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Let myths shatter and facts emerge

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

By Ali Hassan Raza

The Pakistani
student who
obtained a postgraduate degree
in India shares his
no-regrets, overall
positive learning
despite being
attack at the end
of his stay

y two-year stay in of
India was the most
peaceful and memorable
ever. I am privileged to be
the first Pakistani to complete my two-year postgraduate specialisation in
South Asian Studies from
Pondicherry University,
thanks to a scholarship
from the South Asia Foundation. As a bonus,
Pondicherry is a remarkably beautiful place
with its beaches and
amalgamation of French and Indian culture.
I have no regrets for obtaining my post
graduation from an Indian university, despite two negatives. One was facing certain restrictions as a Pakistani, barred
from visiting other parts of India without
prior permission (for my own security).
The other was the attack on me in my hostel room shortly after I completed my
studies. I believe that the three unidentified attackers had their own vested interests. But their attack on me does not
change my perceptions of my host country.
After the attack many in Pakistan tried
to falsely give this attack a religious
colour. This is far from the truth. The university allows its students and staff full
freedom to practice their religion without
any hurdles, providing all the facilities to
enable this, including facilities like
mosque, church and temple. In fact, during Ramzan, a Hindu cook prepared sehri
and iftari for the Muslims. That is the
India I experienced.
It was in India that I was introduced to
the concept of secularism, that I now
strongly believe is essential to understand,
as a concept in which we give each other
space to live freely.
The Indian media welcomed me,

South Asian students with teachers, Pondicherry University


he just released Filmistan,

written and directed by
Nitin Kakkar, features the
story of an affable Bollywood
buff and wannab e - a c t o r
S u n n y .
While hes
on a documentary
with an
crew in
r e m o t e
areas in Rajasthan, a terrorist group kidnaps him, mistaking
him for an American crew member. Sunny is taken across the
pathani-clad guards, who decide to keep him

hostage until they locate their

original target.
The house in which he is confined belongs to a Pakistani, whose
trade stems from pirated Hindi films.
Soon, the two realise that they share
a human and cultural bond.

Celebrating Eid with SAARC students, Pondicherry University

terming me an ambassador of peace the
day I joined Pondicherry University. I sincerely appeal to Indians and Pakistanis
not to allow the attack upon me to overshadow my two-year stay in India. What
happened was a nightmare, which has
passed. I have a lot of good lessons and
memories to share. Together with my Indian classmate Chandana Bruah, I wrote a
book titled Why I do not hate India
which is under publication. After the attack, I considered adding the word Still
to the title.
The University had students from various South Asian countries, enabling me to
learn about various national and international issues. The debates, seminars, presentations helped me to understand and
look at problems from various perspectives within the South Asian region. To resolve prolonged issues, it is important to
understand the situation from both sides.
Today I can proudly claim that I can
give my opinion without being swayed by
nationalistic feelings. Narrow nationalism
often excludes people rather than including them for a better society or a country
or a world.
I witnessed and followed how elections
were conducted for the worlds largest
democracy. South Asian countries today
are moving towards being better democracies. It is democracy alone that can usher
an era of friendship and co-operation.
When I did my research thesis on Indian youth perception on Pakistan I was

thrilled to l learn that contrary to popular

Seeing women in the construction sector,
perceptions, Indian youth are keen to have
working at petrol pumps and in small
good relations with Pakistan. They do not
shops, taught me that women have great
want to indulge in any war. They have repotential and should never be confined
alised that the need of the hour is ecowithin the four walls of the home. We in
nomic development in the region. This atPakistan should also encourage women to
titude of the youth towards Pakistan was
come to forefront in all
instrumental in my own change of mind.
Crossing the
border and living in India for
two years shattered my own
myths and presumptions about
Indians. I am so
glad for that. This
was made possible thanks to the
vision of late UNESCO Goodwill
Madanjeet Singh,
Founder of South
Asia Foundation
(SAF) that provides
a great platform to
students group
youth of the SAARC South Asian
countries. I am
public and private sectors for the devellucky to participated in this vision.
opment of the country.
I was also witnessed the many schemes
Another lesson I learnt was from
he government of India has initiated for
Indias emerging open market that has prowomens empowerment. I was often
vided grounds for better competition, thus
amazed to see independent, skilled and unpushing producers to manufacture better
skilled women earning for their families.
quality goods at cheaper prices while also

generating employment. Pakistan too has

many skilled labourers. With the recent political stability, I feel its high time for investors to broaden our market and open it
for our neighbours. India is bigger market
for our traders. Imports and exports will
help both countries to strengthen relations. I along with my Indian classmates
believe that it is economic co-operation
that will automatically narrow the gulf between the two countries.
I believe that confidence building measures and diplomatic ties should not be
stopped under any circumstances. We
need to encourage educational exchange
programmes encouraged between the two
nations. People-to-people contact enabling
citizens have a better understanding of
each other is crucial for removing the mistrust.
Better security measures like scanning
machines can be installed to check goods
and passengers. Anti social elements have
their own vested interests for not wanting
our countries to co-operate. We cannot
allow them to succeed in their mission. We
need to understand the issues in a broader
way and not be swayed by propaganda.
In India, many universities have departments focusing on Pakistan studies and
many students have obtained PhDs on
Pakistan-related issues but we dont have
Indian studies centres at our universities,
which is the need of the hour.
Anti-social elements have created
many hurdles but we cannot afford to give
up. Hostilities have never given us anything. We should understand and approach
issues based on facts and not allow some
self-interested groups
to divert our attention.
The future of
India and Pakistan
lies in its youth who
Technology can help
ascertain facts and
contribute to development in the region. It is through
such tools that we
the youth will be
able to compete in
world, rather than
succumbing to
narrow nationalism or false propaganda.
Globalisation has triumphed over narrow nationalism. We
should not lag behind in this cosmopolitan
The writer is the first Pakistani
student to have pursued a post-graduate
degree in India. Email him:

People are more tolerant than the

media would have you believe

Shaijla Kejriwal, who is

bringing Pakistani drama
serials to Indian television
audiences, felt very
jealous but glad when
Aman Ki Asha was
launched as it was
something she had wanted
to do for a long time

he woman behind the idea of Zindagi, the

Indian television channel being launched
on June 24 that will introduce Pakistani
drama serials on to India hopes the move
will be positive and help promote peace,
and says there was no governmental or bureaucratic
opposition to the idea.
Shaijla Kejriwal is the Chief Creative Head of Special Projects at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) for Zindagi, was talking to Rakhi
Chakraborty in a detailed interview ahead of the
June 24 launch of Zindagi.
Zindagi will give Indians a taste of Pakistans culture through the magnificent spectacle that is Pakistani television, writes Chakraborty. Presenting a
different view of Pakistan, it will be not just entertainment but history in the making
(Yourstory.com, June 14, 2014).
While the legacy of conflict between India and
Pakistan complicates matters, says Kejriwal, she
hopes to change this mindset by exposing Indians to
general Pakistani entertainment.
Her main reason behind launching Zindagi, was
very personal nothing to do with the business aspect. She wants to counter the trend in India towards becoming more and more polarised and intolerant as well as the propaganda driven news
about the other country, news which the powers
want us to hear about each other.
It is so strange that countries which were one up
to a few decades ago are so driven apart now. Indians have no idea at all about what is going on in
Karachi or Lahore apart from what is considered
conventionally newsworthy like violence and bomb
Having studied comparative literature at Ja-



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Email: amankiasha@janggroup.com.pk
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Post: aman ki asha c/o The News,
I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi

Shaijla Kejriwal: Zindagi is very personal nothing to do with the business aspect
davpur University, Kejriwal fell in love with Pakistani
culture while reading Urdu literature, alongside
Hindi and Bangla.
After reading the beautiful words of Pakistani
masters, one has to wonder why there is so much
fear! I remember the first time I went to Karachi I
was so afraid. This fear has been drilled into our collective psyche. We have been brainwashed into
thinking that it is an enemy state in perpetual terror.
And that is not the truth at all.
We talk about how we love their music and their
singers -- Rahat, Nusrat, the works. We talk about
how we love their clothes. But that happens at a
slightly more elite level. I thought that why dont we
start something that is mass based. When Aman Ki
Asha started, I remember feeling very jealous. That I
something that I had wanted to do for a long time,
but was glad that it had been launched.
Such initiatives, she comments, generally fizzle
out after a couple of years. Similarly, films like the
just released Filmistan, says Kejriwal -- Na Hindus-

tan na Pakistan, what unites us is Filmistan -- bring ries about ordinary people. There is such honesty in
a short spurt of positivity.
that storytelling that it is endearing. Especially given
Zindagi, on the other hand, brings ongoing sus- the current standard of television in India... Because
tained, relatable programming. This will be very im- of commercialisation, we have become creatively
portant for India, a historic step in fostering people corrupt. Therefore when this channel launches, it is
to people contact (and) much-needed empathy going to make a lot of people think. The social and
between the two countries.
religious tolerance is just one way of looking at it.
Its opening serial starts with a scene showing a
She hopes that the Pakistani serials stellar qualgirl sitting on a bed. Her sister comes in and they ity of storytelling on mainstream television will push
launch into good-hearted bickering. This conversa- Indian televisions creative professionals to re-examtion could be happening anywhere in India. When ine themselves. Everything is not about Paisa pheko
audiences realise how similar we all are, we will be- tamasha dekho (throw the money, watch the show).
come more tolerant.
There has to be a soul in the story that you are sellMainstream national Hindi soaps, she says, focus ing. Indian television is currently devoid of that soul.
around a very specific religion, caste and even re- Its all about loud random and crass nonsense. Loud
gion. India prides itself on being secular but she trash like this numbs the mind, makes us close our
finds there is either little representation, or misrepre- thoughts, makes us vulnerable to all kinds of cheap
sentation, of Muslims in popular culture and in the
propaganda and ultimately creates a
mass media.
less tolerant society.
This hatred that exists in cerSince Pakistan does not have
tain people is only a few years old. I
much of a movie industry, all their
also feel that, in India, there is inthought and creativity goes into maknate curiosity about Pakistan, she
ing beautiful television. Pakistani
TV series are shorter, with fewer
There is such chemistry beepisodes, focused on telling a story.
tween the two nations. You can love
Indian serials just narrate random
each other, you can hate each other
incidents one after the other.
but you cannot ignore each other.
Kejriwal believes that Indians
And that is the most beautiful relahave matured enough as a nation to
tionship you can have. We love their
not generate needless controversy
cricketers, whether you are talking
once the channel goes live. Not
about Wasim Akram or Imran Khan.
that Zindagi will be showing anyrt
khi Ch
Today when Shafqat Amanat Alis Ra od questions
thing controversial. The Pakistani
songs play in every city and town in
content itself is focused on the
India, people dont pause and say that
daily life, struggles and philosophies of ordinary
he is a Pakistani. People are more tolerant than the people, which is what it aims to showcase.
media would have you believe. It is time to tap into
Kejriwal ventured to get Zee to back this vision
that goodness.
due to her belief that All of us, deep within our
Being in peoples homes 24/7, Zee Zindagi, she be- hearts, want to do something good and want to be
lieves, will help change mindsets. Just as Bollywood remembered for doing something good.
films and stars are so popular in Pakistan, once
Zees tagline Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the
India witnesses the sheer genius of Pakistani televi- world is my family), created in 2012, gave her a cue.
sion, we too will come to embrace it as our own.
It could have been Entertainment Ka Badshah or
My colleagues wife declared, Main toh Pak- Zee: The No 1 Entertainment channel of India.
istani serial dekhungi hi nahi (I will never watch
This tagline, she feels, had to have come from a
Pakistani serials). My colleague told her that I can special place. That thought is what I needed to build
bet on it, once you start watching, you wont be able upon. If your tagline is that the world is my family,
to stop because the stories themselves are so amaz- then lets start with our neighbours. Vasudhaiva Kuing.
tumbakam or Good fences make good
I am not saying because they are such brilliant neighbours.
stories of such brilliant people. They are regular sto-- AKA
A peace initiative whose time has come...

Destination Peace: A commitment by the Jang Group, Geo and The Times of India Group to
create an enabling environment that brings the people of Pakistan and India closer together,
contributing to genuine and durable peace with honour between our countries.