From the other side of the fence

Note: I wrote this article last week for a Pakistan based magazine. This is the unabridged version. The last few days have given a lot of hope to the India-Pakistan relationship, with people from both sides exchanging messages over social media – this post is only continuing the legacy. (Original Link)

I remember growing up in the secluded hills of northern India, where TV was our only connection to the outside world. I remember twirling the TV antenna (tied to a 20 feet bamboo culm), in order to retrieve the lost TV signal. I remember the moment of happiness when the flicker on TV, got replaced by a clear picture, as soon as I fixed the antenna and ran towards the bedroom.

However, it was not what I was looking for!

Instead of Doordarshan, the antenna had somehow found the signal of PTV. And it looked great. There were new faces, new shows, and everyone was conversing in Urdu – which sounded strangely appealing. For the next few days, I preferred to watch only this channel. And eventually when I got bored of it (when they played Dilruba by Fakhir every day, for more than a month), I decided to keep switching between Doordarshan and PTV.

The word was out! PTV became the topic of many discussions. Some even suggested that it could be Pakistan’s new way of attacking India. “Their news program tells fake stories,” an old man suggested. “And how do you believe our news?” I tried to ask, but patriotism was expected to win over rationality. Yet, people continued to watch PTV, mostly for the cricket matches though.

India Pakistan Border

Already after Kargil, the relationship between the two countries had worsened, but with the advent of private news channels, it touched new lows. These channels (from both sides) kept reporting their own versions of the border conflicts. Needless to say, people from either side chose to believe their own version.  The constant criticism through abuses and mockery and meaningless debates hindered our understanding of each other, and the new generation was made to believe that Pakistan is our enemy.

But that is only one side of the story…

The other side, which had originated before this hatred, had remained there too. This is the Pakistan I know for Jal-the band, Shahid Afridi, Urdu, Punjabi, Harappa, Islamic culture – and this is the Pakistan which appeals to me. What their ministers say is irrelevant, what our ministers say is irrelevant – we the people (at least on internet) can decide what we want. And we want peace, mostly, except in the Youtube comments section.

I believe that people on the other side of the border are no different. And I am sure they also wonder about the same things. How do Bilawal Bhutto and Rahul Gandhi have the exact same levels of stupidity? When will Shahid Afridi stop being a teenager? Whom would a girl prefer for a date – Ali Zafar or Fawad Khan? Will Coke Studio India ever be better than Pakistan? Why has Sunny Deol taken the sole responsibility of destroying Pakistan?

There is so much to share and yet there is so little that we do. Let us move beyond politics. Our cultures have that power that can transcend beyond the boundaries of nations and I strongly feel that it will be our cultural exchanges and not diplomatic ties that will bring us closer.

PS: I shared my story and now I can’t wait to hear from the other side of the fence. Share it today. The revolution has begun.

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