Monday, June 21, 2010

The Blurred Border

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.


  1. hahaha, you see Shazil, we were Indian way before we were muslim. Us Pakistanis like to think that we are muslims and thus our cultures comes from the middle east, but the reality of the fact is that we are Indians, and our culture is Indian. The sooner we celebrate that fact the sooner our society will become more at ease.
    P.S I propose an IndoPak Rung Tournament :)

  2. Brilliant article......Well Said Burhan as well...

  3. I'm so happy Shazil finally wrote this. I've always told him, "Yaar, I've had to travel halfway around the world to realize that jo log bagal mein hai, they're no different than I and I am no different than them"
    We are no different because on a socio political level we are the same. Well atleast on a social level. Why? Simple. We have similar problems in terms of corruption, violence and well some plain ignorant people. On a political level, well there is definitely a bit to go for Pakistan but let's face it our politics is no church either. Two years ago cash for vote scandal, no money for relief but money for gardens and statues and more recently the Bhopal Gas verdict where people are looking to pass the buck on to the next 'bakra'.
    Simply put, extremists are ignorant people who keep saying Pakistanis are this and that and they keep blowing us up. Yaar 63 years ago the ones that you call 'violent Pakistanis' were Indian, living on Indian soil in harmony with the people you call 'innocent Indians'. So when an Indian extremist calls them violent and then misconstrues concepts of Jihad and religion to their own interpretation, think should think again they might be descendants from the sindh.
    As for Gandhi, I am not a Ganhdhi-ist. I think Gandhi was responsible for Pakistan. I mean they say what happens happens for the best. But explain to me how the pain of partition, the lives lost, the years of all the bullets and wars is good. Unfortunately in my opinion he laid down his arms very early. Now this might appear that I am not very Indian, but here's the deal I don't have to look up to Gandhi to be Indian. I have to believe in what my country does, has done and is capable of doing. I have to be its strongest advocate and its strongest critic, that's what makes me an Indian. I for example admire Jinnah's political practice. I'm not saying it because I'm typing on the blog published by my Pakistani friends. He was not exactly a saint but then again he was also a victim of circumstance. Have most Indian politicians forgotten that it was their ignorance and superiority complex to the muslims that drove Jinnah out. Agreed the Pakistan idea was an English ploy but at that time, the Indians did not give him much option. In my opinion that was the most unIndian thing done in our history, as a SECULAR country we drove someone out because he belonged to a so called minority. As the article points out there are almost more muslims in India then Pakistan.
    The muslim culture, rule has given India its spice (quite literally might I add as the food is fabulous, can't wait to come to Pakistan) and it has been an important chapter for my country.
    Good job guys. Great article

  4. First of all, based on the last census carried out in both India and Pakistan, the population of muslims in Pakistan in 2009 was 175,376,000 ( and for India in 2009 was 160.9 million (, so there are more muslims in Pakistan now than India.

    But regardless of this fact, excellent article Shazil, people outside UofM need to be made aware of these similarities which we were so fortunate to witness first hand.

    Having shared a room with both Pakistanis and Indians, I can attest to the fact that apart from religion and pretty much cricket allegiances, you can't tell the difference between a Pakistani muslim and an Indian hindu.

    The sooner people understand this concept, the better it will serve both the countries purpose; socially as well as economically.

    I think after some 60 odd years of enmity, the generation which holds this hostility so close to their hearts (some with good reason, mistakes were made on both sides) has passed on, leaving the door open for us to finally embrace the concept of brotherhood and let bygones be bygones.

  5. Censuses are hardly a representation of popoulation but the very fact that were wondering where there are more muslims shows that everyone can definitely learn to live together

  6. It disturbs that when Pakistanis think of India they think of Hindus. 20% of Population in India is non-Hindu. Why does everyone talk about how Muslims are treated in India? Look at the Jains,the Buddhist,Parsis;and look at the Sikhs, one among them is our PM! India != Hindus.

    Yes, there are lot of cultural inspirations from the Hindu Religion and that is one of the reasons 2 nation theory doesn't make any sense.