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Posted at: Feb 20, 2017, 12:29 AM; last updated: Feb 20, 2017, 12:29 AM (IST)

We were one once

Nikita Sharma
I FELT tears well up in my eyes as soon as Jana Gana Mana was played after Qaumi Taranah, Pakistan’s national anthem, during a presentation by a veteran journalist at an India-Pak dialogue of mediapersons in Colombo.

The feeling was contagious. A gathering of 30-odd journalists from both countries struggled to hold back their tears as they stood in reverence and rapt attention.

We all knew the trauma the Partition had wreaked on us, and how things stood now. An odd silence, followed by a feeling of despair, descended. For a moment, the wounds of Partition seemed to haunt. Why did it happen at all, I asked myself, for I saw no good in the decision made over seven decades ago. I was sceptical on meeting somebody from the Pak-land. But my apprehensions soon faded, as I started interacting with people from that side of the border. Eureka! We looked similar and spoke the same language! For once, I was unable to make out who was from India and who from Pakistan. Why then was I sceptical?

The more I interacted with them, the more connected I felt. A sense of commonness prevailed. I found nothing unusual. After all, we were separated cousins! This made me even sadder. The largest mass killing and migration in human history witnessed the displacement of millions of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh families. It must have been a terrible phase; it brings shudders even now.

The five-day conference saw inter-mingling of cultures, tastes and what not. As soon as the day’s discussion would end, the teams would go out to explore the city, and sit by the beach at night. Enthusiastically, those from India made known to their Pakistan counterparts their admiration for legendary Pakistan singers — Abida Parveen, Ghulam Ali Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mehdi Hassan, among others. They sang with their heart and the Colombo beach absorbed the anguish. But those from Pakistan were a step ahead when it came to their knowledge of Indian music and Bollywood. A journalist’s wife, who accompanied him from Karachi, confessed that she missed Indian television soaps as their favourite channels had been blocked in Pakistan.

It was the last day and we were to get certificates. The atmosphere was sombre, not knowing when we would meet again, if at all. Bidding adieu was tough. Some contained their tears, while others let them flow.

Questions began forming in my mind — will we ever meet? Will we ever witness India-Pak bonhomie? All I remember are the tears of separation. This sentiment, I know, was felt by all. Mr Modi and Mr Sharif, hope you get the message. 

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