Wednesday, January 7, 2009

mere dushman, mere bhai

This post is a response to the 'I hate Pakistan' movement I have been noticing on a lot of blogs recently.

What is a myth? To me, a myth is a popular belief, an understanding that covers our ignorance. And where there is fear, hate is an appropriate cover, isnt it?

I have never been to Pakistan, though I admit that I would like to visit. I have seen a tv serial, 'Dhoop Kinare', which was about a young doctor falling in love with an Amitabh- look alike elder doctor. We watched this serial in the good old days, eight cassettes in two days, each cassette three hours long!

I do not know if Pakistanis hate Indians. In the serial, they didn't even acknowledge us, but the doctor was so handsome that I don't blame them.

Yes, I also saw a film last year, Khuda Ke liye. A brilliant narrative, this film talked about tolerance, humanity, and freedom. It also went into the psyche of a young mind trapped by fanatisism.

And, I saw a documentary film made by a friend, Shabnam Virmani, where she portrayed different Kabir bhakts in India and Pakistan. I remember one dialogue from her film. When she reaches Karachi, and sits in the car that is taking her to the house of the singer, his chela says to her, 'There is no boundary for artists. The boundary between India and Pakistan is for the babu log (government fellows). Between artists there is no boundary.'

And the way this devotee sings and talks Kabir, the depth of his understanding of the fifteenth century poet, is surpassed only by the 'haq', the ownership he feels towards his master. I cant remember his name, but he is another Nusrat in the making.

I still don't know if Pakistanis hate Indians, but I do know of one Pakistani who loves saint Kabir. The name of this film is Had-Anhad. It is a profound search for Kabir, how different people have absorbed him.

And, one more dialogue, if I may, from a Shah-Rukh Khan film, 'Veer Zara', where the Pakistani heroine, Preity answers the hero in a song, when he goes on and on about mera des butiful. 'tere Des ko maine dekha, tere des ko maine jaana. Jane kyon lagta, mujhe jaana pehchana. Aisa hi des hai mera, jaisa des hai tera.' ( I have seen your country, and you know what, it's just like mine.)

I got this article from here. Before you think I am in love with this blogger, I must mention here that I do not endorse a Shah-Rukh bashing post she has done.

So let us examine the basis of our beliefs. It takes a lot of strength to admit to the one thing we do know: that we do not really really know. We just presume, and we pass judgment. We are afraid, and we build walls. And when we build walls, we might feel secure, but we lose the horizon.

Ten myths about Pakistan

By Mohammed Hanif

Living in Pakistan and reading about it in the Indian press can sometimes be quite a disorienting experience: one wonders what place on earth they’re talking about? I wouldn’t be surprised if an Indian reader going through Pakistani papers has asked the same question in recent days. Here are some common assumptions about Pakistan and its citizens that I have come across in the Indian media.

Pakistan controls the jihadis:

Or Pakistan’s government controls the jihadis. Or Pakistan Army controls the jihadis. Or ISI controls the jihadis. Or some rogue elements from the ISI control the Jihadis. Nobody knows the whole truth but increasingly it’s the tail that wags the dog. We must remember that the ISI-Jihadi alliance was a marriage of convenience, which has broken down irrevocably. Pakistan army has lost more soldiers at the hands of these jihadis than it ever did fighting India.

Musharraf was in control, Zardari is not:

Let’s not forget that General Musharraf seized power after he was fired from his job as the army chief by an elected prime minister. Musharraf first appeased jihadis, then bombed them, and then appeased them again. The country he left behind has become a very dangerous place, above all for its own citizens.

There is a latent hankering in sections of the Indian middle class for a strongman. Give Manmohan Singh a military uniform, put all the armed forces under his direct command, make his word the law of the land, and he too will go around thumping his chest saying that it’s his destiny to save India from Indians. Zardari will never have the kind of control that Musharraf had. But Pakistanis do not want another Musharraf.

Pakistan, which Pakistan?

For a small country, Pakistan is very diverse, not only ethnically but politically as well. General Musharraf’s government bombed Pashtuns in the north for being Islamists and close to the Taliban and at the same time it bombed Balochs in the South for NOT being Islamists and for subscribing to some kind of retro-socialist, anti Taliban ethos. You have probably heard the joke about other countries having armies but Pakistan’s army having a country. Nobody in Pakistan finds it funny.

Pakistan and its loose nukes:

Pakistan’s nuclear programme is under a sophisticated command and control system, no more under threat than India or Israel’s nuclear assets are threatened by Hindu or Jewish extremists. For a long time Pakistan’s security establishment’s other strategic asset was jihadi organisations, which in the last couple of years have become its biggest liability.

Pakistan is a failed state:

If it is, then Pakistanis have not noticed. Or they have lived in it for such a long time that they have become used to its dysfunctional aspects. Trains are late but they turn up, there are more VJs, DJs, theatre festivals, melas, and fashion models than a failed state can accommodate. To borrow a phrase from President Zardari, there are lots of non-state actors like Abdul Sattar Edhi who provide emergency health services, orphanages and shelters for sick animals.

It is a deeply religious country:

Every half-decent election in this country has proved otherwise. Religious parties have never won more than a fraction of popular vote. Last year Pakistan witnessed the largest civil rights movements in the history of this region. It was spontaneous, secular and entirely peaceful. But since people weren’t raising anti-India or anti-America slogans, nobody outside Pakistan took much notice.

All Pakistanis hate India:

Three out of four provinces in Pakistan — Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP — have never had any popular anti-India sentiment ever. Punjabis who did impose India as enemy-in-chief on Pakistan are now more interested in selling potatoes to India than destroying it. There is a new breed of al-Qaida inspired jihadis who hate a woman walking on the streets of Karachi as much as they hate a woman driving a car on the streets of Delhi. In fact there is not much that they do not hate: they hate America, Denmark, China CDs, barbers, DVDs , television, even football. Imran Khan recently said that these jihadis will never attack a cricket match but nobody takes him seriously.

Training camps:

There are militant sanctuaries in the tribal areas of Pakistan but definitely not in Muzaffarabad or Muridke, two favourite targets for Indian journalists, probably because those are the cities they have ever been allowed to visit. After all how much training do you need if you are going to shoot at random civilians or blow yourself up in a crowded bazaar? So if anyone thinks a few missiles targeted at Muzaffarabad will teach anyone a lesson, they should switch off their TV and try to locate it on the map.

RAW would never do what ISI does:

Both the agencies have had a brilliant record of creating mayhem in the neighbouring countries. Both have a dismal record when it comes to protecting their own people. There is a simple reason that ISI is a bigger, more notorious brand name: It was CIA’s franchise during the jihad against the Soviets. And now it’s busy doing jihad against those very jihadis.

Pakistan is poor, India is rich:

Pakistanis visiting India till the mid-eighties came back very smug. They told us about India’s slums, and that there was nothing to buy except handicrafts and saris. Then Pakistanis could say with justifiable pride that nobody slept hungry in their country. But now, not only do people sleep hungry in both the countries, they also commit suicide because they see nothing but a lifetime of hunger ahead. A debt-ridden farmer contemplating suicide in Maharashtra and a mother who abandons her children in Karachi because she can’t feed them: this is what we have achieved in our mutual desire to teach each other a lesson.

Image courtesy Nicholson cartoons


Banno said...

I recently saw a film 'The Tour' about a group of actors from Belgrade venture on a theatrical tour in Serbia. It's the exact same story as India and Pakistan, people with similar faces, music, movie star idols, the soldiers not knowing who they are killing, 'theirs' or 'ours'. That's the sad story of borders. Wish one could wish them away.

Nino's Mum said...

aptly timed post, and the mohammed hanif article is a very good read.
even in the blogging world - where one is more likely to meet secularists than on the street, maybe anonymity makes it easier to talk louder about the good - the mumbai attacks brought a worrisome rhetoric of 'bomb and let's do away with it'.
There is a better way of internalising it - of reaching out to the root causes of why people choose to become terrorists - and most of the time it's a financially motivated one, rather than ideology or religion. the cartoon sums it up perfectly. It all begins and ends with Education.

Henri said...

I admit I am not sure how I feel towards Pakistan. I don't have any objective knowledge which will help me to decide what I feel. But the fact surely remains that I am afraid of the backstabbing attacks. I know I am against the anti-muslim movement in India. I am against people who do not want others to live a secure and healthy life. I am against people who make young children orphans, pick them up and turn them into terrorists. I know I don't want to wake up in a cold sweat in the night thinking about being bombed or shot. I don't want to dream that terrorists can come into my house and shoot me. I know that I don't want Israel to take over Palestine. I know that I want Palestine to be free.

I know that being an Indian, I should be aware of the shortfalls of my government. I don't know if Pakistani government and authorities aid Talibanisation or if they are capable of stopping it, but I do know that the country of Afghanistan is now not a barren land. I know that people in that country destroyed 3000-year old statues of the Buddha.

I know soldiers die on each side. But the ones dying on India's border are dying for me, so that I don't have nightmares.

War has never been and will never be an answer to any issues. But without war will Arunachal, Tibet or Palestine ever be free?

Smita said...

I'll be very frank, love is not something which I feel for Pak. but I also very readily agree that mutual hatred will not lead anywhere. If educated people like you & me don't take a rationale stand then no progress is possible.

Grasshopper said...


I am so glad to see your comment. Before I go further, I want us to agree to differ amiably.
Before I got educated, I had a family. My maternal grandfather was a Punjabi and we have relatives in Pakistan, those I have never met or heard of. Secondly, the muslims and hindus in India and Pakistan are all from the same region, so we do share much more blood ties than we are aware of. For all you know, you and I could be far far off cousins.

As far as education is concerned, I have learnt only one thing: Everyone has a very good reason to do whatever he has to do. A psychopath who loves to kill, a mother teresa who picks up dying from the street, all are 'ordained', or ordered by their inner conscience to do what they do. Honestly, I cannot find hatred or anger in my heart for the terrorist who was caught alive. Yes, I do fear him, Yes, I can feel sorry for him when he is under custody.
Anger does overtake me at times, when my kid disobeys me and runs across the street. Sometimes I even spank him. I go through guilt and remorse at the violence I committed but that does not really help too much. I try and accept myself as I am: a human, liable to err.
Taking a stand? From all that I have ever read and heard of this world, there one person I intensely admire for the stand he took, for the clothes he wore, for his love for the country, for his toothless grin, for his last words, for being a father to us all. Need I take his name?

Grasshopper said...


The least we can do is blogit. :)

Nino's Mum,

Welcome to my blog.

Reaching out to root causes of why people become terrorists : that's a tough one. Becoming a terrorist is not a poor man's job, I think. Those AK 47's cost a lot of money. I think this is the new style of war. Violence always has been there, throughout history. Terrorism is merely an evolution of war tactic.

For me, the only answer is within. To live fully, so that death, if it comes all of a sudden, is accepted.

Dear Henri,

If, by war Tibet will become free, Tibet wont be Tibet, it will become China.

The point I am making is, what did America achieve by becoming so very defensive and offensive after 9 / 11? Do you think they all sleep well?

There is really no way to avoid Terrorism in a country as big and densely populated as India. We are as unprotected and as vulnerable as the cockroaches hiding in our kitchen.

And whats new about it? Did God promise us a life without death?

Aman said...

When Zardari called the terrorists 'non-state actors' it made a lot of sense to me. We created them in our states and are now unable to contain them. The only way we can weed them out is through coordinated surgical strikes but the fallout could be that power structures in both counties, especially in Pakistan might tumble. Zardari does not want that, he wants to hold on to being President. Also, in such an eventuality, the non-state actors who might control the nuclear arsenal might be put them to use. The only way is through a will between the two countries to bring about peace which is what the people want. But the rulers may not want it; they would not like to give up power.

Smita said...


Unpretentious Diva said...

I appreciate this post.
I stumbled it.

Tazeen said...

ummm ... i actually did not bash SRK for being an Indian, i just believe that he should come out of closet. I hope i did not hurt your feelings.

Grasshopper said...

Hi, Tazneen,

Welcome to my blog.

Don't worry, my feelings are not hurt at all. I am a little in love with Shah Rukh and find it hard to accept all the rumors, that is all.

I know you did not bash him for being an Indian.

I like your writing style, by the way.

Henri said...

In no way did I imply war is an answer to anything! My rhetoric question was, how then, will TIber ever be free!

What is scary is that what you're implying and what I have begun to realise, that terror is here to stay. No one said that life without death is possible. In fact, a Christian goes through life waiting for death to be united with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

But is it wrong to defend? You are giving me a perspective. But without war, are people living in security? I re-iterate, I am not pro-war, but there is yet to be a concrete peace-loving solution. The League of Nations was a farce, and the UN is beginning to look like one.

I guess, in the world where Gandhi asks people to show the other cheek when slapped the first time, it is possible, the peaceful solution that we're looking for.

I know I am struggling to accept that may be after 10s of thousands of people die by terrorist attacks, one day there will be a change of heart and that goodness will prevail. A la-Ashoka!

I guess it is easy to believe for you, for me it is still very painful to accept. I can see the frustration of the Tibetians, they expressed frustration with the Dalai Lama's peace-loving strategies, and he resigned naming the current PM as the leader of the freedom movement.

Can I blame the Tibetians? I don't think so. Do I approve that now their approach will be like the Chinese? I don't know. Do I think that China is likely to have change of heart, :D he he he.

It is one thing to say, war is not an answer and quite another to be able to resolve situations! Yes, may be the solution is to await for a messiah to come down on earth.

For now, I admit that I may die a violent death and I shudder as I think of it. I cannot choose how or when I will die, but I can choose how I will live :)

So here's hoping that Spiritual Politics will soon be norm and we won't have to face attacks or wage war :)

Unpretentious Diva said...

Even I don't like Shahrukh.

I wish we get more movies like "A wednesday" or Tare Zameen par or lagaan or Page3, or Mr & Mrs Iyer etc.. rather than Rab Ne bana de jodi or sort of mediocrities but I can remember not s single Shahrukh movie name which i can say was a bit beeter. Ok we can say swadesh was his try to perform some acting. Otherwise he is notoriously famous for senselessness.

Anyways, we all have our own tastes our own choices. And I know shahrukh has a big fan club.