This week, the theme for Eugi’s Weekly Prompt was ‘Neighbours’ and as I sat pondered over a story or maybe a poem… I decided to write about my own experience with our national neighbours.
Whether consciously or sub-consciously, almost every person who grew up in this nation, was at some point in their life harbouring much negativity or hatred about this ‘enemy’ nation. Many of my fellow citizens had (or still have) an image of the rival nation as a den of fanatics who aid in terror activities (or are involved in it), suppress/torture their women, hate our nation more than anything..you get the idea. Now, I’m not getting into political debates over wars or history of diplomacy; nor supporting any political ideology.
But until a few years ago, I’m ashamed to say that I too had a somewhat similar idea about these blasted neighbours of ours. From depictions in the movies as the ultimate villains, the media sensations of all their nefarious deeds (often exaggerated) or even, conversations with guests (we love to discuss politics over tea and samosas, and what better to unite us than bashing the govt of both nations and reminiscence over the what-ifs of pre-partition era), we had comfortably pictured them as these diabolical hooligans who were out to get us.
As a history student, I’d studied the concept of ‘the self’ and ‘the other’ over the course of my paper- ‘Introduction to History’. Perceptions have played a vital role in shaping the narrative of history, especially distorting the ‘other’ to alienate them from the self; enabling in ruling, coercing or suppressing them easily. And in our case, power & politics, religion and later nationality, was twisted in different contexts, dividing us despite our shared cultural history of centuries.
And as I watched their TV serials when they were aired in our TV channels and later, the streaming platforms; I was amazed. Why, they were just like us! They spoke a language similar to mine, with a few different (but stylish) words; they dressed like us (my mom and I gushed over the amazing kurtas worn by some of the female protagonists) and they even had a similar cuisine. And most importantly, they had dreams, emotions, hopes and dreams like us. They loved, laughed, wept and comforted just like us. It was certainly an eye-opener for the biased perceptions that I carried within myself, never realising the need to re-examine them.
As time went by, I started to realise that caught up in these rumours and perceptions that are spoon-fed to us, many of us have forgotten that not every member of even a rival nation have to be these ‘gun-toting monsters’. They maybe just like us, living their ordinary lives while getting swept up in the political game. Just a barbed wire separating a land that blossomed into the two nations that fight today.
I have a lot of respect for the men who fight at the borders to keep us safe the various gangs and organisations that threaten our peace. But I can’t help but imagine, a girl just like me on the other side of this ‘great divide’, wondering if there was someone on this land who loved to read books, listen to sufi songs, gorge on biryani, wear cotton kurtis and swoon over Fawad Khan’s smile.
This was written with no intention of offending anyone’s sentiments or views regarding politics, religion or any other aspect of either of the two nations. I just penned down some of my thoughts while watching Zindagi Gulzar Hai on Netflix.