By Mrutyuanjai Mishra
India and Pakistan are soon going to celebrate their 70th birthday. The addition of a zero, an invention of the Asian subcontinent, makes birthdays a bit more special not just in Asia but also in Europe. The parties are fancier, louder, and more guests are invited in many European countries if you turn 70 than when you turned 69. So this is a special year. And both our countries will catch the attention of the international media.
The Economist has already published an article titled, “Why India and Pakistan hate each other”, to mark our 70th birthday. The article is fair and does mention that even though the population of India is six times that of Pakistan and its economy eight times as big, it has shown restraint and not given in to provocations from Pakistan.
Well, that is how an elder brother behaves. On the way back from school, when the younger brother throws his school bag and throws a fit, the elder brother behaves responsibly, hoping that when they get home he will say sorry and they will be friends again.
After 70 years of partition, an unnecessary partition, the peoples of Pakistan and India have to realize that the option of loving each other is better than of hating each other. The partition was based on a bogus premise: religion was more important than language. So one Punjab was divided into two, one went to Pakistan and became the most powerful state in the country, and the other remained in India. One Bengal was divided into two. One, which was the industrial center, remained in India and the more agrarian part of Bengal became Pakistan and later Bangladesh.
How naïve were those who thought that religion was more important than language. A month ago, I was listening to a programme in which a human-rights activist based in UK, Salil Tripathi, was invited. He mentioned that he was writing a book on Gujaratis, and I cannot wait to read that book. While giving an introduction to what he wanted to write, he mentioned that Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was better at Gujarati than at Urdu. Even though Salil Tripathi did not mention that, my guess is that Mahatma Gandhi was better at Gujarati than at Hindi. So both the leaders of Pakistan and India at that time were versatile in Gujarati. But they failed to understand that they had a lot in common. Gandhi, of course, never wanted the partition, but those of us who remained in India and learned Gujarati could easily have had good conversations with Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
When I meet members of the Pakistani migrant community, I find an utter love for Hindi movies and the Hindi language. They are able to mention the names of Indian actors and films with far more accuracy than I can. If you consider the linguistic capacity of humorous shows produced in Karachi, then you feel ashamed as an Indian at the lack of proficiency in Hindi/Urdu of the modern Indian actors, who get roles for their looks and less for their mastery of language.
Why can´t we bring a few actors and actresses from Pakistan and let them bring some linguistic proficiency to our Indian films? After all, they are equally big consumers of the films as we are. After 70 years of partition, Pakistanis on an average are better at Hindi/Urdu than we could ever imagine. No they are not speaking Arabic despite the flow of billions of petrodollars from the Gulf. They remained loyal to their cultural heritage. This is what love is about. The cultural bonding between India and Pakistan is so strong that I laugh more at Pakistani prank shows and enjoy with equal pleasure when I hear Urdu poems and talk shows from Pakistan with impeccable mastery of Hindi and Urdu. Hindi and Urdu connect our hearts and English has become the de facto official language in both our countries. We mix English with Hindi and speak Hinglish the same way the Pakistanis speak their Urglish.
Tomorrow as millions will watch the quarterfinals of a girls´ football match, a girl from Afghanistan, Nadia Nadim, will represent Denmark against Austria. She is not only a football player in Denmark. She is a medical student, too, and speaks 7 languages fluently, including Hindi and Urdu. A girl who probably has never lived in Pakistan and India speaks Hindi and Urdu. Isn´t this a fantastic example of cultural commonality?
I hope that history begins from here for India and Pakistan. For the people of Indus the number 7 has tremendous significance. After 70 years, those of us who have an open heart have realized that what we have in common has far more significance than our differences. How can we enjoy it when an ordinary Pakistani who speaks, walks, talks and dances like us lives a painful life?
Can we really rejoice when their democracy is in the doldrums? We have the social media, a huge Indian and Pakistani diaspora have settled abroad and they are able to see the striking similarity that is in our humor and our cultural habits.
In the next 70 years, I think India and Pakistan will not only become friends but maybe close partners. In the coming 70 years, we should be more rigorous in demanding that religious mullahs, priests, pundits and instigators who cause communal riots should be asked to show restraint.
We should start by building one large university where both Hindi and Urdu could be the subject of scholarship, and students from both countries should be encouraged to study there. Let us build institutions of peace, let poetry and shayari be the foundation of our new friendship. The international community can help by insisting that the army stay in the barracks and stop hiding terrorists in their backyards. No prime minister, including Nawaz Sharif, has been allowed to finish their term in the entire history of Pakistan. This is a shame. They are toppled when they want to stretch out the hand of friendship.
It is time for the peoples of both countries to realize that the enmity between them is causing pain and poverty in both countries and the beneficiaries are the arms dealers and the Chinese. China has succeeded in keeping people divided in order to maximize their influence. It has succeeded in keeping India and Pakistan from being friends and North and South Korea, which are also the same people and have the same language, from becoming one.
India and Pakistan could become the true champions of peace in the coming years.
Times of India, August 3, 2017