From One Home to Another… A Pakistani’s Experience of India
by Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah
I was on cloud nine when I learnt that I had been selected for the Global Youth Peace Festival (GYPF) to be held in Chandigarh, India from September 28 to October 2, 2015. I was quite thrilled to be representing my country Pakistan at GYPF and working for peace between India and Pakistan. When I applied for a visa it was quite late, and I felt like I may not be able to visit India. As I waited anxiously, I still didn’t lose hope. My bags were packed, I was all set and my moral was high. While few of my friends congratulated me on my selection in GYPF, there were some who reacted strangely. I was asked questions like how and why I was visiting India, was it safe to visit etc. A few days later, we received the news about our visa application being accepted and here we were … all set to travel to India. When I visited the Indian Embassy in Islamabad with my friends Raj and Irfan, I was quite impressed with their cooperative behaviour. During our journey to India, we were joined by other friends from Lahore and Karachi. Upon reaching the Wagah border, we underwent the process of immigration and crossed the border on foot.
As I put my foot on Indian land, I felt as if I had just arrived at my home from another home (Pakistan). Upon our arrival, we were received by some GYPF members and then we travelled to Chandigarh along with them. Not for one moment, I had a feeling that I was in a different country. Only the names of people and the food we ate seemed a bit different. I had already started craving for non-vegetarian food. As we reached Chandigarh to be a part of GYPF, we were welcome with Dhol (traditional Indian musical instrument, typically used in weddings to welcome guests) and Bhangra (traditional dance form of the state of Punjab in India). GYPF gave us the opportunity to meet people from different countries. The event saw the presence of participants from about 30 countries. Over the years, GYPF has made its mark as an annual gathering of young people from all over the world who want to contribute positively to peace building. On the third day of GYPF, we went and visited a few villages around Chandigarh. What I observed that life there is much similar to the villages in Pakistan. During my stay in India, I made many Indian friends and found them to be very supportive.
From Chandigarh, we travelled to Delhi and it was quite an amazing journey. In Delhi, we stayed at Rajghat and visited many places such as Chandni Chowk and India Gate. We also enjoyed the unique services of Metro rail and Green buses. This was also an opportunity for me to meet and interact with many members from AED’s India team. I was fortunate to meet Devika, Madhuri and Ali, all of whom have inspired me to think differently and work for peace. I am equally grateful to Pramod ji, his family and the team of Yuvsatta which managed this program. Through our participation in the program, we have been able to convey to the world the message of peace supported by each and every Pakistani and also show the humane side of Pakistan to the world.
After Delhi, we went to Amritsar and crossed the Wagah border on foot to reach Pakistan. This trip to India will be etched forever in my memory and my heart.
This article has been edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere from Baroda (Gujarat, India)
Syed Zeeshan Ali Shah is from Chitral. He is doing software engineering from COMSATS, Islamabad. He is a member of Islamabad Chapter of Aaghaz-e- Dosti, an Indo-Pak Friendship Initiative.
A Pakistani’s visit to India during a war-frenzy subcontinent
by Urwah Sultana (Pakistan)
“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.
Being 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!
Throughout these seven days of my trip, I developed memories that are going to last forever. Some of my memories 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.