Pakistan and India: I know you, you are just like me!

Children from India and Pakistan discuss their favourite foods, friends and desire for peace.

Exchange Change March 31, 2011
As cricketers, celebrities and leaders attempt to build bridges of friendship between India and Pakistan, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan and the Indian nonprofit Routes2Roots have initiated Exchange for Change, a program that encourages dialogue between students across Pakistan and India.

Students have exchanged letters focusing on their lives and neighbourhoods, their respective country’s history and their families.

The students share their joy for pani puri and are curious to learn about each others' cultures and the reasons for separation.

Here are a few excerpts:

A letter from India:

“My dear friend,

I am an ordinary girl like you from Mumbai, India. I study in the 6th standard in Shishuvan school. Now let me tell you something about myself. I love dancing and singing. Besides that I also like reading novels based on detectives and real-life stories. I also love eating ice cream, pizza and noodles.”

A letter from Pakistan:
“Dear Rajasee,

I'm very much interested in Indian music and shows like Indian Idol. I love watching the IPL and wait for it every year. I support the Deccan Chargers, what about you? I love eating pani puri and I have a strong feeling that pani puri in India is much better than in Pakistan.”

A letter from India:
“India is a very nice and cool place. I love my country as it is very green, beautiful.  Gandhi ji was the person who helped us get independence from the British. We got our independence on  August 15. We celebrate many festivals like Diwali, Holi, Navratri and Christmas.

I think I have given enough information on India to you. I would also like to know some things about your country, like— which festivals do you celebrate? When did you get your independence? Who helped your country to get their independence?”

A letter from Pakistan:
“Dear friend,

I've heard a lot about Mumbai. I loved when you wrote earlier that “Mumbai is a city where your life is like heaven." I've seen Mumbai on the National Geographic channel but I have never been there.”

A letter from India:
“My favourite hobby is football and I play it. My drawing is good. I am a good dancer and I am also polite to others. I am Muslim and I also go to mosque with my father. I celebrate Eidul Azha. I also fast in the month of Ramazan. I want to know about your culture, how you live and much more. I want to know from which religion you are. I will wait for your letter…”

A letter from Pakistan:
“Dear friend,

My grandfather and grandmother migrated from India, they used to live in Hyderabad. People here in Pakistan are very friendly and helpful. We have read about India and its monuments but we are now learning about the separation of the countries.”

A letter from India:
My hobbies are listening music, reading magazines and story books. I am fond of shopping and going on trips. What are your hobbies? Do you like to do shopping or going on trips or picnics with family or friends? Do you know there are many beautiful monuments in India? Some of them are India Gate, Qutab Minar, Gateway of India and one of the seven wonders of the world that is Taj Mahal.”

A letter from Pakistan:
“Dear Drashti,

Our life styles in India and Pakistan are very different. We have amazing places to visit in Pakistan, but mostly we prefer to get together indoors, which happens once a week. You are right about our buses - they are full of interesting colours which add more life to the streets. The nihari, korma and biryani here in Pakistan are to die for and are unique. I am from Karachi and the most famous monumnents here is the Quaid-e-Azam's mausoleum. Whenever I visit it, I feel like I am reliving history. Speaking of history, the first thing that comes to my mind is the history of our countries. We have already had lots of fights but now is the time to stop by accepting that we had to be separated.”

Visit  The Citizens Archive of Pakistan site to learn more .
Exchange Change The Citizens Archive and Routes 2 Roots connect 2,400 children from across India and Pakistan through letters, postcards and photographs.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Hero | 13 years ago | Reply @Grace: Good! Then the partition did not cause a direct emotional and social harm to a majority of the Pakistanis except the rather small percentage of people so poorly labelled as Mohajirs (refugees in their land of chosen stay?). Then why so much rancour and anger against the Indians in Pakistan's institutions and elites? Something isn't halal there, right? Am sure it is not the Mohajirs who are behind all this single pointed hatred against India. Most of them spent more energy in rebuilding their lives and putting together a solid commercial backbone for Pakistan than any other group. Karachi is not accidentally the commercial capital of Pakistan with Mohajirs as its largest 'ethnic' grouping. There is the cause, and there is the effect. Right there, in Karachi! What gives? As for this tripe about some Arab blood mixed in Sindh when Mohammed Bin Qasim arrived with the Arab army ... a simple DNA analysis of most North Indian population, whether Hindu or Muslim, will show presence of Central Asian markers. And that too is a result of hundreds of thousands of people migrating over centuries into India proper. A population thousands of times larger than any marauding Arab army. So, 'some Arab blood' itself is a gross exaggeration. It is akin to the kind of 'borrowed' mantle that the Brown Sahibs of the Raj era felt they needed to have to set them apart from the dirty masses of Indians. They thought themselves as Goras. Behaved like them. Thought that the goras like them. But instead, all they got was sneers and a more cultivated form of condescension. Ditto for the Pakistani elite that believes it has Arab / Turkic blood in its veins and is therefore a 'frontline' state on the border of India's Dar-ul-harb. Self delusion is a term that springs to mind. This programme for the children, goes to the heart of this kind of indoctrination. It questions, the mindset that gives credence to false knowledge. And for that alone, it is a noble effort.
Grace | 13 years ago | Reply @Hero: Saudis and Arabs in general are semitic race peoples who don't have much in common with Pakistanis except religion. Maybe there is some Arab blood mixed in Sind when Mohammed Bin Qasim arrived with the Arab army to take over Al Sind for the Muslim Empire but the rest of Pakistan may have more in common with Central Asia or other nations. But it's true, the Muhajir community in Karachi has more in common with Indian peoples than native Pakistanis. For many native Pakistanis, India is as foreign as any other place outside of Pakistan.
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