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Archive for the ‘AmanKiAsha’ Category

Amrita Pritam- the Legend Lives On…


Amrita Pritam turns 100 yrs old on August 31, 2019.
She lives in her poetry and in her two love stories- Sahir Ludhianvi & Imroz.

These was the last words in the form of a couplet (shair) Sahir said to her as they parted:

Tum chali jaaogi, parchhaiyaan rah jaayengi,
Kuchh na kuchh Ishq ki raanaaiyaan rah jaayengi.
When you leave, your lovely silhouettes shall remain,
Memories and traces of love will refresh me time and again.

Amrita wrote an ode to her love for Imroz as her last parting poetry:

“Mayn tennu pher milangi….” Link to my blog on this poetry is here

Imroz, who’s love for Amrita Pritam remains unmatched, is alive at 91 years and still refers to her in present tense. After her passing away he started to write poetry and called his book: “Jashn Jaari Hai (The Celebration is on).

One of the verses he wrote for Amrita are:

Main jab khamosh hota hun
Aur khayal bhi khamosh hote hain
To ek halki halki sargoshi hoti hai
Uske ehsaas ki
Uske shayron ki…Whenever I am quiet,
And so are my thoughts silent,
Then happens very faint whisper(babble)
Of her being
Of her poetry

However my favourite of Amrita Pritam remains her power poetry “Aaj Akhan Waris Shah Nu” which deserves its own blog and will share one in days to come.

 

This was Google’s tribute to Amrita Pritam:Amrita

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Will India Pakistan Feed Their Hungry with War & Nuclear Weapons?


Poochhna hai ab mujhe yeh Hind-O-Pakistan sey,
Peit bhookon ka bharogey kya jang ke samaan sey?
(I now have to ask this from India and Pakistan, 
Will you feed your hungry with the weapons of war?).
~Kunwer Mahinder Singh Bedi Seher

India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations, have been embroilled in conflict over the territory of Kashmir since 1947. Several times in past 70+ years have they come very close to war.

However, their human life indices tell a very sordid story.

Global Hunger Index for past 13 years has been ranking countries based on four key indicators — undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. Zero is the best score and a reading above 100 is the worst.
You can see the detailed list here: https://www.globalhungerindex.org/results/.

Out of 119 countries ranked on global hunger index,  the countries ranks in South Asia region in 2019 were as:

  • Sri Lanka- 62
  • Nepal- 72
  • Bangladesh -86
  • India- 103 (was 100 in 2017 and 55 in 2014) (Score= 31.6)
  • Pakistan -106 (Score 32.6)

Together between these countries, there are over 1 billion children and youth whose lives are at stake because of warmongering, which is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Here are some pictures of children from India and Pakistan:

Hunger

Hunger 3

hunger 5

hunger 4

hunger 2

Indo-Pak Cross Border Weddings- an Advice to the Bride


 

Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.

indopakcake

“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

Sometimes calamities unite us more


First published here: http://amankiasha.com/detail_news.asp?id=1018

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent
death of the anonymous student from Delhi is not India’s issue alone and the grief is not for one case alone
By Ilmana Fasih

As thousands of people on both sides of the India Pakistan border mourned the death of the Delhi gang rape victim, someone commented on Aman ki Asha Facebook group: “Well, the Delhi rape proceeds from a common mindset. The negatives unite us just as well as the positives.”
“Sometimes, calamities unite us more,” came a response.

The conscience-shaking brutal rape and subsequent death of the anonymous student from Delhi (who is referred to by different names by various sections of the media) has made us rethink how common our pains are.

Beyond this tragic incident, looking through the e-newspapers from the subcontinent, there is hardly a day without some incident of rape being reported.Be it the gruesome gang-rape of a medical student at a bus stop in a megacity, or a six-year-old girl raped by local goons in a village, or a girl raped while partying with friends in the posh area of another city, or a teenager gang-raped and then asked to patch up by accepting money or marrying one of the rapists in a town. Can you guess which side of the border each case belongs to? The scenarios differ, cities differ, but the crime remains the same. The mindset stays identical. Age is no bar. Infancy upwards, one finds women and children of all age groups being subjected to rape and sexual abuse.

Unfortunately this is one situation where the human race seems to have achieved a “no barriers of age, color, creed or class”, the world over.

Hard to digest, but rapes are on a steep rise in the subcontinent.

In 2011, 568 rape cases were reported in Delhi, and 459 in 2009 (National Crime Reports Bureau) .The figures given by Delhi Police reveal that a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the capital.

Similarly in Pakistan, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, estimates that “every two hours a woman is raped in Pakistan and every eight hours a woman is subjected to gang-rape”.

The Additional Police Surgeon, quoted in a 2008 newspaper report, estimated that at least 100 rapes are committed in Karachi alone every 24 hours, although most are un-reported.

If these are the statistics of two megacities, one can fathom what would be the situation in the other smaller towns and villages. It is well known that the majority of the rapes in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries are never reported, and just a handful of the perpetrators are ever punished.
The tragedy is amplified when inane solutions are offered like: “Women should not go out late at night” or “Women going out late night should be accompanied by a male.” In the ‘Delhi gang rape’ case, the solution of an accompanying man clearly failed.

Women are advised not to wear western clothes, or more ridiculous “not to eat chow mein” or “not to carry mobile phones with cameras”. Some even advise women to not report the attack “if there are not enough witnesses”.

But none of this well-meaning advice takes into account why rapes occur. It is not because the woman was dressed so, or walked alone on the street late at night, or was attending a party with her friends or ate a certain kind of food. No. Rape occurs because some men want to rape. And why do ‘some’ men want to rape and not others? Rape is the culmination of a series of systematic experiences that a man is exposed to, from infancy to manhood- in which he is told, with or without so many words, that he is stronger, and a woman is not just weaker, but a commodity at his disposal. Rape is a way to display power and superiority.

So long as this mindset persists, legislation and punishment will never be enough of a deterrent. This tends to get overlooked in all the outrage at the gruesome details of the Delhi gang rape, that has led to demands for the severest of punishments, even public hanging for the perpetrators.
Without undermining that tragedy it is important to remind ourselves of the countless cases of rape and sexual harassment that are routine on both sides of the divide. Those who survive suffer psychological trauma, often far from the media limelight, mostly in silence.

Rape survivors are often pressured by the police or local goons to hush up the matter either, to accept money, or worse still, marry the rapist. Many commit suicide, or live with permanent scars. The rapists often roam scot free, posing a threat to the survivor who does not even dare to raise her head for justice.

Insisting on the death penalty in an isolated case that has shaken people cannot be a solution. Studies have shown that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, is a greater deterrent to crime.

We also need to look towards at preventing this crime rather than just push for a punishment after a case gets highlighted.

Foremost, each of us, irrespective of gender, which empathises with the Delhi student who was gang-raped, or any other faceless rape victim, needs to strive to ensure every woman in our sphere of influence feels secure and gets due respect. One of the signs of evolution in human beings is the neo cortex which enables us to restrain behaviour and train our minds. We need to use it to ensure that we don’t force anything upon any woman – or indeed anyone in a more vulnerable position.

Secondly, we need to empower girls with the right information and stop making rape a taboo issue for their ‘innocent’ minds. It is more important to teach a girl to be assertive than to try and ‘protect’ her. “Look up as you walk and stand up straight; pretending as though you have two big panthers on either side of you as you walk may sound silly, but it can help boost confidence,” suggests a self help site on rape prevention. “Attackers are more likely to go for those who they think cannot defend themselves.”

Given that over 90% of the perpetrators are known to the victims, girls (and boys) must be taught that if they feel uncomfortable with anyone’s touch – even if it is an uncle, a cousin or a friend – they must trust their gut and not let it continue. Thirdly, if we cannot change the mindset of some grown men, we can at least guide our sons, right from babyhood, to respect women and not consider them a commodity that is ‘available’. Last but certainly not the least, for those who cannot change their mindsets, a real need for certainty and not the severity of punishment to the rapist, as a mode of deterrence, is mandatory.

Shocked after the demise of the Delhi paramedical student, I tweeted: “Her sacrifice must no go in vain. Let us rise to make violence against women a history.” Knowing the scale of the menace, this may be wishful thinking, but we need to keep striving to make it a reality.

The writer is an Indian gynaecologist married to a Pakistani, a proud Indian Pakistani dreaming of a peaceful, healthy and prosperous South Asia.
ilmana_fasih@hotmail.com.

She tweets @zeemana

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A tribute to Delhi gang raped girl, inititially known as Amanat, Nirbhaya or Damini:

Goodbye Damini – A tribute to Nirbhaya

Being the ‘eighteenth camel’ for peace.


One advice by a Good Samaritan couple has come a long way for me, as an Indian Pakistani. Just a few days after being married, the couple of a similar kind advised, “Don’t quarrel over India or Pakistan; you will not be able to make any country a Heaven, but will make your own home a Hell.”

The exercise was easier said than done, but with few hard lessons, I ultimately decided that instead of acting an all patriotic for one side and holding a dagger against the other, I need to uphold objectivity, and a shield against  the emotional daggers hurled from both sides. And this is how I could actually see  how similar are both the people and their problems, and that both deserve to be seen with fairness. Hence to empathize with them of both became remained the only option. This is how I found my ‘eighteenth camel’, which to many of my friends is still an impossible option i.e. to love both India and Pakistan as much.

Just to narrate the context of ‘eighteenth camel’, the phrase is based on an Arab parable.

“There was an old Bedouin who had three sons, and all the treasure he had were17 camels. While dying he left a will to give one half of the camels to the oldest son, one third to the second and one-ninth to the third son. After his death, the sons began to quarrel, and since there was no way they could divide 17 camels into half, one third, or one ninth, none of them could have their share from the pie.
They approached a wise woman, and asked her to solve the problem. She was nonplussed too, and thought really hard. She sincerely wanted to solve the problem, even if it meant her sacrificing something from her side. So she decided to give one of her camels to them, so that it becomes `18, and now each one could easily get their share as the number was divisible by all –one half, one third and one ninth.
The sons were very excited and they began the mathematics. The one with half the share took nine camels, the one with a third took six, and the one with a ninth took his two.
To their surprise, they realized that after adding their shares, it was again 17 (9+6+2) and they were left with one camel. Since they were so content with their fair shares and at the generosity of the wise woman, that all of them with consensus decided to return the camel to her and that too with gratitude.”

So obvious from the story, even by finding my eighteenth camel, I did not lose anything.

From the India-Pakistan perspective, if we as common masses consider ourselves as the wise woman, and make an effort to find the eighteenth camel, we too would lose nothing, at all. Our love for our own country cannot in anyway be compromised. Giving a flicker of thought, that instead of harboring a venomous hate for the other side, we need think of them being as human as us– with same rogue elements, and vested interests trying to sabotage the peace process.

It would be unfair to generalize both sides as hate mongers, and I know firsthand that both aspire for peace as much.

But come a conflict, deliberate or accidental, between India and Pakistan, media takes the lead, with magniloquence of the ‘breaking news’. And the TV channels start to balderdash every few minutes, repeatedly beating sensationalism into the eardrums of the masses. And responding to its cries, the sleeping patriotic Bheemas in us suddenly wake up hungry, desperate to chew up the other side. Even before the facts come up, the mainstream media and the individuals on social media throw themselves into convulsions, frothing hatefully.

Haven’t we seen this circus both sides, all too often? Are we not yet fed up of this drama occurring day in and day out, sucking up our positive energies?

Can we as helpless masses be a solution? As above, I repeat, yes, we can be the ‘eighteenth camel’, being the unified voice of peace.

“Secret to peace is us, the humanity.” says an anthropologist Willaim Ury

We on the subcontinent are a billion and a half humanity, out of which two thirds are the youngsters who are or yet to embark on a journey of adulthood, and there lay decades of life ahead for them. Imagine if each day or each week, they simply indulge in barrage of hate waves either in sympathy for a Siachen, or Godra or Mumbai or even Zeeshan Abbasi? How will they be able to grow as productive individuals with such frequent doses of hatred?

Says poet EE Cummings “Hatred bounces.”

Aren’t we seeing it bouncing higher and higher with each incident?

Both sides have their own fair share of problems to wrestle with, and most of them are identical. Name it and we both have them– religious extremism, corruption, poverty, ill-health,  ignorance, women abuse, and the list goes on…

Should we not be aligning with each other, and be the unified voice of peace? And with numbers on our side, we can show to the vested interests that we want to live with dignity, with prosperity and with peace, and that our voice matters.

Being eighteenth camels for peace, do we lose anything?  No.

We all win, and no one loses.

happy_camel

India and Pakistan: Let’s recover our natural bond


All dreams can be turned into realities, all we need to do is to first break the barriers within, and take the first step forward. PHOTO: AFP

Published in Express Tribune on Aug 15, 2012 : http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/13383/india-and-pakistan-lets-recover-our-natural-bond/

Many stories in our lives, no matter how insignificant, leave us changed. I narrate my personal life experience, as a young child, which subconsciously broke my psychological barriers between India and Pakistan. This was long before I even decided to marry a Pakistani, and cross over to the other side.

Living in a rented house in New Delhi, India, we were faced with a senior Hindu couple as our landlords, who were old workers of a radical Hindu extremist organisation. Being a very strict vegetarian couple, even the normal Hindu families wouldn’t feel comfortable renting their upper floor.

My parents, being moderate Muslims, were respectful of their religious sentiments, and in dire need of a short term rental place. They thought they would be able to spend next six months as tenants there, without any problem. The owners had put restrictions on us for certain non-vegetarian food items which we were not allowed to cook in the kitchen. It did make us a little uncomfortable but out of respect and religious sentiments, we would strictly abide by their rules.

Auntie, as my parents called her, would come and check the kitchen often. But since my parents were complying to their demands and respecting their sentiments, they did not object. In fact, they let her reassure herself.

Once my father’s aunt in Lahore fell sick, and he wanted to see her before she passed away. Luckily the whole family got the visa too. My parents informed uncle and auntie that they were going for a visit to Pakistan. To be honest, we expected a negative reaction from them for their tenants were to leave on such short notice.

Surprisingly, a day later, the senior couple came upstairs to us and made an appeal. They said they lived in a house in Lahore before they migrated to India in 1947, as newlyweds, and if we could bring back a picture of that house to them, it would mean a great deal. They had the house address memorised by heart, even after almost 29 years of living away from it. They had a strong bond with Lahore and were holding on to memories of their youth spent there.

The address was (some number), Ram Gali, Lahore.

We went to visit their house and took photographs of it. The current residents were very hospitable and showed us all the different and curious things about the house they had left exactly as they were.

One such thing was the “Om” emblem installed at the head of the entrance of the house. We were surprised and found it immensely kind of the new residents to have left it there as the Sanskrit word ‘Om’ is of sacred importance to Hindus.

When we returned, the first thing my father did was he developed the photos, and present it as an album to our former landlords.

Upon receiving the album, the old couple broke down. Tears and simultaneous smiles shone on their faces as they touched and saw the pictures. My parents gave them details of the house, verbatim from the current residents in Lahore. They were particularly moved by the symbol “Om” still being in place, and the name of the street still being Ram Gali. Maybe, sitting across the border, they had the idea that Pakistan is extremely anti-Hinduism and all their belongings would have been destroyed or reconstructed by now.

Around the same time, my nani (maternal grandmother) had passed away, and mother would feel depressed. Auntie would then console her by saying,

You are my daughter; as it is I have none.

She had two sons, and they, too, were living away at that time. Her motherly emotions were not stymied by differences of faith. She was beginning to realise that our prejudices based on religion were unimportant and meaningless.

Auntie never came up to check for non-veg being cooked in the kitchen again, as she had before. But she did visit to give us guavas from her tree in the backyard, or chameli (jasmine) flowers from the garden, which my mother loved so much.

Our new house was under construction and uncle once offered,

Take me there, for I have experience in house building and can give you some suggestions.

After six months, we moved to our own house, but the relationship we had weaved out of love remained. It was no more a torn fabric of partition but a beautiful tapestry of friendship and love.

They did not visit much as they were very old, but whenever we visited their house, we received hugs with a warm reassurance,

“We are your nani (grandmother) and nana (grandfather),” they would say, helping us children cope with the absence of our own.

Now, I’m married to someone from across the border and I believe that my Indian nani and nana’s attitude played a major part in removing the demonised presumptions I had of people across the border. Perhaps this was what gave me the courage to even think that living with a man from Pakistan would not be such a bad idea after all.

Two decades on, witnessing the turbulent tides between India and Pakistan’s relations, and watching the feelings of misunderstanding existing between certain sections of people on both sides, I feel there is a dire need to break these psychological barriers. We may now be independent but we share with each other more than what a simple defined border can weaken. Our traditions, culture, attire, our liking of spicy food and chapattis and our love for our families are all mutual.

Thankfully, the distance-less, border-less social media is playing that role. It is bringing people across the border closer as friends. Even something as small as a Twitter trend about our friendship can make a difference in someone’s mindset and remove our biases.

This year, I’ve seen a group on Facebook, as the name implies, “Celebrate India, Pakistan Independence Days for Peace, August 14/15, 2012”.

Following a plea to “Pray for Peace between India and Pakistan” on December 18, 2011, initiated by a Toronto based Indian journalist, Swati Sharan, almost 200,000 people across the globe prayed for peace. Inspired from this success, the idea to form the above mentioned group and to celebrate independence days together for peace was conceived. Thus a Facebook event was created.

A number of peace groups from different parts of India, Pakistan and even Canada joined in. (They are all listed on the event page).

Growing in just a few months, now all these groups are set to celebrate the two independence days on ground as ‘peace days’, in their own unique ways. They all look forward to take it further each year, hoping that more groups will soon join in.

But we need to see more of this sentiment beyond the virtual world and into the real one.

Learning from these example, I again feel reassured that after all dreams can be turned into realities. All we need to do is to first break the barriers within, and take the first step forward. After all, we cannot deny the fact that we were once one. We stood united and even fought against the British together, hand in hand. And today on India’s Independence Day, despite the political and legal barricades, we have to learn to love each other. We already do so naturally; maybe we aren’t expressive enough or have yet to unlearn our biases and accept each other as brothers that we are, but it is undeniable that love does exist.

I pray for Pakistan and India to thrive far more than they already have. Where Pakistan will always be in my prayers, India will too. I wish for lasting peace to prevail between the two nations, the two neighbours, the two brothers.

Happy 65th birthday, India! Happy independence day.