During the post graduation flurry of goodbyes from a lot of close friends, one particular encounter really resonated with me. One of my good friends’ who is originally from India told me ‘Shazil I have spent 4 years here and one thing I learned is that there is no difference between Indians and Pakistanis’. When I got home later that night and started to reflect on the validity of that statement it quickly became apparent that indeed Pakistanis and Indians have more things in common than not. After all, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists among many faiths lived together for centuries in the sub-continent, and the result is the intermixing of many cultures. In Pakistani weddings a lot of Indians influences can be observed that did originate from religion but rather from just Muslims living alongside Hindus for so long.
That brings me to my next point. The similarities between Pakistanis and Indians make for an interesting case study on the effect of religion on personalities. Islam and Hinduism are two different religions in many respects, in one religion a cow is worshiped while in the other it is sacrificed on Eid every year in celebration. In contrast, Islam and Judaism have a lot more in common than Islam and Hinduism, yet it is the Muslim and Hindu that will get along better than the Muslim and Jew. This is not to say that Jews are at fault for this, but between Muslims and Hindus in the subcontinent what prevails in the similarity in language, culture, food and opinions.
After spends three years in the United States a lot of my best friends are Indian, and when we all get together it seems like all of us are on the same frequency, it doesn’t matter whether you are from Bombay or Lahore. The only thing really that drives a wedge in between us are Pakistan India cricket matches, and even then we all watch them side by side and manage to stay friends after the match! My overwhelmingly positive interactions with my friends from across the border have caused me to reanalyze Gandhi’s stance on India. It is well publicized that he was against the creation of Pakistan as he believed Muslims could peacefully coexist with all other factions of society in India. Perhaps there was more to his thinking than we were taught in Pak Studies in O’Levels. Currently there are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan, but of course I have no clue about their plight and how they are treated in India, and what the situation would have been with no Pakistan every being created. There are political problems that would have accompanied not having a separate country for Muslims, how would the representation in the parliament be decided, could Muslims trust or be trusted at a time of heightened tensions in 1947. Casting all that aside, Gandhi was right about something, Muslims, Hindus and all the rest can live together in peace and harmony. Whether the political environment would have allowed that harmony in 1947 is another question.
Politics continues to drive a wedge in between two nations with so much to offer to each other. Saturday’s Asia Cup cricket match was a very rare encounter in between cricket’s two most captivating sides to watch. Mistrust on the issues of the Bombay bombings on 26/11 continues to pull back diplomatic ties in between Pakistan and India, though there have been signs of improvement as of late. Most people in Pakistan don’t get the opportunity to interact with Indians like we at college have been blessed with. Cricket series give this opportunity to the increasingly skeptic public of both nations to meet and find out just exactly how much they are alike. To alleviate the growing tensions in the sub-continent, both governments need to endeavor to facilitate more interactions through sports, universities, intellectual competitions, etc. This may be an oversimplification of a long standing problem, but maybe all Pakistanis and Indians need to do to trust each is just sit down for a cup of chai and a round of rung.