I am proudly Indian. I am proudly patriotic. I am also proud to claim that I don’t hate Pakistan.
Let me tell you why.
I grew up in United Arab Emirates – a country where Indians and Pakistanis are on the same boat: riding metros, clinging on to hard-earned jobs and longing for the motherland, yet enjoying the little moments in life. So the characteristic animosity is limited to cricket matches alone. You can hear us cheer aloud when our team fuels ahead in the game and louder when the opponents fall back. That’s about it.
Cut to an evening in 2015.
I vividly remember the time when Narendra Modi visited the UAE for the first time after becoming the prime minister of India. Excitement was in the air as members of the Indian diaspora flocked to the football stadium in Abu Dhabi to catch a glimpse of the newly-elected leader. My family and I, who live almost 180 km away from the stadium, reached there well before time to ensure that we didn’t miss out on anything. As we listened to his speech, we were fuelled by a new-found vigour. This was a time where I had yet to form political opinions.
After the programme ended late in the night, we started driving back home. However, at a certain point in our journey, the car came to a sudden halt and we found ourselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. My dad tried calling a few of his contacts in Abu Dhabi to try and get help, but nobody seemed to be able to do anything because we were so uncertain of our whereabouts.
It was then that a truck passed by. The driver, perhaps having spotted the confusion on our faces, stopped and offered to drop us at our doorstep in Ajman, which was still more than two hours away. He loaded our car on to his truck. My mom, sister and I huddled into the seat next to the driver while my dad sat in the car that had been loaded on to the truck.
The driver was Pakistani. He spoke to us the whole journey. He spoke of his village near Karachi and of his family. Somehow, his words mirrored our own village back in Kerala. He even remarked that his youngest sister looked like me. On our way, he stopped by at a cafeteria and offered to buy us some refreshments. He had sensed that we had barely eaten since late afternoon. He dropped us home in the wee hours of the morning and was prepared to leave without charging a penny. His generosity was truly heart-warming.
Just a few hours ago, we had been cheering for our prime minister when he proclaimed that India would defeat “evil” Pakistan. It was perhaps more than just a coincidence that someone from the same “evil” creed had brought us home out of sheer kindness.
When I was in school, our bus driver Sher Uncle was from Pakistan. Contrary to what his name suggests, he was very friendly and patient. We were in an all-girls’ school and to him, all of us were his daughters. I distinctly remember asking Sher Uncle if he knew Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani activist and the world’s youngest Nobel laureate – because he hailed from the Swat Valley (Malala’s home). He said, “Aamne saamne se nahin dekha (never saw her in person)”.
I have seen Pakistan through his eyes – it sounds much like India in more ways than one. He shattered the prejudice I held about all Pakistani men – that they dislike educated women. Sher Uncle constantly motivated all the girls in his bus and always wished them well. He continues to do so.
In India, Pakistan is used as a political trump card – the enemy across the border. The same is true for Pakistan. And while the issue of terror continues to play the biggest role in the relationship between the two neighbours, I have witnessed the borders melt away in the face of pure kindness and radical empathy.
In addition to money and good fortune, many members of the diaspora wish to bring home a simple yet powerful message – I am proud to be an Indian. I am proud to be patriotic. I am also proud to say that I don’t hate Pakistan.
Anagha is a an avid reader, a passionate speaker and a youngster seeking to build bridges across diverse cultures.