“We were marvelling at the similarities in geography and culture between India and Pakistan when suddenly, at a traffic signal, we spotted a girl riding a bike. It is then that we remembered that were in India,” recalled a member of the 21-member delegation from Pakistan which was on a three-day visit to Bangalore.
“We drive so well that we can even overtake the men…even women wearing the naqab (burkha). But two-wheelers we stay away from. There is no ban per say, but it is look down upon,” explained Sajida Rehan, visiting faculty, Reflections School, Karachi, when asked, with some amount of surprise, what her team member’s statement meant.
There were other differences between the two countries that they pointed out to during the inter-country discussion organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Mumbai, in collaboration with the Lahore University of Management Studies (LUMS).
When a teacher from a Bangalore-based school hailed a video available on You Tube filmed on Pakistani school children, asking for their views on India, Beena Manzar, senior education committee member and academic coordinator, Sanjan Nagar School, Lahore, said they will have to watch the video while in India. “We don’t have You Tube in Pakistan,” she explained.
However, Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed, project coordinator, LUMS, said proxy websites were available for those who want to access the website.
The delegation celebrated Bakrid in the city during the last leg of its visit to India on Wednesday. They leave for Pakistan on Thursday. Asked if there was any major difference in celebrations, Ms. Rehan said, “We are relatively freer here as we don’t have to distribute the meat. Back home we would have been doing that.”
With a packed schedule, the delegation could not even spare time to see the Vidhana Soudha. But they did manage to squeeze in a day’s visit to Mysore on Tuesday. Maheen Qureshi, assistant program manager, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, Lahore, said what struck them was the magnificence of the Tipu Sultan palace, as also of the various influences in its architecture.
Having tried and liked a bit of Indian cuisine, including their share of idli, uddina vada, badam milk and kaju barfi rolls, Ms. Rehan was impressed with the “healthy food” that makes up for everyday food in south India.
Younger members like Ovais Yazdani from the White House Grammar School are hoping that the bilateral ties are taken forward through their initiative, including reviving sporting ties. “Maybe a mixed team hockey or cricket tournament?” he suggested.
But there is a larger aim through the various rounds of discussions. “We should stop tolerating each other and start celebrating each other,” said Ms. Ahmed, conveying the team’s hope, before signing off from the city.