Why, despite tensions between India and Pakistan, I have hope for a better world

There is a silver lining to all our recent troubles. Pakistan wishes to have a dialogue with India to resolve all issues, from Kashmir to terrorism.

TARAR SQUARE    06-03-2019

Mehr Tarar

MEHR TARAR @mehrtarar

There is something in the air.

Looking at the world around me this serene March morning, as I inhale the faint petrichor, that scent like no other of raindrops falling on earth that is dry, watching the sky light up in hues that are an unnamable blend of blue, white and grey, cool breeze enveloping the staid houses, full-bloom red flowers whose name I don’t know and lush green of trees and tiny hedges, I say a silent thank-you to the One I pray to.

March is always spring but March was never so cold, never so promising as this March. There is so much around me that is so good that it is hard not to be thinking about all that is not but that I know will be good if it is just looked at for what it is, without making any effort to turn it into something other than what it is.

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Don’t buy anger or rhetoric. The fact is, the people of Pakistan do not want war with India. (Source: Reuters)

Sounds confusing? But then, that is life, right? It is as simple as the date at one corner of the window on my Notebook Mac, or it could be as complex as the mechanics of a jet engine to a non-scientific person like me. Life is what we make it to be, and this realisation, old, familiar, soothing, takes me in a tight embrace each year when the clock turns to 00:00 after my birthday on March 2. Is my life the way it should be as I turn a year older, a tad wiser, a little uncertain, a bit stronger, much more alive, or am I still waiting for it to be different, better, more meaningful?

At about a few minutes past 8am when I, half asleep, read the birthday text my son sent me at 4am, something shifted inside me.

Overwhelmed, at a loss for words, stunned, silent at the enormity of the love in his words, his opinion of me, his life shaped by everything I was, everything I taught him through words, actions and reactions, everything that happened to us, and everything that meant something to us, I felt a kind of peace that I had long given up on as a dream that was elusive. Life is what it is meant to be. Life is what is within me. Life is the love of my family members. Life is the friendship of the few who matter to me. Life is the bond I have with my niece who is more than a daughter to me. Life is the knowledge that my loved ones are doing well. Life is the hugs my dogs give me when they see me. Life is that birthday text of my son that makes me happy to just…be.

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I see a silver lining even in this hour of crisis. (Source: India Today)

And I feel hope.

Amidst news of bullets that are exchanged, bombs that are dropped, planes that are downed, pilots that are captured, young people who die, children who are wounded, families that mourn, lines of hatred that are being darkened with lies and half-truths and propaganda and slogans and innuendos, hostility that is mouthed in words that are vicious and incendiary, and most importantly, hurtful and hateful, and distance that is marked with suspicion bordering on paranoia, there it is: a silver lining, a good deed, a sliver of sunshine, a kind word, a real smile, a genuine promise, a raindrop. 

I see it in the unanimous reaction of Pakistan on hearing on February 26 the news of Indian planes bombing the area across that one line that divides Kashmir. The whole of Pakistan was on one page: no war.

All of Pakistan stands united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan to say in one voice: we are ready even when we don’t want war.

I see it in the concern shown in Pakistan about the captured Indian Air Force pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, a soldier who flew in to do harm to Pakistan. Apart from jokes and memes in a well-intentioned trivialisation of the enormity of escalation of hostilities, Pakistan was undivided regarding the captured wing commander: treat him with respect and release him immediately.

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The people of Pakistan prayed for the well-being of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthman. (Source: India Today TV)

I see it in the good treatment of Pakistan army of the Indian pilot in their captivity, as per the protocol of treatment of a soldier in a similar situation.

I see it in the announcement of Prime Minister Imran Khan during a joint session of parliament on February 28 to release Wing Commander Varthaman as ‘a peace gesture’. Prime Minister Khan’s words reiterated Pakistan’s endorsement of its desire for peace between Pakistan and India even as Pakistani and Indian armies face one another across the Line of Control (LOC), causing panic, fear and grief among people who live on both sides of the border, and among peace-seekers in both countries.

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Imran Khan ensured Abhinandan Varthman is released as a ‘peace gesture’. (Source: PTI)

I see it in the world becoming aware of the unimaginable repercussions of even a small-scale war between two nuclear-armed countries that are so close to one another geographically it is literally impossible in some places to say where the boundary of one ends and that of the other begins.

The LoC is ablaze with cross-border firing. Soldiers are dying. Unarmed civilians are dying. Every day.

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Why can’t peace prevail? India and Pakistan have many identical problems that need immediate solutions. (Source: Twitter)

Yet, I see hope in the Pakistan government’s firm resolve to indulge in no whataboutery regarding terrorism. In Prime Minister Imran Khan’s words even before his swearing-in, “Pakistan would take two steps forward if India takes one step towards peace.” Khan said that on being given evidence by India, Pakistan would take action against any Pakistani who is alleged to be involved in the Pulwama tragedy.

And I see it in the prayers and words of many Indians who wished me on my birthday on March 2, filling up my Twitter notifications with so much positivity I was deeply moved. Despite my categorical criticism of the Indian government’s stance vis-à-vis Pakistan, it was heartening to see that Indians despite disagreement simply respect and accept my point of view. That Pakistan wishes for peace. That Pakistan will take action against all forms of terrorism. That Pakistan wishes to have a dialogue with India to resolve all issues, from Kashmir to terrorism. That Pakistan wishes to have India as a good neighbour not as a warring enemy. That Pakistan wishes for cessation of bloodshed at the LoC.

You see, life is about how you look at it. From the beautiful text of my son to the words of my prime minister, to today’s 5pm recording of the TV show I recently started co-hosting to the rest of 2019, to the hug that I need right away to the promise of love that is glorious, to the now to the unseen tomorrow, life is this moment continuing into an endlessness that is unknown, bright, hopeful, and beautiful…

I can’t wait for the rest of my life.

Also read: A View from Lahore: Do we really want war? With a neighbour who looks, loves and lives like us?

dailyo@southasiajournal.net'
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