Exchange for change: Bonds strengthen as students write letters across borders

Published: March 9, 2015
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The Citizens Archive of Pakistan and Routes2Roots initiated ‘Crossing Borders’ in an attempt to help students in Pakistan and India learn about each other’s countries. PHOTO: PRESS RELEASE

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan and Routes2Roots initiated ‘Crossing Borders’ in an attempt to help students in Pakistan and India learn about each other’s countries. PHOTO: PRESS RELEASE

KARACHI: Frere Hall’s Sadequain Gallery came to life with a story of two children — Namrita and Qasim, two fictional characters, one from New Delhi and the other from Lahore — as they decided to find out more about each other’s countries.

Both the children were excited to learn about their love for laddus and big fat aloos in biryani. Their interests grew when they found out that Qasim’s dadi was from Delhi and Namrita’s grandmother lived in Lahore before Partition.

This tale of friendship became possible through a collaborative effort by the Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) and Routes2Roots (R2R), an Indian NGO, called Crossing Borders and their Exchange for Change campaign which started back in 2013.

The campaign, which has now been running for more than 18 months, is in its third and final stages.

More than 5,000 students from 31 schools across seven cities, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Dehradun have written letters for one another.

The letters written by class six and seven students to each other from across the border talk about historical monuments such as the Badshahi mosque and museums.

Some of these letters are informative while others have a mature tone as students discuss diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Ragmau, an Indian student, wrote a letter which shows a keen interest in Pakistan’s daily life and schools.

“It’s an amazing mission and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it,” said Paayal Ramesh, a class-eight student from Dawood Public School who was also part of the exchange programme that took students to Delhi, Agra and Chandigarh. “I had read about India in my history books. It was amazing to see the country. Everywhere we went shopkeepers gave us discounts when we told them we are from Pakistan.”

In addition to letters, there are also photo exhibits about school life in India, the Indian television industry and collages of famous places in India and Pakistan.

Zarene Zuberi, senior project manager for the campaign said that through this cross-border campaign, students on both the sides of the border discovered their common ancestral heritage.

“The popular topics among the students on both the sides were the same,” she said. “Like students from India are completely gaga over our actor, Fawad Khan, while students here [Pakistan] are fans of Shahrukh Khan so the people there are very much familiar with our culture.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2015.

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