Panchee nadiya aur pawan ke jhonke, koi sarhad na inhen na roke;
Sarhad to insanono ke liye hai socho tumne aur main ne kya paya insaan ho ke.
(Bird, river and the gust of wind, no border inhibits them:
Borders are for people, think about what have you and I obtained by being born as humans?)
This couplet by Javed Akhtar from a Bollywood blockbuster entered through my ears but shook my soul. Wow ! Javed Akhtar knows what I feel each time when I go to the Indian consulate to ask for a visa for my family to visit my parents in New Delhi.
“In January 1990, a girl in her mid twenties in New Delhi ties a knot with a Pakistani man in his late twenties. Happily, but quite unsure how the things in her life would unfold after that. She wasn’t a poor small town girl from India who gets married to her well off cousin in Karachi on her parents decision. She was a typical city girl, who made it to a premier medical school in Delhi and was full of patriotic fervour for her homeland. Her parents did not consent for it until she approved of it herself. No good decisions are made on a swivel chair. It took her four painful and paranoid years to decide if this was the right decision. The young man across the border erased all his egos despite repeated refusals to convince her that they can make it.”
Twenty years on, now I can confidently say that we have really made it. The road of life together hasn’t been all tulips and roses, though. We had our share of bumps and puddles on the way, in addition to the usual hurdles any random couple faces. Both of us being passionately patriotic about our respective homelands, it wasn’t an easy task. The only thing which made us sail through was the erasing of psychological borders, knowing very well that humanity on both sides of the border had same needs and aspirations. We promised to uphold sanity in the heads above our shoulders and not indulge in spewing of patriotic venom against each other. Not that the outsiders spared us in peace. Any bitter comment on the annihilation of the other side by a “patriotic acquaintance” from either sides, left me more enraged than my husband.
At times I would even cry for being “punished“ for this decision, only to be comforted by my husband with a “mitti pao” attitude. This is an experience to be lived, to realise what goes within one’s heart when someone recklessly passes a casual snide remark about your homeland sitting on the other side of the border. With every news of bomb blast or riots in my city, amidst the indifference of the friends and relatives, but I would sit paranoid, glued to the TV wondering about the safety of my parents and sibs.
Even in the kindergarten my kids were hurled questions by their curious friends—if we had fights at home when there’s a cricket match between India and Pakistan ? For several years in the early childhood, my son would come home crying that his friends tease him saying, “Your mom is a traitor!” It did take him some years to get confident that his mom wasn’t a traitor.
Months and days passed by as usual. The only time I really, if ever, regretted my decision was when I had to queue up outside the visa window in the consulate of a country I called homeland. Miserable is an understatement of how I felt when the man behind the counter would frown at my kids as if I was taking terrorist recruits with me to my beloved city. And then on return to their homeland my kids and husband would be scrutinised by the airport security questioning about the frequency of their visits across the border.
One has to live it to feel it.
The upbringing in a home with parents teaching international politics- my sibs and I grew up with our eyes open to the world issues. We were trained to look beyond our boundaries and feel the empathy for the suffering of others be it in Palestine or Apartheid in South Africa or Gen Zia’s martial Law in Pakistan. I salute my parents for raising me and my sibs into “human “ beings with a wide horizon.
Many a times my critical comments on the Dawn blog or FaceBook, on political issues in Pakistan are retorted back at me attributing them to my “Indian roots”.
Yes I am proud of my roots but I also have a very patriotic husband and two passionate kids who say: they own Pakistan they love both the places.
A for me, I claim that I own both the places and love both too.
But more than that we know both sides have their good and bad. And don’t indulge in mutual blame games. We have erased the psychological borders at home and at the same time respect the sanctity of political borders. And we love this feeling.
What if the one and half billions across both the borders could erase the psychological borders one day?
Believe me it isn’t really impossible, for the humanity on both sides of the border is made of the same flesh n bones, has the same shade of blood and shares the same genetic pool.
I wonder if I will live to see that day!
27 August 2010.