Pakistan and India: I know you, you are just like me!

Published: March 31, 2011

A letter from 13-year-old Indian Muslim, Shadab to his friend in Pakistan.

As cricketers, celebrities and leaders attempt to build bridges of friendship between India and Pakistan, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan and the Indian nonprofit Routes2Roots have initiated Exchange for Change, a program that encourages dialogue between students across Pakistan and India.

Students have exchanged letters focusing on their lives and neighbourhoods, their respective country’s history and their families.

The students share their joy for pani puri and are curious to learn about each others’ cultures and the reasons for separation.

Here are a few excerpts:

A letter from India:

“My dear friend,

I am an ordinary girl like you from Mumbai, India. I study in the 6th standard in Shishuvan school. Now let me tell you something about myself. I love dancing and singing. Besides that I also like reading novels based on detectives and real-life stories. I also love eating ice cream, pizza and noodles.”

A letter from Pakistan:

“Dear Rajasee,

I’m very much interested in Indian music and shows like Indian Idol. I love watching the IPL and wait for it every year. I support the Deccan Chargers, what about you? I love eating pani puri and I have a strong feeling that pani puri in India is much better than in Pakistan.”

A letter from India:

“India is a very nice and cool place. I love my country as it is very green, beautiful.  Gandhi ji was the person who helped us get independence from the British. We got our independence on  August 15. We celebrate many festivals like Diwali, Holi, Navratri and Christmas.

I think I have given enough information on India to you. I would also like to know some things about your country, like— which festivals do you celebrate? When did you get your independence? Who helped your country to get their independence?”

A letter from Pakistan:

“Dear friend,

I’ve heard a lot about Mumbai. I loved when you wrote earlier that “Mumbai is a city where your life is like heaven.” I’ve seen Mumbai on the National Geographic channel but I have never been there.”

A letter from India:

“My favourite hobby is football and I play it. My drawing is good. I am a good dancer and I am also polite to others. I am Muslim and I also go to mosque with my father. I celebrate Eidul Azha. I also fast in the month of Ramazan. I want to know about your culture, how you live and much more. I want to know from which religion you are. I will wait for your letter…”

A letter from Pakistan:

“Dear friend,

My grandfather and grandmother migrated from India, they used to live in Hyderabad. People here in Pakistan are very friendly and helpful. We have read about India and its monuments but we are now learning about the separation of the countries.”

A letter from India:

My hobbies are listening music, reading magazines and story books. I am fond of shopping and going on trips. What are your hobbies? Do you like to do shopping or going on trips or picnics with family or friends? Do you know there are many beautiful monuments in India? Some of them are India Gate, Qutab Minar, Gateway of India and one of the seven wonders of the world that is Taj Mahal.”

A letter from Pakistan:

“Dear Drashti,

Our life styles in India and Pakistan are very different. We have amazing places to visit in Pakistan, but mostly we prefer to get together indoors, which happens once a week. You are right about our buses – they are full of interesting colours which add more life to the streets. The nihari, korma and biryani here in Pakistan are to die for and are unique. I am from Karachi and the most famous monumnents here is the Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum. Whenever I visit it, I feel like I am reliving history. Speaking of history, the first thing that comes to my mind is the history of our countries. We have already had lots of fights but now is the time to stop by accepting that we had to be separated.”

Visit  The Citizens Archive of Pakistan site to learn more .

exchange.change

Exchange For Change

The Citizens Archive and Routes 2 Roots connect 2,400 children from across India and Pakistan through letters, postcards and photographs.

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

  • Disco Molvi

    Whoa!! There are Muslims in India too? That should be Breaking news to Anti-Bharat crowd and Zaid Hamid Zombies.Recommend

  • Vivien

    This is such a good way to better the relations between these two countries.
    Whats the point in bickering about everything that’s happened in the past. In the future these children are going to be good friends who help each other Recommend

  • pl/sql

    That is really very …I hate to admit….cute.Recommend

  • Rajat

    Wait till these children grow up, for Pakistanis they will be exposed to Pakistan studies and the local moulvi, and for the Indians they will be exposed to the media and some hilarious films. In no time they will be up at each other’s throats.Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Rajat:
    Not so much gloom and cynicism! These children will grow up in the age of information revolution – the same revolution that set Tunisia and Egypt afire. Maulvis and media will not monopolize their worlds. They will question instead of gulping down what is handed to them for want of alternate sources. Don’t you think world is already a better place? Recommend

  • Ravi

    @G. Din:
    Maulvis and media will not monopolize their worlds. They will question instead of gulping down what is handed to them for want of alternate sources. Don’t you think world is already a better place?

    It depends on these upcoming generation’s perception because if they perceive secularism in true sense then it’s ok but if they perceive the other way round i can tell you my dear friend that there are hundreds of website devoted for bomb making from house hold stuff.

    But i pray for you to be correct………..
    god bless humans……..Recommend

  • Sarah Elahi

    @Rajat: These children are already exposed to Pakistan Studies, jingoistic literature etc! CAP deliberately chose to work with students in middle and high school and we’re happy to report that this project is forcing them to unlearn their hatred to discover common ground :)Recommend

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    great initiative. keep it up! Recommend

  • G. Din

    @Ravi:
    I understand your fears. But if Tunisia and Egypt can break free from decades of darkness in their lands, I have high hopes for future of Mankind. Thinking positive generates positive vibes!
    I pray with you!Recommend

  • Majeed

    There was a song by the Indian poet Pradeep, from the movie Nastik,
    that I saw/heard on YouTube recently. It seems so relevant even today.

    =====

    It stated the atmosphere during the partition so succinctly:
    Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat kya ho gayi bhagwaan, kitna badal gaya insaan
    Suraj na badla, chaand na badla, na badla re aasmaan, kitna badal gaya insaan
    Aaya samay bada bedhanga, aaj aadmi bana lafanga, kahin pe jhagda kahin pe danga …
    Chhal aur kapat ke hathon apna baich raha imaan, kitna badal gaya insaan
    Raam ke bhakt, Raheem ke bande, rachte aaj fareb ke fande
    Kitne ye makkar ye andhay, dekh liye inke bhi dhandhe
    Inhi ki kaali kartuto se huya yeh mulk masaan, kitna badal gaya insaan
    Jo hum aapas mein na jhagadte, bane huye kyun khel bigadte
    Kaahay lakhon ghar ye ujadte, kyun ye bachhe maa se bichhadte
    Foot foot kar kyun rotay pyaare bapu ke praan, kitna badal gaya insaan

    =====

    I think it is wonderful that these kids are getting the opportunity to do what our generations did not get. If we had, we would be actually be hanging out and starting businesses together, traveling to ancient sites together, debating history, discussing ideas, comparing notes on development initiatives, and a thousand other things our countries needs. Instead, all we can do is wait for the winds to repair themselves. Sometimes, I think, Rajat’s cynicism is not that misplaced … but then that is not the way forward. Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    Dear Radhika,

    I am a Pakistani but I can’t go to the mosque due to the fear of suicide attacks, my country’s president is known as the most corrupt man of Pakistan but he enjoys immunity and people of my country love to vote for him and his party.

    Pakistanis in general love democracy to the extend that they allow politicians to screw up this nation in the name of democracy, we believe this is the beauty of democracy that you commit any crime on its name and if caught you become “martyr of democracy” or Ghaazi otherwise.

    Pakistani leaders are known to be the most patriotic leaders on earth, I remember despite strong opposition of 170 million Pakistanis and the establishment backed media which was hell bent on spoiling my dear President’s vacation he successfully made a trip to France and UK.

    Radhika, Pakistan is a country where you can easily commit any crime and get away, you can violate the traffic signal here, stop your vehicle anywhere you want, take wrong U turns or whatever you want. Nobody can apprehend you.

    This is a friendly country for those who love to enjoy life. You can even become MNA in Pakistan by getting a fake Masters degree and that too before earning bachelors degree or high school certificate because we believe “A degree is a degree! Whether fake or genuine, it’s a degree!

    You know Radhika, In Pakistan, this has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped. Our former President Musharraf had revealed our women’s strategy to the world but I respect him for being so genuine and famous because according to him he had launched his Facebook page eight months ago; today he has more than 315000 fans. Can you believe it ?

    Honey, I would suggest you to please experience Pakistan at least once in a lifetime because this country offers unimaginable favors to the foreigners to attract tourism and foreign exchange.

    It gives us immense pleasure to introduce “Adventure Tours in Pakistan” for foreigners with the cooperation of ministries, judiciary and state itself to foster the needs of playing counter strike and performing stunts on streets.

    You can always shoot anybody in this country and see how this nation helps you escape to your native country.

    You are very welcome to explore and enjoy the spectacular and fascinating country which is well known for Target killing, drone attacks and suicide bombings.

    Best Regards,

    Tanzeel Ahmad Recommend

  • Tilsim

    @Majeed:

    Your post is beautiful. My sentiments too exactly. That is not to say that there are not deep seated issues between India and Pakistan but the vision that you set out and one which we all felt in Mohali. It is bigger, it’s the future.Recommend

  • Naveed

    @Tanzeel.

    you committed gross negligence on your part by not mentioning
    - the corrupt judges , lawyers, doctors, engineers, government servants, police, soldiers, students, teachers, sportsmen, politicians, religious leaders……..er…..is there a category i overlooked (my apologies)….Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel

    @Naveed
    My bad, I will include the detailed write up in my blog. Recommend

  • http://none vikash kumar

    first the letters are real.i don’t think that PAKISTANI did this noRecommend

  • ayesha khan

    @Tanzeel:
    Jaisi rooh wese frishte :PRecommend

  • Agonised Uncle

    Maybe Afridi should also start writing these letters across the border.
    It might help. ;)
    Sirf Tumhara,
    Agonised UncleRecommend

  • Hira

    Flop!Recommend

  • Hero

    @ Hira: Read posts by Majeed and Tilsim above.
    And get read of your nationalist blindspots … like fast.Recommend

  • Maria

    This little exchange between a child from India and Pakistan would not have so much common ground if it involved a native Pakistani and not a Pakistani whose family came from India. In the case of my kids and family, we don’t feel we have any more in common with India than any other nation in the world. Pakistan is the only home of our immediate family. People are people the world over but for us an Indian might just as well be a Sri Lankan or a Brazilian.Recommend

  • Hero

    @ Maria: Yup! You are so right! ‘We’ Pakistanis have so little in common with ‘them’ Indians.
    And the racists ‘Saudis’ love us to death … quite literally.
    We may or may not own up to our prejudices, but the facts will stay what they are.
    Get real. It is cheaper … and also, the only honest way to be. Recommend

  • Grace

    @Hero: Saudis and Arabs in general are semitic race peoples who don’t have much in common with Pakistanis except religion. Maybe there is some Arab blood mixed in Sind when Mohammed Bin Qasim arrived with the Arab army to take over Al Sind for the Muslim Empire but the rest of Pakistan may have more in common with Central Asia or other nations. But it’s true, the Muhajir community in Karachi has more in common with Indian peoples than native Pakistanis. For many native Pakistanis, India is as foreign as any other place outside of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hero

    @Grace: Good! Then the partition did not cause a direct emotional and social harm to a majority of the Pakistanis except the rather small percentage of people so poorly labelled as Mohajirs (refugees in their land of chosen stay?). Then why so much rancour and anger against the Indians in Pakistan’s institutions and elites? Something isn’t halal there, right? Am sure it is not the Mohajirs who are behind all this single pointed hatred against India. Most of them spent more energy in rebuilding their lives and putting together a solid commercial backbone for Pakistan than any other group. Karachi is not accidentally the commercial capital of Pakistan with Mohajirs as its largest ‘ethnic’ grouping. There is the cause, and there is the effect. Right there, in Karachi! What gives? As for this tripe about some Arab blood mixed in Sindh when Mohammed Bin Qasim arrived with the Arab army … a simple DNA analysis of most North Indian population, whether Hindu or Muslim, will show presence of Central Asian markers. And that too is a result of hundreds of thousands of people migrating over centuries into India proper. A population thousands of times larger than any marauding Arab army. So, ‘some Arab blood’ itself is a gross exaggeration. It is akin to the kind of ‘borrowed’ mantle that the Brown Sahibs of the Raj era felt they needed to have to set them apart from the dirty masses of Indians. They thought themselves as Goras. Behaved like them. Thought that the goras like them. But instead, all they got was sneers and a more cultivated form of condescension. Ditto for the Pakistani elite that believes it has Arab / Turkic blood in its veins and is therefore a ‘frontline’ state on the border of India’s Dar-ul-harb. Self delusion is a term that springs to mind. This programme for the children, goes to the heart of this kind of indoctrination. It questions, the mindset that gives credence to false knowledge. And for that alone, it is a noble effort. Recommend