Indo-Pak diaries: ‘Mumbai se aya mera dost’

Published: April 4, 2011
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(L-R) Indian journalists Amit Roy, Chinmayaee Manjunath, Shilpa Raina and Aman Khanna. PHOTOS: FILE

(L-R) Indian journalists Amit Roy, Chinmayaee Manjunath, Shilpa Raina and Aman Khanna. PHOTOS: FILE

LAHORE: 

The atmosphere was electrifying when this little coterie of journalists arrived from India at the apogee of the epic Indo-Pak match — a memory that we now wish to forever banish from the deepest recesses of our mind.

So sure we were of our win, that days prior to the match we had managed to intimidate the Indian fashion media in attendance, for whom, for the first few days since their arrival, fashion was all forgotten in the ebbing passion for cricket.

“You guys will win yaar,” said Shilpa Raina of the Indian news agency, IANS.

“We have great players, but there’s no cohesion like you guys have, you are a team,” she assured me repeatedly, stating that there really is no competition and that victory was ours. And while March 30 was a day we had jokingly decided not to meet, since we were enemies on the field, I took Raina all the way across to the inner city to marvel at the eclectic magnificence of Cuccoo’s Cafe, admist Lahore’s maddening traffic.

When all roads were leading to Mohali, we were creating our own inroads towards a deep friendship.

After several trips to Liberty Market and Anarkali, the conclusion was that “the shopping isn’t as great as Karachi,” spoke Raina candidly, but sighed that, “Lahore is a beautiful place to enjoy food and friends and just be at peace at oneself, and soak in the culture. It has a lot of the old city charm.”

In the quest for some culture but just when the match was about to begin, Elle India’s Chinmayaee Manjunath and her husband, Aman Khanna of the Times of India, were searching for an ‘auto’ to head out exploring a local rustic café; snapping away at trucks to capture Pakistan’s famed and unique truck art and immortalising scenes of peaceful coexistence of the Gurdwara and Badshahi Mosque in the inner city. “I love the truck art here,” spoke Manjunath. “It’s just fabulous! Being in Lahore on the day of the match makes me so aware of Lahori hospitality. We watched the match with two families and had a wonderful time. And at the end of it, people were congratulating us warmly, which was touching. Most of all, I think it reminded me of our shared heritage and history, and made me aware of how deep the ties between the two countries run” she said.

While it was a bitter pill to swallow, even for a non-cricket crazed fan like myself, the match was all the more exciting because those we were competing with were amongst us. As a gesture of peace and support for Pakistan, Amit Roy, a senior journalist who has worked prolifically and written for The Telegraph as well, wore a green tie every day to the fashion week. “I was quite upset actually that Pakistan lost,” he lamented. “It would have been a great victory for the country.” And if anyone thought Roy was just being a gracious guest, he dispelled the thought by stating something as profound and controversial as suggesting a breakdown of the borders! “I firmly believe that we should abolish the need for visas between the two countries,” stated Roy adding that art and cultural activities, such as the fashion week, should be encouraged between the countries to neutralise the negativity that the nations may feel towards each other. He was especially keen on generating a flow of young journalists across the border to experience, what he calls, “the astonishing beauty of Pakistan.”  As a journalist who has done immense work on Indo-Pak issues, Roy aptly identified fashion as a starting point towards building bridges.  “Fashion should be used as a tool of soft power by Pakistan,” said Roy perceptively. “Pakistan has great fabric and makes exquisite clothes; combining that with how beautiful Pakistani women are, makes it a great package that has great potential to completely over turn the stereotypes that people have of the country.”

Coming to Lahore for some like Khanna, was a homecoming of sorts — his family hails from this historic city. And with a keen sense of the camera, he was able to detect and capture how “India is such a part of people’s consciousness here. The whole cityscape is identical to that of Delhi or Mumbai, but although Delhi and Lahore share the Punjabi character, there is gentleness in the city that is amiss in the aggressiveness of Delhi,” Khanna pointed out. “The warmth and hospitality even from people we don’t know has really touched us as well as a unique ownership that everyone here has for the city of Lahore”, added Khanna’s wife who was bowled over by Saieen Zahoor’s performance at Peeru’s Cafe, arranged especially for the international media by the fashion council. “There was such divinity in his performance”, she spoke wistfully.

Hosting the PFDC Sunsilk fashion week in its home town, made it possible for this otherwise esoteric event, to have far reaching effects on cultural exchange and growth than just being a fashion and business event, a feat that the council could not have achieved in Karachi with its cosmopolitan character. In spite of the fact that the council in an effort to remain fair to both cities, has once again announced that it will return to the city by the sea for its second biannual round in November. It is perhaps wiser to stay rooted to the historic and cultural city of Lahore where they can deliver a more wholesome Pakistani experience to their foreign guests.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th,  2011.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 5, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated “So sure we were of our win” as “So sure we were of are win”.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Gita Patel
    Apr 4, 2011 - 11:55PM

    Inshallah, such peaceful exchanges will demonstrate that India and Pakistan have more in common and that the wars & feuds weakens BOTH countries. This is like any typical family feud that has reached its climax and the only way to solve the dicey situation in Pakistan is for the younger generation to learn that playing the blame game, harboring hostilities and being on a constant suspicious mode is unacceptable any more.
    Maybe this new renewal of hope and faith can drive away the anti-Muslim forces who have hijacked the masses to project that violence is the only solution. By enforcing conspiracy theories and putting the blame on America, Israel and the rest of the world so far they have managed to engage the minds of the people while on a daily basis they have carried out horrendous acts of violence to their own in the name of Islam.
    Are they differences about Kashmir and other neighbor policies, sure there are that need to be solved. But a dialogue is better than a bomb and more can be achieved for the citizens of both countries. Recommend

  • pl/sql
    Apr 5, 2011 - 3:09AM

    I would like you to include Afridi’s take on peace in this article too. Can you?Recommend

  • Omar Haq
    Apr 5, 2011 - 3:16AM

    I really hope we can get past our ghosts – I have no idea why Pakistanis and Indians dislike each other, especially as we all get along very well when working together in the US or any country for that matter. I have great friends in Delhi and in the US and it is heartbreaking to see and experience a ridiculously lengthy visa process. The irony is that I am the only generation out of 7 to be born in Pakistan, the rest are all Indians including my father. It makes no sense whatsoever to hate each other – it makes no business and cultural sense whatsoever. Business and culture is 90% of the game – the rest is just nuance. I agree with the journalist who believes visas between the two countries should be removed – but the problem is the damn terrorists that have taken a foothold in Pakistan. This scourge has to be abolished before such a peace can be achieved. Both countries would be much much stronger if there was peace between the two. The truth is Pakistan needs help – education, land reform, tax reform, health care, agriculture etc. India can play a vital part in delivering that help, ensuring our growth and in return making a secure future for itself and the larger region. We don’t need vitriolic rhetoric – we need to aggressively manage the extremists in both countries so that a few don’t ruin it for the masses. I look forward to the day that I can catch a quick flight from Lahore to Delhi, to visit friends over the weekend or meet a client, and vice verca. Can you imagine the economic boom once boarders open up – both countries would absolutely sky rocket (certainly Pakistan would gain more in terms of percentage given that it would be starting much farther behind). I’m excited about the possibilities – I hope our stupid politicians capitalize on this opportunity and not ruin it for the rest of us.Recommend

  • Ven
    Apr 5, 2011 - 7:08AM

    Be a roman when you are in rome. The Indian Journalists played it real wise.Recommend

  • G.K
    Apr 5, 2011 - 9:21AM

    Media can help to bridge the gapRecommend

  • Sarah
    Apr 5, 2011 - 10:10AM

    first sentence

    “So sure we were of are win”

    did you mean “our” win?Recommend

  • morticia
    Apr 5, 2011 - 2:41PM

    @Omar Haq:
    get lost….Recommend

  • Faraz
    Apr 5, 2011 - 4:53PM

    @Ven:

    I think its “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Although I refuse to take someones kind words of friendship with such mistrust as is evident in your comment.Recommend

  • Vicram Singh
    Apr 5, 2011 - 9:42PM

    So I see – more people waiting to take over from the likes of Kuldip Nayar.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 5, 2011 - 9:58PM

    @Omar Haq:

    Let me put things in perspective. The Indian sub-continent – including areas of your Pakistan, was predominantly Hindu/Buddhist, until your Arab and Persian “brothers” “liberated” your ancestors by introducing or forcing Islam.

    The current India is the refuge of those who are still Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh and we want to keep it that way. We want the Muslim to non-Muslim demographics to remain as they are. That is why we are against open borders etc.

    The rise of India is the rise of Bharat – and as we rise, we become more and more secular within India, but the quest to preserve our culture and demographics goes stronger. Ergo, the open-borders you are looking for will be opposed tooth and nail by all Indians.

    Visa regimes can be liberalized, but can not be made a free for all thing. You can have as much trade as you want.

    But Indians will always have at the back of their minds why a particular mountain range is called Hindu Kush.Recommend

  • Shaheena Mahboob
    Apr 6, 2011 - 4:20AM

    @Arijit Sharma – Let me put things in a clearer perspective. If you insist on harping on what we could have – would have – should have then your superiority complex needs to be on ice.
    I totally agree with @Omar Haq — open borders is a dream but the reality of the financial and economic possibilities is endless. Given there is unknown talent in BOTH countries and if we joined hand we can slow down the process of China’s powerful stride and with China;s tarnished reputation in America and Europe we can slowly slide into taking over the hold that China has on its exports.
    I second the motion @Omar Haq – “but the problem is the damn terrorists that have taken a foothold in Pakistan. This scourge has to be abolished before such a peace can be achieved.” but I think the burden of that lies at the feet of every Pakistani citizen that wants his country to be safe and prosperous for him his family & future generations.
    All I see is finger pointing a timid reaction to the actual vermin that have infested Pakistan and is killing its citizens and spreading ethnic cleansing in a creepy manner using Islam as a tool for its ravage acts.
    As long as these regular acts of violence go unchecked every citizen of Pakistan should share the responsibility & blame of this terrorist Beauvoir is sinking the country unto a deeper holeRecommend

  • hassan
    Apr 15, 2011 - 10:58AM

    @Shaheena Mahboob:

    Let me put things in clearer perspective. A superior person will have superiority complex. You’ve got to live with it.

    It may not be so some 10 or 15 years back, but, now, the majority of Indians feel the country has nothing, zilch, to gain by having a preferential sort of relations with Pakistan. (Bollywood financed by underworld dons insist on having Pakistani artistes, and you know why.)

    Indian people, by nature, are soft, submissive and are suckers for praise. They are willing to get over injustices, and crimes.

    But, what they can’t over is the fact that someone on the other side is forever in denial mode and forever playing the victim card.

    If you live in a joint family, and one day you want to break away from the family saying they are treating you badly, then, the only chance you have to meet other family members, is by saying ‘sorry’ to rest of them. If you keep justifying the old grievances, then, the family members will feel, ‘why do you need to meet us at all?’Recommend

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