Google can envision Pakistan-India harmony in less than 4 minutes…can we?

Published: November 19, 2013

Google -- bringing countries together. PHOTO: Publicity

Regarding India-Pakistan relations, Sir Walter Scott in his poem “Lochinvar” captured it the best:

“Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide”

Replace the river Solway with Indus or Ganges and one gets an idea of the ebb and flow of India-Pakistan relations.

I first learnt of it through the most obvious of sources, Indian movies.

We were watching a cliché with the usual “dushman mulk sazish” storyline when came the long advertisements and movie reviews that would be a permanent feature of the video cassettes. This was sometime after the Babri Mosque incident and relations between the two states were crumbling.

Among the various real estate adverts and “geet malas” was a message from leading Indian actors who were promising to come to Pakistan soon for a peace performance. Among those were Amjad Khan, Aamir Khan, Sri Devi and various others. That in many ways represented the dichotomy of India-Pakistan relations, love and hate both meted out in portions and their adherents depending on which school of thought you belong to.

This is not to deny the real feelings of mutual belonging denizens on both sides.

In a previous article, I had written about the commonalities between the two countries, the hopes and desires people feel for enduring peace between India and Pakistan. These feelings have been beautifully captured in the latest Google advertisement that seeks to tune into them.

The three minute and a half minute video is titled “Reunion” and seeks to show how the search engine is good enough to traverse time, space and fraught political relations to bring two long-lost friends together. The ad is based on a series on poignant scenes and shows revolving around the friendship of two boys, Baldev and Yusuf, who were separated at partition.

It then goes on to explains how the two friends are brought together by their grandchildren who use Google searches to first track down the clues given by their grandfathers in reminiscing sessions. The granddaughter gets in touch with the grandson on the Pakistani side who then trawls Google to find out about visa procedures and eventually leads his grandfather to his Indian friend to end in an emotional reunion in India.

The video which aired a few days back went viral on social media and the internet in general. It has notched up more than two million hits on YouTube alone since it was posted on Thursday, November 14, and has thousands of Facebook shares, comments and likes.

People have been moved to tears and have posted emotive messages on Google’s official Facebook page about renewed hopes for improved relations between the two neighbours.

Among them is this comment by Akshaya Aradhya,

“Google brought nations together in three minutes and 32 seconds. The politicians of both countries couldn’t do this in 66 years.”

Pakistanis for Peace said,

“Wonderful campaign highlighting all the similarities and shared experiences instead of the differences”.

On another front, Facebook user Sher Khan posted,

“I am a Pakistani. And I love India. Peace.”

Twitter was filled with similar emotions:

The Google advertisement is but one of many TV and online campaigns that have tried to address the issue but have been unable to make real dents in the tough hide of Byzantium policies and realpolitik. The ad I saw in the Indian movie transmission was but the first of many I have seen over the years.

Recently there was another commercial by a Pakistani spices company which shows a senior actress reminiscing about her loved one across the border and how they would eat their favourite delicacies together. Inspired, she whips up some goodies and takes the Lahore-Delhi train to surprise her loved ones with her presence and delicious foods prepared by the spice brand.

Salman Ahmed and Shubha Mudgals’ duet “Ghoom Taana” was a massive hit and also dealt with the issue of a Pakistani male (Salman Ahmed) taking remembrances across to his ancestral home in Patiala, Punjab where he is heartily welcomed by the Indian family and even wins over the somewhat frosty granddaughter (Nandita Das) of the Indian gent.

The “Aman Ki Asha” peace campaign being conducted by two leading media groups of India and Pakistan has also produced several poignant ads and videos that promote peace and friendship between the two estranged neighbours. Among these are, “Radio Farmaaish”, “Restaurant and Passport”, “Delhi Haat”, “Indo-Pak Cricket”, and more.

“Radio Farmaasih” or “Radio Requests” shows how the border separates people who share a love for music.

The men on the Pakistani side get signals from an Indian radio station and unable to call the station themselves, use a series of actions to gesture to their friends across the border to indicate the song they want to request the Indian station to play.

Sadly, emotional campaigns and messages of love and peace have not been able to shake the powers-that-be.

The Google ad showed the Pakistani grandson simply search for the procedures and Lo and behold! He is next seen departing for India. Except, it is never as simple as that. As someone who has gone through the visa process, I can attest that it is notoriously difficult for applicants on both sides and getting progressively more arduous each year.

An American national can apply for a visa that is valid for up to ten years but Pakistanis have to go through acres of red tape and get an Indian national to send them a letter of sponsorship and many other official documents.

The applicant is only allowed to apply for selected cities, which in the new Indian topography means serious imbalances. For instance, Delhi has expanded to abut cities such as Ghaziabad. While some relatives live in Delhi others have moved to the latter which means I have to apply for both cities, even though it’s all one city for all practical purposes.

Even after all this the visa is still not guaranteed and if one does get it, it is usually a “police reporting” visa which means you have to file an “entry” and “exit” at each city you visit. Indian citizens who want to visit Pakistan don’t have it any easier.

Peace efforts are taken up by civil groups but their hopes are dashed soon in an all too predictable pattern. Besides the obvious pain felt by those who have families and loved ones on each side, the visa and travel restrictions are an actual deterrent in economic progress. Considering the size of active populations and academic, trade, tourism and labour opportunities, it makes eminent sense to have a more malleable visa regime.

Consider a market of almost a billion and a half people and you get a sense of the missed opportunities.

The founding fathers never envisioned the border to be as obdurate as it has become and one hopes that the civil society and governments of both countries do not falter in this regard and brings about a much needed change in India-Pakistan political policies and relations.

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (twitter.com/Sibtain_N)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • sarahjk404

    the google ad was just brilliant, I don’t think there’s anyone out there who would not be moved to tears no matter how many times one watches it!

    I wish this exact emotion could be constantly captured on all levels, we’re so much stronger as allies and friendsRecommend

  • Mujhan Sahab

    Beautiful Sibtain, its just sad that in PAkistan we cant even view the original youtube video although i can watch youtube through proxy but i cant share the video through my social netwrok feeds through youtube, and instead have to watch the video and share the video through dailymotion, etc.Recommend

  • Ali HMB

    Sibtain Naqvi i count the days till your latest blog is uploaded! Awesome work!Recommend

  • Ali Q London

    Coolly ferocious. . . . yet truly unsettling the visa problems you have mentioned.

    Your blog skillfully accomplishes its goal of depicting a modern day star crossed love affair between the people of Pakistan and India, i feel the love, how the citizens of Pakistan and India love each other and their only wish is if their respective governments could meet on a neutral plateau.

    Very well stated Naqvi! I salute your love,Recommend

  • Nazia ABN

    Naqvi . . . has a keen eye for dialogue, a sharp eye for the moral bankruptcy of modern life, and a vivid imagination. I have been following Mr. Sibtain Naqvi’s work since his inception on the literary circles and i must admit i have always ALWAYS been left thoroughly IMPRESSED!!

    Sibtain is an extremely traditional and very serious Anglo novelist. He is the model of literary filial piety, counting among Nathanael West and Joan Didion, we are truly proud having to read his work.Recommend

  • Akoo Canada

    WOW, i can safely say i have the same reactions everytime i have finished reading Mr. NAqvi’s blogs: Addictive. . . . Sublime. . . . Exquisite. . . . Stirringly executed. . . . A phantasmagoria of love and loss, a fusion of hallucination and wisdom between the love of Pakistan and India!Recommend

  • Talha Sabri

    The deftness with which Sibtain Naqvi handles an entertaining blog, as well as a sophisticated play between Pakistan and India, real selves and imagined selves, is impressive. “The critique of Sibtain’ blogs” is not only enjoyable and consuming, but insightful.Recommend

  • Manoo Millenium

    The google video is a true tear jerker, i loved it, very relatable and so innocent.

    WE need such social media messages like that to help bring the governments of India and Pakistan together.

    Our governments should understand that the people of Pakistan and India truly love one another. Even in the video the grandchildren of the two long lost friends were clearly sharing mutual attraction amongst each other and they had only corresponded a few times.

    PEACE for all and free LOVE!Recommend

  • mimi sur

    Answer is no and we shouldn’t .Recommend

  • Sebastian Nicollini

    Sibtain Naqvi is BACK!!! Love it! The slowest time of the month is waiting for the next Sibtain Naqvi ET blog to be posted! LOVE YOUR WORK!Recommend

  • Sebastian Nicollini

    Totally agree with you!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    My eyes moistened after watching the video. Afterwards, I had to punch a wall to feel manly again. YEAAHRRRRHHH!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    In other news, it is reported that the Chief Justice of Pakistan was moved to tears by the video. After viewing the moving clip he commented, “Nice try Google. I am still not lifting the YouTube ban.”Recommend

  • Waseem Sarwar

    i was actually nervous sharing that ad on my FB wall expecting a flood of comments from my friends claiming that i am a RAW or Geo agent but thankfully people got the message. The reality is that we just can’t separate our history despite trying very hard.Recommend

  • Tasneem

    Tasneem:
    this ad brought tears in my eyes. it was amazingly overwhelmingRecommend

  • just_someone

    jeeezzz, can you people please get over it? it was a company trying to get people to talk about them in the area where they want to establish new business.
    can we stop talking about things we Pakistanis cant control (i.e. there is no chance of peace until india reciprocates) and worry about fixing things we can control like problems inside our border.
    you people live in a fantasy land, come down to earth and be pragmatic. this aint no bollywood movie!Recommend

  • Spock

    Aman ki Asha ads are better.Recommend

  • Patriotic Pakistani

    Nope sorry, I cant set aside core issues and start getting friendly toward India just after watching some ad.Recommend

  • love from pakistan

    Zabardast :D No words to say.. only tears …Recommend

  • Sid

    Amazing video. Right message. When will we Indians and Pakistanis start implementing whats is subtly preached in this ad. How have we let the religion and land take more higher values than human life and humanity ? Shouldn’t we all correct our past ? Or continue debating about who was wronged ? Cheers!Recommend

  • Mount Lavinia

    Sibtain you are clearly contender for a long overdue humanitarian award, wonderful and heartwarming peace efforts, may we all hope your dream for peace and brotherhood bwtween India and Pakistan will come trueRecommend

  • Aliya Hanisharmeen

    My dream is to visit Shah Rukh Khan’s Mansion, “Mannat” in Bandra near Mumbai, to swim underwater with the turtles on the beautiful beaches of Goa and to spend a festive Diwali in Delhi. Oh Sibtain, please help me get a visa!!! your blog piece is in itself a true tear jerker, i’m proud to call myself unabashed fan of you work, great stuff!Recommend

  • INDIAN SHIA

    Sibtain another Good from you. U r the one I m waiting t read for.Recommend

  • i will only wear sherwanis

    Good stuff! I think people are genuinely touched by the content of Sibtain Naqvi’s blogs as by the fact that the literary cognoscenti were marketing this love letter to our neighbor as ” fact based literature” which it is so rightfully in comparison to because these days such blogs are the keys to diplomacy and will forever be embedded in history.

    If you repackaged Chuck Palahniuk’s ”Choke” as a novel, eviscerated it of its western references and replaced a Sub Continent prose with similar “desi” characters and then touted it as high literature, you’d get the same reaction of love today.Recommend

  • Shahwilayat

    Reading Sibtain Naqvi’s blogs is like witnessing a bravura sleight-of-hand feat. The transformation is so surprising that when i am finished reading the blog, it feels as if you’ve just seen a magician pull a dancing rabbit out of a top hat. A truly heart warming and magical experience!Recommend

  • Gp65

    That was a funny comment. Though to be fair to this suo moto CJ, banning YouTube was and continues to be an executive decision.Recommend

  • aaaa

    ” commonalities between the two countries”

    so what ? the UK and US have plenty in common it didnt stop them going war in 1776 or 1812 or again in 1920s code name war plan red, it didnt stop the Americans demanding the UK give up its gold standard currency or not leave the EU.

    Countries have national interest which have to be protected. If Spain and UK argue over gibraltor, how dare Pakistani Liberals surrender on Issue of Kashmir ?

    India is our primary geo strategic and economic rival, all of indian policies are aimed at weakening pakistan, you are very naive if you think the UN will rescue Pakistan in the event of war, just as the palestiniansRecommend

  • Satesh Kumar

    Came here for this..!! Video and the author and Google done an amazing job.Recommend

  • The Long Halloween

    Iv been researching this top notch
    blogger and what I have come to find is truly inspirational and impressive,
    this guy is the modern day Pakistani/Sub-continent Renaissance man!

    Not only is he a blogger but his work
    has been published in several newspapers, hes an art critic, an environmentalist,
    his work has been cited in books that have been bestsellers, and he has also
    compiled an Art centurion in Urdu that serves as the epitomical Urdu Coffee
    Table book!Recommend

  • Incorporated

    Just saw Sibtain a few weeks back at
    the International Conference on Karachi at the Arts council. I must say his
    expos’e on the good old days of freedom in Karachi blew everyone in the crowd,
    people were left ecstatic at his thesis paper.

    I certainly look forward for his latest blogs to be published, I count the days infact, a thorough treat to read his work!Recommend

  • Shakaib Jughead

    I must admit i get more excited and look forward to Sibtains Naqvis latest blog postings on ET much more than i look forward to a game of thrones, mad men episode!!

    ……….Now thats saying something!

    Its truly revolutional how this blogger has the natural flair for bringing two nations closer through love!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari
  • for universal love

    Sibtain Naqvi we definitely need people like you to help us understand how important Humanity is for our modern day sociopath world.

    Humanity and free love is most important above everything else and Bravo Sibtain Beta! You have provided both us Pakistanis and all fellow brothers and sisters of our Neighbour India with a hope that Humanity does still exist.

    May you always find success in your quest for bridging the gap between Pakistan and India, my support is always there for you and with this message I hope others will join your vision as wellRecommend

  • Omar

    lol google add was copied from a clip of local Pakistani production short film respect :pRecommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Anything which tugs at our heartstrings , sells . Its an ad gimmick.Recommend

  • abhi

    I really don’t understand why everybody is so emotional here. I am pretty sure nobody has really tried any such thing.Recommend

  • DNiwasi

    There is one and only 1 problem standing in the way of Pak-India ‘real’ friendship- that is…..Pak Military and zealots aggressive posturing, the like of which is not seen in India. and both these institutions are extremely powerful in Pakistan. They decide who will govern, what the foreign policy will be, what the budget will be, what the constitution will be (remember. Objectives resolution by Jamatii parties), then they even influence the lawyers, police and the judiciary on how certain cases pertaining to minorities and those unfortunate to get stuck with blasphemous label get treated. Why they even decide which politicians to hang! So the ball is in Pakistan’s hand..the day they can get rid of these twin troubles, the only remaining trouble will be to tackle ‘feudalism’ that has overtaken politics! And after that people of Pakistan can live happy lives and can travel unrestricted without visas to India. And for a change Hindus, Christians can travel to Pakistan’s beautiful remote areas without the fear of getting kidnapped. I understand Indian Muslims have no issue because they can merge with the crowds but anyone else will ‘shine’ like a diamond inside Pakstan!Recommend

  • gp65

    Why don’t you provide a url to substantiate your claim?Recommend