The Pakistanianish Penguin

I happened to read this on Quora today. It perfectly captured the sentiment and views of an average Indian towards our neighbour. I am pretty sure most of us went through the same while growing up, at least I was one among them.

We were fed with lots of political propaganda in our school history books. I believed Pakistan knows no better than to wage wars on us, even though they lose every time. Pakistanis hate Indians. Pakistan is solely responsible for the Kashmir problem. Why can’t they be happy with what they have? What revenge are they still seeking? Why can’t they just let us live in peace?

During my college days, Pakistan = Land of terrorists. They breed terror and violence. They are a failed country. They train and fund insurgency across the border. I’m so glad we helped free Bangladesh from them.

Coming into my 20s, I began to realise there is more to Pakistan than just their Government, Army and Media, which I had come to dislike. That is a maximum of 600,000 people. But there are 180 million more people living in their 800,000 sq. km country, and they are not all the same. They are common people. Just like me.


The Pseudo-Enmity

The Pakistani common man faces the same everyday problems that an Indian common man faces. In the bigger picture, we are not very dissimilar at all. They fight poor facilities (lack of electricity, roads, etc.) in the villages and corruption in their bureaucracy on a daily basis, just like us. None of us has the time or energy left from our daily lives, for cross-border enmity. All we want is to live in peace and be happy at the end of the day.

There is good governance and bad governance, good media and bad media. Politicos on both sides of the border strive to keep the pseudo-enmity alive, for their own gains. Media does it to keep their TRPs on the higher side. Their media sucks as much as ours does. Western powers do it so we are in constant fear of each other and end up purchasing more weaponry from them. And while we are busy blaming each other, the terrorists take advantage of our negativity. Every act of terror and violence on either side of the border only increases our mutual bitterness, while the real culprits sit in their hideouts and laugh at both of us.

If only we were to rise above our pettiness and fight against terror and violence- our common enemy. Together. If only.


One Friend is all it takes

When I joined Pottermore and Hogwarts is Here in early 2014, among all the strangers I would meet on the internet from around the world, one of them was a Pakistani. Until then, Pakistanis were like aliens to me- I was curious and intrigued by them, yet I was scared to speak to one. I had never interacted with a Pakistani national before. And the irony was that an Indian and a Pakistani first met on a website about a British book series.

Our mutual love for Harry Potter and the magical world, and the fact that we were both desi on a website largely populated by Americans meant that we immediately hit it off. Over time, I realised that I was more eager to learn about her than she was about me. After reading another Quora post, I perhaps know why.

I learnt:

Indian movies are shown in cinemas across Pakistan, and Ekta Kapoor daily soaps rule hearts and minds of housewives across their country.

They have enough “enemies” within their country (Zia Ul Haq- 80s, Islamization of Pakistan, development of hatred towards Indians and Jews, ISI, Pakistani Taliban, etc.) to focus on non-existent external threats from across the border.

Why are Indians so curious about Pakistanis, and why Pakistanis are not (seemingly) curious about India? Their opinions of India have been formed over longer periods of exposure to Indian media. They grew up watching Indian movies and TV channels, just like us. They realise the fact that Indians and Pakistanis are culturally similar before we do. Their exposure to India has been much more comprehensive and balanced. We have had no such luxury. We grow up with zero exposure to Pakistani culture.

Even within Pakistan, there is probably a culture shock experienced by say, a Karachi person visiting Islamabad for the first time, just the same way a Mumbaikar feels when s/he visits Delhi, or I feel when I visit Chennai. :p

She is as patriotic towards her country as I am towards mine. She takes offence whenever I go overboard with frustration and criticise the Pakistani government (for being too ineffective) or the Pakistani Army (for being too paranoid). I would react the same way, if I were in her shoes. But I have never seen her retaliate. She never has anything negative to say about anybody. She is as diplomatic as can be. That is the first thing I learnt from her.

We have random conversations about anything and everything. She identifies as a Slytherin but I keep calling her a Hufflepuff, which she does not like. I love teasing her about Pakistan’s failure to beat India in World Cups, and she always takes it sportingly. Almost. :p

This is us arguing who is going to win the next India-Pakistan cricket match:

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She posted on my Facebook timeline after India beat Pakistan (again!) in the 2015 ICC World Cup:

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And this is us discussing Indian pop culture. :p

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I am fortunate that one of the sweetest and kindest human beings I have known is one from across the border. Thank you for changing my view of Pakistan and clearing my misconceptions about your country, but most importantly, thank you for teaching me that one must not judge and generalise. We may be Indian and Pakistani, Hindu and Muslim, but each one of us is different deep inside, and yet we are all the same.

Thank you for being my friend. 🙂


Also read: Ae Watan Watan Mere

4 thoughts on “The Pakistanianish Penguin”

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