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Lahore and Surat met, talked, laughed and advocated a future that belongs to peace

To cross the border and to meet a neighbor country citizen is always a difficult task when it comes between Pakistan and India; but young students of two countries are paving the way of a peaceful future and exploring the similarities and differences, learning from each other, talking, laughing, enjoying with each other and exploring bond of friendships through classroom connect programs. ICT (Information, communication, technology) is the tool of connection and video conferencing is helping them to enable and to create their peaceful future through breaking stereotypes. 

When Aaghaz-e-dosti Surat chapter’s coordinator Sagar Papneja in India and Amman Pukar’s President Asifa Sheikh in Lahore, Pakistan informed their students a day before about the scheduled classroom connect program where students would get an opportunity to talk with their peers on other side, students became very enthusiastic to participate in the session. Though their initial idea about the other side was much built through the secondary sources of media and what people say, they all were much excited to talk and they never had done this before. The idea was to let students from both nations learn about culture of each other in order to promote peace and it was organised in spirit of World Cultural Day. This was 15th classroom connect program of Aaghaz-e-Dosti and around 40 students from both sides took part.

​The session began with students from Amman kids club Lahore gathered in Gulberg singing a song about friendship ‘Dosti aisa naata’ for their peers across border to which Indian students presented a famous bollywood song “ye dosti hum nahi todenge” (We will not break this friendship).

Safina from Lahore recited a beautiful poem and Atishi from Surat narrated a story. Students explored their subject leanings and fear as well and one Pakistani student told that she loves Maths to which Indian student expressed she was fond of English. Students Tanya, Vihaan & Keshav from Indian side spoke about their culture, festivals and traditions and Pakistani side students Urooj, Komal and Mehreen also spoke about diverse culture, festivals, traditional attires and languages of Pakistan. They talked about Ramzan, Holi, Eid, Diwali and Basant festivals.  

Himakshi from India recited “Aag jalni chahiye” a famous couplet of Dushyant Kumar. Guitar was played by Kapish to which students sang “Gulaabi Aankhein Jo Teri Dekhin” and it made the whole environment filled with much fun. The atmosphere was mesmerized when Mohsin Hashmi, one of the directors of Amman Pukar, recited a poem named “sweetheart” for students on Indian side. This was followed by Sahil from Indian side reciting his beautiful poem titled “Hamara desh ek classroom” and Sofia from Lahore singing a song in her melodious voice.

During the connect program coordinators also explored their ancestry and found that while Indian coordinator Sagar’s  forefathers lived in Layalpur (Faislabad) before partition, coincidentally Asifa’s grandparents belonged from Amritsar and Jalandhar. Another inspiring moment came when Mehreen from Pakistan mentioned about Akbar and Sheeshmehel in their town as Indian students had read about Akbar in history and they knew about the Indian Sheeshmehel.

After this, students were given time to directly interact with each other where they talked much about cricket, Bollywood, TV serials etc. Sahil (India) asked if the students from Pakistan also break glasses while playing street cricket and was glad with the affirmative answer and was introduced to Murtaza who had done it a lot of times. Karan (India) enquired about the street cricket rules and asked if they also have one tip one hand out. Sunny (Pakistan) replied that they also have similar crazy rules and questioned back to Indian students if they fly huge colored *Guddis*. All the Indian students together jumped on it if guddi means Patang (Kite) and then they all cheered and explained about Makar Sakranti and Kite flying festival. They then invited each other for the same. Rashmi asked them about their favorite actor and Komal replied with Mohseen Khan (he acts in Indian serials) and asked Indian students about their favourite actor to which Shilpa replied Fawad Khan. There were many such questions asked and answered.

After these conversations, Kapish presented vote of thanks and appreciated the energy and time by Pakistani students despite fasting for Ramzan. Both the sides waved good bye with a promise to talk again.

Coordinators and students on both sides expressed that this was a beautiful event to witness. An hour filled with emotions and cultural exchange to learn about each other, the similarities and the differences. Volunteers were overwhelmed as they got messages from students and their parents thanking for doing this and making it possible for students to experience something which they never had done before.

Aaghaz-e-Dosti conducts such classroom connect sessions to connect school students of Pakistan and India. This was 15th such session. For Amman Pukar, this was first such session. Asifa, President of Amman Pukar , Lahore expressed that though Amman Pukar works for promotion of peace on local level in Pakistan, this was first such session where they realized the potential efforts of peace through such video conferencing sessions. Sagar who was coordinator of Aaghaz-e-Dosti from Indian side told that considering both countries have young population, such sessions would definitely help young minds in exploring more about peace as with these sessions, students build their own opinions which are free from media bias. Founder of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, Ravi Nitesh said that we are conducting more such sessions in coming time and we are hopeful that future belongs to these young students who are advocating peace.

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On Global Dignity Day, Indian and Pakistani students bond over similarities, learn to celebrate difference

The 12th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect of Aaghaz-e-Dosti had connected students of Beaconhouse School System, Middle-I Gulshan branch, Karachi (Pakistan) and Gujarat Public School, Vadodara, Gujarat (India). The virtual interaction happened on the occasion of Global Dignity Day.

Ms Amber Sajid, teacher co-ordinator from Beaconhouse School (Karachi) stated that they chose this event for Global Dignity Day as the day is about instilling love and respect for everyone, irrespective of any difference. It is the day which seeks to build consciousness about one’s identity as a human above all other identities. They wanted to use this day to bridge the gap between Indians and Pakistanis by dispelling stereotypes, making the students aware that Indians and Pakistanis have many similarities and to also learn to respect any difference which is there. It is important that students learn to respect and celebrate difference, diversity. 

The discussion was focused around culture. Since it was the week of Diwali, a major festival in India, students from Pakistan asked about it. They inquired about the story behind Diwali, it’s importance and how it is celebrated. Ms Abhilasha Agarwal, head of Gujarat Public School, shared that the students were very curious to know about Diwali. They wanted to know how do we greet each other on Diwali. 

The discussion as also around other Indian festivals, dance forms and customs. The students from Gujarat told them at length about the Gujarati culture and several other cultures of India. Some of the students had worn traditional attires representing the different cultures in India. They also showed them a plate with different types of snacks from India. Some students had also presented Garba and Mohini Attam dance form of India. 

A Pakistani student expressed her interest to know about rangoli which she had seen in Indian series. The Indian students, in turn, asked about Sindh, its food and culture. 

The schools plan to have several such sessions. They find these sessions helpful to inculcate pride in their their own culture as well as respect for other cultures. 

This report has been made by Devika Mittal and Raza Khan. To contact us, email at

Indian and Pakistani Students showcase Dance Performances over Skype

Aaghaz-e-Dosti, a citizen diplomacy group, conducts peace education activities in schools and colleges in India and Pakistan. Among these peace education activities is the Indo-Pak Classroom Connect program which connects two classrooms through video conferencing and initiates an informal dialogue between the students. The session facilitates them to know each other, explore the everyday life, culture and to bond over the similarities and learn from the uniqueness. This session helps to dispel the popular stereotypes that restricts people to people contact and peacebuilding.

Indo-Pak classroom connect sessions have witnessed students bonding over similar food culture, singing songs together, reciting peace poems, celebrating birthday of a student by cutting a cake on both sides and the 9th Indo-Pak Classroom connect added another gem to this program.

In the 9th Indo-Pak Classroom connect that had connected students of Gujarat Public School (Vadodara, Gujarat, India) and SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls’ School (Karachi, Pakistan), students did dance performances for each other. The Karachi students showcased a Sindhi dance form and also danced on a popular folk song “Lathe ki Chadar”. The Gujarati students from India did a garba.

This report is based on inputs from Ms. Abhilasha Agrawal, Director of Gujarat Public School

You can see the video here:

If you want your school to participate in this “Indo-Pak Classroom Connect” program, please write to us at 

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.  

Bonding over Gujarati, Food and Music: 7th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect

In Aaghaz-e-Dosti’s 7th Indo-Pak Classroom Connect, two organisations – Pathshala NGO (Surat, Gujarat) and Street to School (Karachi) striving for quality education for underprivileged students connects and explores similarities in terms of culture, language and their mutual quest for a better education for a better future.

The 7th Indo-Pak Classroom connect session conducted on 18 February 2017 was co-ordinated by Devika Mittal and Madhulika Narasimhan from Aaghaz-e-Dosti India. The session was moderated by Adnan Kudiya from Street to School and Sagar Papneja from Pathshala NGO. The session connected students of Navnirman Vidyalaya (Surat, Gujarat) and Street to School Organisation.  The following report has been made from the inputs provided by the two organisations.

On the Indian side, reports Sagar Papneja, the session began by understanding what students from this side think about the neighbour country. He writes, “We were horrified when all of them used the word – Dushman (enemy). When asked about the source of the same they said, TV and movies. We asked them about the questions they would ask if they get to talk to the kids from the other side and we made a list which included – school life, culture, songs, cricket, and many other innocent questions. We shared with them a beautiful coincident. The moderator from here was I and my forefathers come from Layalpur which is now known as Faisalabad in Pakistan whereas coordinator from the other side – Adnan Kudiya his forefathers come from Gujarat, India.”

At 10:00 AM IST (9:30 AM PST), the schools were connected through video conferencing.

The session began with all the kids singing their national anthems. When AdnStreet to school indopak classroom connectan asked that who should start first, the Indian side replied that 14th August comes first and on this fun note, the session was initiated.

The students asked questions to their peers across the border related to their schooling experiences – the subjects they study, the amount of home work, the kind of punishments they get, the scope of bunking! They explored the mutual craze for the unofficial national sport of both countries – cricket and discussed their favourite players. They discussed about food, music and movies. From Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to Akshay kumar, the students were amazed to explore how similar they are. Both the sides sang songs like – ye dosti hum nahi chhodenge. The students were extremely enthusiastic to talk to each other and ask questions.

The teachers also got to interact with each other and realized that both the sides teach kids about Malala. The session ended with a promise to meet someday, share peace and work towards the betterment of our relations and society. One of the kids, on behalf of India, expressed the togetherness of nations in the time of grief as Sindh had bomb blasts a day before.

The language connect was also explored. While the classroom sessions are conducted in Hindi/Urdu, here the language explored was also gujarati. It was heartening to see the moderators converse in Gujarati with each other. Adnan thanked the Indian side in Gujarati, “Tamari Bohot Merhebani Che” which made the Indian side students beam with joy.

At the end of the session, when the Indian side asked the kids again what they think about Pakistan now. The answer was – dost (friend). They said that they never knew both the sides are so same. The food we eat, the way we celebrate, the subjects we study, the actors we love, the songs we sing, everything was same, said Sagar Papneja. He also shared the students asked to have more of these sessions in future.

Report made by Devika Mittal, based on inputs by Adnan Kudiya and Sagar Papneja.

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