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Archive for February, 2013

Hear the snowflakes speak…


Snow storm

Next time,
you are stranded in your car,
in a snow storm,
snail pacing thro the traffic,
Turn on a soft music and,
watch each snowflake closely,
so beautifully crafted,
yet none two identical,
in shape, size or character,
sailing down, leisurely,
in a silent chaos,
trying to speak to you.
And hitting the windscreen,
trying to reach you,
To whisper to you,
“How pure, soft, different are we.
But so short lived as individuals,
While so lasting when together.”

snowflakes2

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“Interdependence” Day and beyond


First published in Aman Ki Asha on Aug 1, 2012 : http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=854

As the dates approach, the excitement is increasing. The event is “Celebrate India, Pakistan Independence Days for Peace, Aug 14-15, 2012” — on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/LcHOeU.

As more people join the event page, those who joined earlier are getting to know each other better. They share common interests in music, culture, poetry. Some discuss pains and pleasures common to India and Pakistan. Many who met as strangers on the event page have added each other as Facebook friends and continue their exchanges elsewhere.

The idea is based on the “Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan Day” initiated by Swati Sharan in Toronto, asking Indians and Pakistanis to “Save the Date! Pray for 30 seconds in your own style for peace between India and Pakistan”, on December 18, 2011 (randomly picked). This led to some 200,000 souls around the world praying for this cause, not only via social media but at community centres and ashrams.

Inspired by the idea, a discussion began on twitter about celebrating Aug 14-15 together as “Interdependence Days”, instead of just wishing each other for Independence. “What is this celebration for if we can’t party together?” asked Shivam Vij, an IndoPak peace voice from Delhi, almost a year ago.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance, inspired by the prayers and their own Peace Parade in Lahore on August 14 last year which ended with wishing their friends in India at midnight on August 15, decided to take it further. The idea caught on and within a few days, many groups joined with more ideas and support.

Some have been going to Wagah border on Aug 14-15 for years, lighting candles to wish their neighbours for Independence Day. The Confederation of Voluntary Organisations (COVA) based in Hyderabad, Deccan has been organising events in different parts of India. This year they will celebrate Aug 14-15 with interfaith prayers and a video conference between youth across the border.

The Internet and Facebook allows those who are not physically able to join an event to participate virtually. And so, with leadership and support from Aman ki Asha, other groups and individuals have joined in this year.

Swati Sharan of Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan continues her quest through meditation and prayer. “I hope that wherever people are, they will take this power (of prayer) that they have in their hands and use it,” she says.

The Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA), with its team leader Shumail Zaidi in Karachi plans an iftar with orphans and physically challenged children, along with a fun packed evening of imaginary India and Pakistan teams playing tug of war, Antakshari, and other games, followed by a prayer.

“We at PYA want the youth bulge on both sides of the borders to understand the importance of sustainable peace based on common ground. Enough of wars and hatred; let’s move forward to make one-fifth of humanity an epitome of progress, prosperity and equality,” says Ali Abbas Zaidi who heads PYA. Believing that his generation, youth on both sides of the border, can be ‘game-changers’ towards a better South Asia, “together we can, and together we must,” he insists.

Another youth initiative, Romancing The Border, is working to build a movement to increase positive engagement between India and Pakistan. It includes innovative tools such as e-cards with positive messages. “We don’t know if RTB will make a difference, but it brought 80 of us together from around the globe. We cared. We will continue to do so. We all came for a peaceful South Asia,” says one message.

For Independence day this year, RTB is planning a “Google Hangout” between Indians and Pakistanis aiming to set a world record for the longest running virtual meet-up between conflict boundaries.
The Journal for Pakistan Medical Students plans a teleconferenced get-together for volunteer editors on both sides, to take forward for the idea of peace and cooperation in healthcare through medical research.

“There is no other option but peace between India and Pakistan, if we are to fight mutual enemies like malaria, cholera, dengue, hepatitis, maternal mortality…,” says Dr Anis Rehman, a JPMS co-founder.

The South Asian community in Canada, including eminent professors from the University of Toronto at Mississauga (UTM) and Mc Master University are celebrating Aug 14-15 with the launch of Pledge for Peace – a website to provide an ongoing, long-term platform for Indians and Pakistanis, aiming for “lasting peace and friendship between the two peoples”. The website will invite pledges from around the world to make a chain of peace and launch an online game for youth, Cricket for Peace, to be inaugurated jointly at UTM by the Hindu Students Council and PYA.

Other joint collaborations beyond Aug 14-15 are planned. Mumbai Marathon is organising the “Every Step Counts” run between Amristar and Lahore on November 9, 2012, to commemorate the birthday of Allama Mohammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet. Runners will start from Golden Temple, Amritsar and end at Iqbal’s tomb at Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, to commemorate the man “who gave us the beautiful song Sare Jahan Sey Acha,” says team leader Swaminathan Subramanyam. “Why do we do this? Because as we look for peace between our two countries, EVERY STEP COUNTS.”

Pakistan’s Pedal for Peace group are organising their Lahore to Amritsar bicycle tour to coincide with Every Step Counts’ November 9 event. “We cycle from one city to another in order to spread the message of peace, tolerance and to urge people to solve social issues hampering our growth” says Abdul Basit Khwaja of Pedal for Peace.

pedal4peace

Those who are unable to physically join an event are invited to dedicate some time to peace on Aug 14-15 this year, wherever they may be: light a candle, meditate, pray, fly a kite, cook a meal, make a piece of artwork or write a poem dedicated to peace between the two countries.

Let’s make peace more visible than conflict, this Independence Day. Happy India Pakistan Peace celebrations!

Dr Ilmana Fasih is an Indian gynaecologist and health activist married to a Pakistani. She blogs at Blind to Bounds https://thinkloud65.wordpress.com

A Forbidden Dream?


This is a story from my life and dreams,  in three short episodes.

Episode ONE: 

Location: Amritsar

Time: 8AM on a lazy Sunday.

Suddenly my husband declares, “I won’t eat boiled egg today for breakfast. Enough of calorie count.”

 “I can’t make Nihari in a few minutes. You should have told me yesterday, you want to eat something else.”


“Idea, lets go to Lahore for a Paaye-Nihari naashta at Gawaal Mandi. It’ll take us less than an hour by  car. Keep my passport also in your purse.”

Within 10 minutes we were on the PEACE ROAD  to Lahore, and just an hour later sitting in Gawal Mandi under the open skies in a mild cold breeze, as my husband was ordering two plates of Paaye Naan with doodh-patti chai.


gawal mandi

Episode TWO:

Location : Karachi
Time: 1:00 PM Lunch time in the office with friends.

“What are you wearing on the Annual Celebration for our Office.”

“Oh, I don’t have any decent dress to wear, I wish I could wear an Indian saree for a change.” (Yes every woman, almost never has a decent dress to wear.)

“Heyy, you know I saw on TV there is a bumper sale in Rana Sarees in Jodhpur, on bandhnis, leheriyas etc. Even I want to buy one.”

“Idea! Why don’t we plan, take train on Friday,  to Jodhpur and come back on Sunday.”

“Yes, brilliant idea. Rana Sarees is closed on Mondays only.”

Thursday evening, we pack our small trolley bags, and off we are, on Friday morning in the PEACE TRAIN from Karachi to Jodhpur on Khokrapaar-Munabao Railway track.

As the train winds through the golden sands of Thar Desert, we see Thari men and women in their colorful clothes busy with their daily work.  A group of women stop by, turn at us and wave back at our train.

I  look at the woman in a white and red saree,  and scream excitedly, “I will buy a saree of this design.”

In 5 hours we are in Jodhpur. With a shopping spree all Saturday, on Sunday morning, we set off with loaded bags, on the train back home.

Thar women

Episode THREE:

Location: Mississauga, ON , Canada.
Time: Early morning on a cold Saturday on a long weekend.


“Winters are depressing, Are we going to spend all three days sitting in the home in front of a fire place?”, my husband.

“No, we can go to America, to have an ice cream in -20 degrees C.”  I remark sarcastically.

“Hey, why ice cream, lets go to Buffalo,  for cheese cake?”

The idea hits home.  And in 5 minutes, we were on QEW Highway heading down South and East to Buffalo. In an hour we were at the border, and 8 minutes later, which included clearance from the US Homeland Security of our Pakistani Passports, we were on the PEACE BRIDGE, built over Niagara River, between Fort Erie ( Canada) and Buffalo ( USA).

In two hours after a lunch and an order of cheese cake, we ere driving back home to Canada.

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Do the stories sound wierd?

Or perhaps for some, “So what’s there to blog about them? Isn’t that normal. ”

Indeed, for many across the world, such adventures are normal. They travel cross countries   which even speak different languages( as in Europe), without much fuss,  just for a cup of coffee or even go to work across border.

As you may have guessed, only Episode THREE was a real one, while the Episodes ONE & TWO are  still   far fetched dreams.

The fact that Peace Bridge is a reality, it hurts even more to know that Peace Road or Peace Train have to still remain a dream, a far fetched one.

They do occasionally become  a reality, but  for the VVIPs  (only).  For instance, when  one fine weekend the Head of the State on one side  decides to go to the other side for a visit to a shrine, or for a cricket match. But it still remains a dream, and a forbidden one,  for the ordinary.

Even when the ordinary have relations, loved ones or friends on the other side,  all they are entitled to is to dream like the way I dreamt in episodes ONE and TWO.

I know of a true story of a friend, who planned a year in advance to be with her parents, on their Golden Jubilee Wedding Anniversary.  But the visa did not arrive on time.  And when it did arrive, 15 months later, her father was in the hospital, struggling for life.  She fortunately made it,  to see him, and then he passed away two days later in her arms. She felt fortunate to have met her father, and held him in his last minutes of his life.

This wasn’t  her dream, but a true story.

I cant even call myself that lucky. I reached two days after my father was buried. Now I dread for my ageing mother. May she live long, and every time I part with her, I wonder in what circumstances would the next meet be.  Would it be possible at all or not?

With months of excitement about the much publicized NEW VISA REGIME, I had anxiously awaited ( and tweeted) for the arrival  May 25, 2012,  when the document was expected to be signed.  But it was postponed  in the last minute, by a Minister from Pakistan for ‘some’ reason  I didn’t care to explore. For me it was a delay in realization of part of my dreams, for whatever reason-valid or lame.

{However, the divided families did not have much to rejoice from the new agreement, but I still thought this a great step in the right direction.}

Finally in December, when the Ministers met in New Delhi,  the agreement was sealed and signed.
Alas, with  no jinx, we apprehensively took a sigh of relief.

But then, as feared, the tensions at LOC and the beheading incident put the implementation on hold. Again, the ‘not so big’ dream which had come so close to realization had again receded afar.

The dream to cross the Indo Pak Border  is not for Nihari or for  a Saree.  We can get it on the  same side of the border too. They are simply the symbolic magnets of common love and heritage, that the ordinary people on both sides have not been able to ignore, despite years of deliberately created rifts and barriers between them.

Some have outrightly called my Nihari-Saree dream as cynical one, but when few millions ordinary citizens between the US-Canada or within the EU can see this as a reality, why cant the 1.4 billion( a seventh of humanity) across India and Pakistan?

When 3 wars, and countless hostilities have not resolved the differences  why can’t peace and  cooperation be given a real chance?

Like every sovereign nation, India and Pakistan too have the right to ensure, that no miscreants are let to cross the border, but why should the whole population of wellmeaning people be held hostage to the whims and fancies of  few vested interests?

Let the people  interact through easy Visa for the ordinary.  

Let prejudices whither and sanity & reasoning  prevail.

Please, let the people meet.

Please #MilneDo