil sunshine, so the overall visibility was very low. Anyhow, the ceremony started and time was just running out. We were unable to find each other and there was no contact between us as mobile networks were jammed in the limited area of Wagah. When the ceremony ended and we were asked to leave the place, I suddenly saw Junaid on other side of the border who was also searching for me here and there frantically. Oh my God, I can’t explain the feelings of seeing your best friend so closely at that time. I somehow got his attention, and we finally saw each other. 🙂 We requested the soldiers at the border to let us meet but in vain. Anyhow, they allowed us to go close to the border gates, and we did. There was hardly a distance of seven-eight feet between us. It was really amazing to talk to and see my best friend so closely, but unfortunately we felt bound due to the line of the border 😦
And now we have planned to meet soon in another country- maybe Saudi or any other Gulf country. To sum it up, I found a friend who is extremely trustworthy; he has very good habits, which I have never found in anyone else to this day; learned many things from him; and I just pray for my friend to get each and every desire of his fulfilled. May he live a long, healthy and prosperous life. Ameen 🙂