A week-long stay in Delhi and Agra for these Pakistani students has been like a home away from home. They discovered that the two nations share the same culture, language and cuisine.
For the 36-member Pakistani delegation that crossed over from the Wagah border on September 10, the parting gift was the birthday celebration of Citizens Archive of Pakistan’s Muhammad Owais Rana.
It was an emotional moment as Tagore International School principal Madhulika Sen -- who on realising that September 16 was Mr. Rana’s birthday and the 16-month-long project “Students Exchange for Change-II” was finally culminating -- presented a cake to CAP’s project manager.
As Mr. Rana was cutting the pineapple cake at the school premises in Vasant Vihar here on Monday, he was loudly cheered by students from both countries. The project was organised by Routes 2 Roots and CAP to foster friendship between students of the two countries.
“Since 96 per cent of our citizens are adherents of Islam, our children do not get to interact with children of other faiths. So such dialogues help in social progression and broadens their outlook. Students understand the viewpoint of the other side,” said Mr. Rana.
While admitting that people of both countries suffered during the Partition, CAP’s Swaleha said the distrust would melt away if more of such exchanges were planned. “These children have showed us how to move ahead instead of dwelling on the past. What I liked here is that Indians are a tolerant lot.”
Visiting the Akshardham Temple was a memorable experience for The Trust School principal Asim Ishraq. “One thing which will remain etched in our minds is that the people here welcome everyone into their places of worship. I visited Hindu, Jain and Sikh temples and nobody asked me about my faith. This tolerance among Indians would be emphasised by me when I return home.”
Before embarking on this visit, he was advised by cautious well wishers to cancel it because of the recent flare-up. “Secondly, since we are accustomed to eating non-vegetarian food, we were apprehensive whether we would get the same quality of food.” But a visit to a famous restaurant at the Walled City made him change his opinion and when he disclosed his identity with sellers they presented him gifts.
Ardavan Solan, belonging to the Parsi community in Karachi, said he would like to visit the Parsi temple in the city but was hard pressed for time.
“I was ordained as a priest. My parents supported me in visiting India. We have been bowled over by the hospitality extended to us.”