Around 25 Pakistani students are in the city for an int’l convention of SPIC MACAY

Nothing, not even sports, has been able to escape the trappings of jingoistic one-upmanship that discussions on India and Pakistan invariably invite.

However, the international wing of SPIC MACAY — the Society for the Promotion of World Heritage Amongst Youth (SPW HAY) — has taken it upon itself to challenge this dominant rhetoric by facilitating an exchange of art, culture and music between the two countries.

This time round, IIT-Madras is playing host to a delegation of around 25 Pakistani students participating in the 2nd international convention of SPIC MACAY marking the tenth year of this fruitful initiative.

Nineteen-year-old Saniya Imran, pursuing fashion design at the Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore, gushes, “I love Indian art. Kalamkari style of block-printing using organic colours and learning puliattam, the traditional Tamil folk dance, are things I’m extremely excited about learning through the conference.”

Another student of the same college, Eemaan Kaleen, confesses to being thrilled about learning the Kerala martial art form, kalaripayattu.

The person responsible for starting the project, Harsh Narayan, national coordinator and coordinator of the Pakistan initiative, says, “It was as far back in 1997 when I was a volunteer with SPIC MACAY in Bihar when I had the idea of connecting students from India and Pakistan on a cultural platform. After all we share a common past so why should there be any animosity?”

Finally, in September 2004, his dogged efforts saw the light of day. A cultural delegation from India made its first trip to Lahore to partake in a carnival of the arts held across the city.

Ten years on, the initiative has become a roaring success, growing from strength to strength. As much as the platform is about art, it also stands testimony to the bringing together of people.

Twenty-three year-old Azeem Hamid of BMU theatre and fine arts says this is his second trip to India under the auspices of SPW HAY. On his experience on coming to India he says, “This feels like home, I feel like I just blend in here. People even tell me I look like I’m from Delhi and not from a different country!”

On another note, the forum has even lent itself to busting pre-conceived notions. For instance, the 26-year-old visual arts teacher at BNU, Inaam Zasar, confesses to being repeatedly asked, “Howcome the women are not wearing burkhas? Howcome you wear T-shirts like us and not salwar kameez?”

Saniya effusively admits that she will keep in touch with all the friends she has made here. “One of them has even added me on Facebook,” she adds.

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