By ALI JEFFERY From KARACHI
Let's move beyond the discourse of 'You started it!,' 'No, you started it!'
I find myself increasingly upset at the abuse and hatred tossed from both sides of the border, with little rationale apart from the 69-year-old chips on our shoulders.
These chips have, over time, turned into boulders.
Yet, we have an affinity with India.
When Amitabh Bachchan is in the hospital, we pray for his good health.
When Ranbir Kapoor’s film is a hit, we’re prouder than Neetu and Rishi.
We can’t deny that no one sings about romance like Kishore and Rafi.
When we meet Indians abroad, they’re desi just like us.
Our history is their history. Our language is their language.
But it’s complex, our relation.
Like siblings, we know each other’s soft spots very well.
We retaliate to each other’s provocations like children, impulsive and emotional.
“You attacked us first in Uri!”
“You started it!”
“No, you started it!”
Like trust-fund babies, we feel entitled to demand things from others, yet have no idea how to cope and be responsible for our own actions.
Mistakes on either side
They don’t accept that Muslims and other minorities are sometimes attacked on the mere suspicion of eating beef.
And us? We turn a blind eye when Christians and Hindus are assaulted for eating before Iftar in Ramazan.
They’re occupying Kashmir, we say.
But we forget how we imposed ourselves on the Bengalis. Why did we force Bengalis to accept Urdu as their national language? We never talk about that, do we?
When I think of some of the best moments during the last ten years, most of them include my brothers and sisters from across the border: food, music, laughing, dancing, singing – a refusal to be separated by political boundaries.
I think we are wrong to look to the West for support. In the past, foreigners succeeded in making sure we saw each other as enemies. And boy did we fall for it.
We carry the burden of our past mistakes.
We should look to each other for support. What I find strange is our reluctance to acknowledge that we have each other.
What’s absurd is our blindness to the immense opportunities that lie before us if we work together and the desolation if we continue to be enemies.
What characterises our relation are the ever-changing roles we occupy.
To the world, we are siblings at loggerheads, each trying to get daddy’s attention so that he may buy us toys and increase our allowance.
At other times, we are like a divorced couple constantly bickering over who lost out in the settlement, unable to come to terms with the fact that it’s over.
It seems that the scars of our separation are still so ripe, so painful, that we only find solace in making sure that the other is just as hurt as we are. And so we put in our all our resources, our best efforts, to do exactly that.
When I read that India had carried out a surgical strike inside Pakistan, it felt like a personal setback. The Pakistani rhetoric has been no less disappointing. As we each take the moral high ground, point fingers, and beat the war drums, we forget how much is wrong with each of us.
I hope that very soon, these ugly scenes will disappear.
I, for one, don’t want to remember them.
I long for peace, not war.
What I will keep in my memory instead are the moments that embody love and respect for each other:
Prime ministers of both countries using cricket as a tool of diplomacy.
Indian players acknowledging that there is no better fast bowler than Wasim Akram.
Shoaib Malik marrying Sania Mirza.
Our tennis players teaming up at international tournaments, calling for us to stop war and start tennis.
What I am saying is that I want Uri to be history, confined to textbooks. I want Uri to be remembered as an event when the cold war between India and Pakistan did not turn into a hot war.
I hope it turns out to be no more than just another episode that provides for good banter with my Indian friends.
But what is not a mere episode is our past, our shared histories and the fact that we used to be one, before we were divided.
And what is comforting is that when I messaged one of my closest friends across the border, expressing concern over the megalomaniac tendencies of our governments, he responded: “it doesn’t matter what they do, you know I will always love you.”
I want to be optimistic and believe that our next generations will turn to our ancient scriptures and holy books. It won’t take them long to see that since time immemorial, there is only one message they have been trying to convey: the message of love.
I truly believe that it’s possible for love to triumph.