When you have friends from across the Indian border in Pakistan, you’re in a state of constant vacation planning. WhatsApp conversations and Facetime calls are spent in discussing; let’s meet in Dubai. Or, we should just go to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore maybe even Thailand and have our reunion. All this, so that we can just see each other once again and hangout like we used to back in the states. Among many things that an international education exposes you to and gives you, having friends in Pakistan has to top the list. I have been privileged to have had an international education and very fortunate to have met some of my closest friends, who also happen to be Pakistani. So, when our Independence Day is around the corner, I tend to go over several conversations that I have had in the past with my Pakistani friends about our shared cultural experiences of growing up in the sub-continent. Our, anglicized upbringing laced with a tinge of postcolonial hangover! We shared our love for the Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady that our parents made us watch in an attempt to pass on whatever they knew of our English speaking colonizers.
I often tell people who are about to head aboard for college, that they shouldn’t stick to just the Indian group, that they should go out, make friends and expand their horizon. Oh the irony! More often than not, Indian and Pakistani students become the best of friends. Friendships that are based on their mutual love for Cricket, Katrina Kaif and Coke Studio.
The odd familiarity that one experiences when you meet a Pakistani is comforting. My Pakistani friends are warm, and loving. They have been a tremendous support system and proved to be fantastic cooks, thanks to Shaan Masala of course! As we sat there in our cold East Coast apartments watching Andaaz Apna Apna for the hundredth time, we forgot that back home our nations were still at loggerheads. I embraced their mango drink Shezan, it’s actually better than Frooti, and they went gaga over pav bhaji. Oh, how great it would be if we could go back to those college days. Days when, if I wanted to see my Pakistani friends, I would just have to walk down the hallway to her room, or even walk over to their apartment, simply a block away from mine. And now, if I have to see either of them, we will have to meet in a country that’s at least a 4-hour flight for either of us. How unfair!
I remember seeing a post on Facebook, about these two girls with a cross border friendship. The one where a girl is desperately trying to get a visa to come to her best friends wedding in India. They even made appeals to our Ministry of External Affairs; I’m not sure what happened in the end. But, it definitely made me sad. I know that, when my friends decide to get married, I too will be faced with the same exact issue. We often joke, that we should just meet at the Wagah Border and do a very Bollywood-esque reunion. As a matter of fact, I do have friends who did just that. They sat on opposite sides of the border and waved at each other. The things people do for their friends! 🙂
Independence Day for me unfortunately, has less to do with the freedom struggle and more with the highly politicized publicity event. Blaring patriotic music from the local municipality office and loud Bollywood movies masquerading a false sense of patriotism means very little to me. Freedom from prejudice, freedom from hateful behavior patterns and freedom from the us vs. them mindset is what we should strive for. The world is burning, so instead of finding new ways to set ourselves apart from others, we should try to enjoy the similarity.
Happy 70th birthday, girls!