Indo-Pak Travelogue: A New Lease of Life in India…
by Mahpara (Pakistan)
I am from Pakistan but I have a special affection towards India. Firstly, because my grand-parents belonged to India and second, because it is Indian doctors that gave me a new life. My name is Mahpara. I am student of M.Phil at University of the Punjab, Lahore. I am originally from Toba Tek Singh (Punjab, Pakistan). It is a city named after the Sikh saint Toba Tek Singh who lived here and served the poor and the needy. Both to me and my father, India and Pakistan generate similar feelings and emotions.
During my childhood, I remember my grand-father listening to some songs and becoming nostalgic about the shared culture between India and Pakistan. He told me that both in India and Pakistan whenever families celebrated a happy occasion, they sang to welcome prosperity in the household. My grand-father had the habit of recording these songs so that when my Indian cousins would visit Pakistan, they could also listen to them. He often invited all our relatives and other villagers to our house whenever we hosted my Indian cousins. The entire village felt exhilarated and showered their hospitality on the Indian guests.
My family always had this desire to visit India because we believe that the culture in India and Pakistan is very similar. In 2015, when my father suffered from some problems in his liver; the doctors advised us to go for a liver transplant. It was then that my father decided that he would visit India for the treatment. But the next big question that we faced was who would be the donor? I decided to step forward and donate a part of my liver to my father. It was indeed a very difficult time for me and my family.
We travelled to India via the Dosti bus (The bus of friendship) which we believe is a very good initiative for the people of India and Pakistan. On the day of travel, while we were worried and anxious about my father’s health, people in the bus cheered us up and were very cooperative. In Delhi, my father was treated by Dr. Subhash Gupta from the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital. Under his care, we felt relaxed and comfortable. Our belief in God and Dr. Gupta’s care encouraged my father as well. The transplant was done on 10th November, 2015 post which we stayed in Delhi for 2 months and 10 days. That was the happiest day for my family. Dr. Gupta’s entire team was extremely supportive and caring. I believe they have magic in their hands. They are angels; nothing less than God’s blessings to mankind. We visited Indian again in 2016 for the follow-up treatment and ended up staying there for more than a month.
People of both countries have stereotyped the ‘other’. However, during my visits to India, all kinds of stereotypes were shattered. All that I experienced in Delhi was amazing hospitality, great food, music and people who welcomed us with open arms. People were kind and would do everything to make us feel at home. For me, it was the first time that I was meeting a lot of my cousins. More so, it became a trip to remember for the whole life. In Delhi, I was able to visit the Dargah of Khwaja Nizamuddin, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Dilli Haat, Lajpat Nagar, India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhavan. I also had the chance to do some shopping at Connaught Place which is so similar to the M.M. Alam road in Lahore. I captured all the lovely moments that are so integral to my India visit. I also celebrated Diwali. Whenever anyone met us and came to know that we were from Pakistan, they would say, “Oh! You are from Pakistan! We would love to visit Lahore. We have heard that Lahore is very beautiful!”. Such are the memories of my India visit, that they have filled me with happiness and laughter. I have made friends that I will value for a lifetime. On the last day, when it was finally time to bid good-bye, I could not stop crying. At that time, an Indian doctor motivated me, “A girl is more powerful than a boy. No matter how difficult life is, always be grateful to God and keep smiling.”
Certainly, the common people of both nations love each other and have feelings of concern and affection for the ‘other’. During both the visits, all I received from Indians was love and care. They are delighted when they meet someone from Pakistan and are curious to learn about Pakistani culture and lifestyle. Why would the common man wish for war and hatred? We are all the same and we should not be fighting with one another. Instead, we should be fighting to achieve peace. What sets us apart is that we live on different sides but that should not come in the way of our love for each other. My wish is that someday I want to visit my grand-father’s village in India. My message to Indians and Pakistanis is: love not only your country, but also love the ‘other’. Pray and work for peace between India and Pakistan so that we can sow the seeds of happiness and laughter. Let smiles be infectious and cross borders. Because “Jaisa Desh hai tera, waisa Desh hai mera” (As is your country, so is mine; we are in fact so similar).
This article has been edited by Dr. Nidhi Shendurnikar Tere (Vadodara, Gujarat, India)
Mahpara is an M.Phil student (Gender Studies) at University of the Punjab, Lahore. She aims to be a changemaker, especially by challenging stereotypes regarding women. She is at the helm of a campaign promoting education for girls in Toba Tek Singh. She also volunteers for MASHAL, an organization that works towards developing alternatives for human empowerment by facilitating communication between communities.