Dear Pakistan, I know our history is complicated, but our friendship is greater. Love, India

Published: June 26, 2017
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Indian Muslims embrace after offering Eid al-Fitr prayers near the Jama Masjid Mosque in the old quarters of New Delhi on August 20, 2012. PHOTO: AFP

When I was a little girl, it was customary for our family to watch at least one new movie every month. Back then, movie titles were always displayed in English, Hindi and Urdu. Therefore, while English remained my primary language of communication, I ended up speaking both Hindi and Urdu fluently. I grew up in Mumbai which has a strong cosmopolitan culture. I grew up with friends and neighbours from different faiths, and was simultaneously introduced to Diwali and Eid, to Navratra and Ramazan, even as my friends got to know more about Christmas and Lent.

It was because of this multi-cultural experience that I got to learn so much about the Muslim culture. I learnt from the elderly Muslim ladies in our neighbourhood how charity was actually our duty. In fact, one of my most vivid childhood memories of Eid is watching elderly women from our neighbourhood go out and offer food and sweets to homeless people. They did not throw lavish iftar parties and give away left overs. Instead, they fed the homeless first. These dadis had humility and grace and they are the ones who taught me that if God has been kind to us and given us more than we need, we must share it with those less fortunate. All the people in my building would get together to celebrate both Eids and it was customary for all children to help with preparations. Some, like me, helped in the kitchen, while others did some baby-sitting to give the ladies a break. Of course, we were all rewarded with unlimited sherbet and Eidi in the form of fists full of candy.

But my relationship with my Muslim friends is deeper than the mere tokenism of celebrating each other’s festivals. It was from my classmate Rashida that I learnt the importance of standing by my friends. I was the class monitor and quite a tattle tale. But Rashida never told on her friends and always accepted full responsibility for all the mischief. She said there is no forgiveness for one who betrays friends.

My former colleague and video journalist Tabrez is one of the bravest men I know. As a news reporter, I often end up on assignments that are fit for Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne. But Tabrez would always support me and never miss capturing a visual even if it meant climbing a tree, scaling a high wall or hanging out of the window of a running Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) on the expressway.

It was my Muslim friends who told me about how cats had a special place in Islam. My friend Nausheen and I frequently cat sit for each other and we share a very special bond as crazy cat ladies. It is because of all these wonderful people that I know that Islam stands for peace, kindness and friendship.

Which is why it is heart breaking to see the widening gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims across the world. It is ridiculous to judge over a billion people for the actions of a few people. I hate how every time there is a terror attack, Muslims across the world are expected to condemn it publically. Oddly, nobody ever asked me to apologise for Andres Behring Breivik, Adam Lanza or Dylann Roof.

Today, India is home to 170 million Muslims and a majority of them live in relative peace. I can tell you for a fact that an overwhelming majority of Indians don’t hate Muslims. However, there does appear to be a sort of ‘othering’ of Muslims in some parts of India. There are ‘vegetarian only’ neighbourhoods that cause segregation and ghettoisation. Bovine politics has become increasingly ugly and bloody. Then there are ridiculous conspiracy theories about ‘Love Jihad’. Even Saif Ali Khan wasn’t spared the allegation when he married Kareena Kapoor.

As a journalist, it is my duty to demand justice for all Indians who have been wronged. So if I raise questions about what happened to Farooq Ahmad DarPehlu Khan and Mohammed Ikhlaq, I must not forget the cold-blooded murders of Neelkanth Ganjoo and Tika Lal Taploo. As an Indian, I believe in balance and fairness. I’m not blind to the anti-minority sentiment. There are fewer Christians than Muslims in India and I hate the words ‘Ghar Wapsi’. But I’m confident that India will overcome the efforts of extreme right-wing groups and will work towards retaining our diversity.

I know that if we stick together like we always have, we will get through this. It’s just like a Bollywood movie; there will be some chaos and dhishum dhishum, but in the end, ‘sab theek ho jata hai’ (everything will work out). After all, we are the land of Amar Akbar Anthony. And to my Pakistani readers, I’ll say this – I know our history is complicated, and our political ties need a lot of work. But all the same, I’m sending you good wishes and positive vibes in the spirit of Eid.

Eid Mubarak!

Deborah Grey

Deborah Grey

The writer is a freelance writer and journalist. She writes about feminism, sexuality and culture. She tweets @GreyFrost

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

  • vinsin

    Love/Romeo Jihad is real. Saif Ali Khan himself accepted about it for his first marriage. India is also land of partition. Muslims dont condemn terrorist attack and nobody expect them also. Those who do they practice Taquiyah. World was always divided between Muslims and Kafirs. 98.5% of Muslims voted for Pakistan in 1946 election not few. You forgot to mention about Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Dalits.

    Retaining diversity doesnt mean wiping out of non-Muslims. There are no right-wing groups in India. Who are minorities in India? Who are minorities in the world? Movies dont make a nation state. Looks like you are not bothered about non-Muslims and non-Christians. I am also hopeful that your dream of partition India again will not be successful.Recommend

  • skdking

    A juvenile and shallow article. Superficial writings like these do more harm then good.

    We have to analyse that why do many Muslims refuse to evolve and continue to think of the non Muslims as their enemies.Recommend

  • madhu

    all of us in india agree whole-heartedly with this beautiful article- indians and pakistanis are like twin-siblings separated by fate and destiny- it was not planned – it just happened … so if we can come together like east and west germany etc- then maybe it will be good for the whole sub-continentRecommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    Bravo. Loved the article, and could relate to some of the things. However, I’m afraid your optimism is short lived. Being an optimist myself, I really feel guilty not giving out the same vibes, but India is nosediving headlong into a bottomless abyss. Being Pakistani, I know very well what religious extremism is capable of. There is no end to it. It is a Hydra, a multi headed monster, which grows stronger and stronger with each slaying. India, look at us, and please, please, please learn from us.Recommend

  • Amar Deshpande

    Sorry but I am not hopeful about Pakistan. Because there is basic difference. Those Muslims who believed in secularism and tolerance of Hinduism, chose to stay back in India. I am fully aware that many Pakistanis understand their natal connection with India and its culture. But more of them hate it as well. Plus, we like or not, the control of Pakistan lies with its Army that chooses political regime. So I would be practical and say forget friendship with Pakistan unless citizens of Pakistan take control of their country and decide future course. And when I say this, I must not be perceived as one against Muslims. I do hope with Indian Muslims and choice they made.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Why Hindus became so anti Muslims after 90s? They were liberal for so long and then turned against Muslims. She must tell us why.Recommend

  • sulthan

    really its a great articleRecommend

  • hp kumar

    Never…. pakistan is a different country.i would like pakistan to forget india.girls like you who have dream of india pak togetherness ,must come out of slumber.your voice doesnot even count .pakistan is embracing chinese culture and soon going to be a colony og china.expect more venomous reactions from them in coming future.Recommend

  • Venky Kumar

    India is a civilisation, since beginning of time and shall continue. Let us hear a story from pakistani hindu and what she learns from muslims in pakistanRecommend

  • Ahmar

    Nice article. Never thought I’d agree with a feminist but here it is, without vilification of men somehow. Pleasantly surprised.

    Eid Mubarak and best wishes.Recommend

  • Apollo Tyana

    You are ignorant. Pakistanis are also Indians. We are politically divided by Indian politicians, Paki military, and religious fanatics on both sides. Just like there was East and West Germany, there is North and South Korea, there is China and Taiwan. India and Pakistan are one and the same. No matter how much you scream from the top of your roof, its not going to change 5000 years of the reality of our civilization. Pakistanis are our brothers and sisters whether we like it or not. So are our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters, and dare I say Tibetans also have more in common with India than with China.Recommend

  • Apollo Tyana

    Ahmed Bhai contrary to what you hear on the media, the reality may be more optimistic than you think. India is a very centrist pluralistic type of democracy. If the current situation continues, the electorate will spit the current government out no matter how hard they are working on developing our economy. Most Indians have an extreme dislike for religious fanaticism. If this government cannot check its extreme right wing, all its hard work on economic and social development related projects are going to be wasted as the Indian electorate will reject its extreme religious agenda.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    @Ahmed, Really? Every Pakistani claims his country is doing ‘EXCELLANT” economically (Asia’s best performing by most of them) and galloping towards progress. You are the fist one. And your concern on radicalistaion, forget it. If Hindus were radical, theyv wouldbhave thrownnout all minotities – Parsis, Jews, Jains, Budhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists, Tribal religions …. List is endless. Do not depend on Media (BOTH Indian and Pakistani are bad). Indian Muslims are safe in India. Otherwise all 180 Million of them would come to Pakistan to settle. After partion, Hindus did not demand Muslims to leave India, Unlike Pakistan.Recommend

  • peter pan

    Excellent article! Bravo for trying to bring some sense to a senseless sub-continent! I hope “sub theek ho jai ga” and the “dishum dishum” would stop.Recommend

  • peter pan

    civilizations have come and gone before.Recommend

  • Ahmed Ata Khan

    I try to be honest … at least I try to be. Part of your comment is self contradicting. Media is really, really bad. And you rely on media to think that Hindus were thrown out of Pakistan. They left a lot of property here, just like Muslims left theirs in India. Most of them entrusted their Muslim friends with their property. We, as Pakistanis are as good and as bad as you Indians. Take it or leave it. Our country is not doing well. I wish it would. Still, as Pakistanis we are a happy people. Indian Muslims are safe in India. I agree. They are Indians first and Muslims secondly, same as us Pakistanis. I said India WAS secular, and I wished Pakistan was too, but what is happening now is terrible. Wish you better luck with leaders. We didn’t have, but wish you do.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Yeah everybody in this world is an indian.i don’t believe you and I m not going to blame our politicians either.pakistanis have made their job so easy for them.while I wholeheartedly accept existence of pakistan as an independent country,at the same time abhore liberals in india to keep hindus of india in dilemma so that muslims of india donot feel heat as an outcome of it.There r some crude facts which need to be told to our people.pakistan is an overwhelming islamic country where hindu influence is declining.temples and other worship place place of hindus r destroyed everyday.they consider forceful conversion of hindu girls a legitimate act.for you it is not a big deal,but i can clearly see long term outcome of it.it can easily destroy a particular ethnicity.for the same reasons muslims in india r attacked since it will tear down hindu society in long term.they have no concept of economy and development.pakistanis have sold their land to china just to annoy india. Soon pla bases r coming at different locations within country.then we have one more front open to fight with. Pakistan does everything anti india.to say that india and pakistan r similar ,is shameful.though i vouch for india pakistan peace.pakistanis who r looking for peaceful relationship (i would not say friendly coz it won’t happen in near future ) should listen to people like me.y ou will cause more damage to already fragile conditions b/w two country.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    Another brainwashed Bollywood watching person. Just look at your war budget. Your deceit and cunning lies don’t fool us. And East Pakistan is not forgotten.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    Big lies, trying to disarm us. Muslims gave away most of their land to the Hindooos in hopes of peace. Big mistake. They live on Muslim blood and treasure. They will never allow us peace. Look what they did to East Pakistan and are doing in Kashmir.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    How can Pakistanis have a say when you Hindus of Modi’s Keyboard Brigade are always here allover the place here with your Indian lies and propaganda.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    You Indian girls love the Paks ;-)Recommend

  • Sane

    Whatever is written or spoken about harmony between Hindu and Muslims, nothing shall change. Hindus hate Muslims and consequently Muslims also hate Hindus in retaliation. This can be witnessed since freedom movement got accelerated in 1940s. Before British Raj, Muslims were rulers of India for 800 years and at that time Muslims let Hindus to co-exist. So much so that Mughal and Nawabs married with Hindu women and many Hindu women were in their harems.Recommend

  • Apollo Tyana

    you are very confused. You are confusing religion with ethnicity. You forget that India was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate and Mughals for nearly 700 years and the Hindu society was not lost it flourished Today there is Hindu and Muslim, tomorrow there will be another religion, but it doesn’t change the reality of our Indo-Aryan civilization. That’s who we are. If we think this though sensibly and logically and come together as who we are first ‘ethnically’, our lands (the subcontinent second) and religion third, only then we will make progress and rise again. This is where we need to learn from Europe. They understood that ‘race and ethnicity’ supercedes everything including religion and made great progress since the European renaissance. An Indo-Pak Union will automatically make this one of the most powerful and economically strong regions in the world almost overnight. But ofcourse this possibility is feared by everyone and nobody wants it. China, Europe, USA nobody once India and Pak to be united. And we are so silly that we continue to let others trample us and keep fighting with each other. Unless we change this attitude, the rest of the world will continue to laugh at us and exploit our race. With China entering Pakistan in a big way this possibility looks even more remote, but I am hopeful because after the darkest hour of the night comes the dawn.Recommend

  • skdking

    You speak words straight from the mouth of RSS, inadvertently. This is talk of Akhand Bharat and two long lost brothers.
    These statements increase the insecurity in the minds of Pakistani populace. Please accept the partition as fait accompli. Do not parrot the theme of brothers and sisters, for the sake of Pakistanis. I.e if you really love them.Recommend

  • skdking

    Very well said. Kudos for your wise words.Recommend

  • skdking

    Very well summarised.Recommend