I recently started writing for an Indian satirical website called Faking News and my most recent article on it (in case you haven’t read it, you can do so here) happened to get quite a few comments apart from the usual laughing emojis and lols on social media. These comments were directed not at the subject of the article but on the country Pakistan and its people. I was extremely disgusted to say the least. An article written in jest without any intention to humiliate a nation or its people had induced a flurry of indecencies being generated in the comments.
Although I am not so naive to expect no such reactions, the intensity of the ones that came up was truly disturbing. I decided to check whether this was a one off situation or if this is what is so prevalent all over social media. Where else do I go but YouTube? After searching on YouTube for over 2 hours, and sifting through hundreds of anti India and anti Pakistan videos and focusing on the comments alone – I came to a conclusion. This hatred between individual citizens has spread too far.
I decided to write about (or against) it!!
If there is one emotion that can bind people of India is their inherent hatred (I know this is a strong word) for their neighbors in Pakistan. This is not the situation in India alone. The people of Pakistan are equally passionate about their contempt for their Indian counterparts as well. Let’s try and imagine why this is so,
- Political tensions over a piece of land known as Kashmir
- Military conflict across the border resulting in numerous lives lost on both sides every year.
- State sponsored terrorist activities by Pakistan.
- India’s loss to Pakistan in the Asia Cups in the last over.
- Pakistan’s losses to India in the Cricket World Cups.
- Sania Mirza’s marriage to Shohaib Mallik
- Ummm… I don’t know. Because India is stuck with Rahul Gandhi? Nope. Pakistan has Bilawal Bhutto to worry about.
I really don’t get it. After the 1st 3 reasons, my rationale has slipped into the domain of sports and then into the absurd. Is this enough for 1.4 billion people to be involved in a hate based relationship? Especially when their ethnic, rational and geographic backgrounds are the same? Do not forget that 68 years ago they were bound by the same national boundary and nationality. Will drawing lines on the map cause so much animosity among people that they refuse to acknowledge they are in all logical senses, the same?
When I was in India, I encountered plenty of Pakistan bashing whenever the topic came up with everything from terrorism to petrol prices being blamed on “those Pakistanis”. On conversation with my Pakistan friends I realized that they were also surrounded by conversations on how “those Hindustanis” were responsible for Pakistan’s poor state of affairs. Both parties have no reservations on enclosing each other’s population under one ill informed, supremely negative blanket. As if Western stereotypes for the sub continent were not enough.
What surprised me the most was that almost all these “activists” had not met a person of the neighboring country in real life!!!!!! As in, most Pakistanis ahve not met an Indian in real life and vice versa. All this negative emotions based on what they had read and seen through the media. I will not go on a rant and write about how the media has influenced the minds of the public or on how the whole scenario is a political conspiracy to win votes. I believe enough has been said and written on these lines.
I will however talk about my personal experience with the people of Pakistan.
Being an Indian citizen residing in Dubai for 19 years I have had a fair amount of time interacting with people of multiple nationalities and understanding that most of our pre conceived notions and stereotypes are extremely misplaced. I personally have plenty of Pakistani friends here and some of them are extremely close to my heart and I feel proud to call some of them my best friends. It is not just me, there are plenty of Indians and Pakistanis here who live together as roommates, eat together and work together without any issues. Hell… I even know 3 cross border couples.
You will easily find a Pakistani eating a masala dosa as well as an Indian tucking into a plate of nihari here. You trust your life with a Pakistani taxi driver and entrust your child’s education with an Indian teacher. A Pakistani banker will take care of your financials while an Indian electrician is ensuring your home is safe. There is not an iota of contempt for either because they are seen as people and not with the tag of their nationality or passport.
Conversations about Karachi eerily remind one of Mumbai while Delhi can easily be confused with Islamabad. There is even a whole new vocabulary that is a mix of Hindi and Urdu that is sprouting here in the Middle East. Movies are also a huge factor that has brought about more interactions with our brothers across the border. Shreya Ghosal is as admired in Pakistan as Atif Alsam is in India. Surprisingly the admiration we have for Wasim Akram as a bowler is complemented by the Pakistani respect for Rahul Dravid as a batsman.
Even when addressing ourselves we have terms like “Hamare India-Pakistan mein…” (In our India-Pakistan…); ironically the two countries are mentioned as one entity. The word “desi” is used here to refer to anyone from India and Pakistan. We had to move abroad to be one again!!!
So what is it that makes this difference?
Apart from the whole excuses – The media twists facts for TRP, The politicians have messed things up, People are ignorant etc. I believe that the issue is much different. Here or in any country abroad you are a little more open. You are more likely to open up and discard your set prejudices and accept people as they are without judging them on their nationality. Another factor may be that we are not so different looking so we interact more freely and don’t bother asking about it until we are well into a conversation. By then it’s not so important anymore.
This post might have gone on for too long… If you can take back one thing, let it be this.
Open up to your Pakistani and Indian counterparts. Make the effort to have an unbiased, non prejudiced conversation for 5 minutes. You will see that they are just like you. Once that is done, you will not feel the need to HATE each other. This one realization will then make hate speeches by politicians, TRP hungry media and terrorists who trade in fear understand that the days of “Hindustan Murdabad” and “Pakistan Hai Hai” are over.
We can and will coexist.