Little ambassadors of peace

CROSSING BORDER

While dancing to the tunes of Rang De Basanti and Kolaveri Di together, it was difficult to make out that these students belong to two different nations which share a politically tensed relationship.

Bridging differences: Pakistani children at a school in Delhi. DH Photo by Chaman Gautam.After exchanging letters, postcards and audiotapes for more than 15 months, meeting each other in person brought joy for the school students of Pakistan and India.

The meeting of about 19 Pakistani children with the students of St Paul School at Hauz Khas removed apprehensions in their minds about each other’s country and its citizens with each one of them realising how similar they are.

“After we crossed the border, I did not feel any difference. Amritsar was just like Punjab in Pakistan and Delhi looks similar to Lahore and Karachi. I was really happy to see the positive attitude towards us,” said Adan Ali, a Std VIII student of City School, Lahore.

“I knew that India and Pakistan are similar in many ways like language, culture and taste for films and food. We were sharing pictures and postcards also for a long time but I still had some apprehensions which were removed after this visit,” said Zareena Faizan, another visiting student of the same school.

The visit of Pakistani school children to India is part of a 16-month long project, ‘Exchange For Change’, organised by NGOs ‘Routes 2 Roots’ and ‘Citizens Archive of Pakistan’ (CAP) to encourage brotherhood and scale boundaries. About 2,400 school students from 10 schools in both nations were part of the initiative. During the programmes, they shared their hobbies, likes, dislikes, pictures and information about the best places to visit in their countries.

The Pakistani students and other delegates attended the assembly session of St Paul School and had a feel of the environment in Indian schools. Students of the school presented a parody on Kolaveri Di,’ a skit on the theme  ‘Children are harbingers of peace’ and their yoga skills.

The parody ‘Why this enmity Di’ by Indian students received thunderous applause from the Pakistani children as the song and its various versions are equally popular in Pakistan.

“Kolaveri Di is one of my favourites songs. We have Urdu, English and Punjabi versions of the song in Pakistan. All of them are very popular. The one performed here was too good,” said Zareena, who is a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif.

“I can’t hear radio or watch TV as I am not allowed by my father to listen to music or watch films, but I really liked the Indian students’ performance on Kolaveri Di’s parody,” said Hajra Batool, who studies in Std VI at Ilm School, Lahore.

One of the interesting parts of the programme was the sharing of audio tapes.
The students recorded and heard stories from each other’s grandparents about their life in India and Pakistan before partition.

“From their stories, we got to know how Pakistan and their lives were before the partition. We could visualise how the places, where we live now, were very different decades ago,” said Adan.

Racheal Thomas, principal, St Paul School said initially she was a little apprehensive about the programme as she did not know how the parents of the students would react. “But now I can say that it was a good decision. The students now feel that they have come closer to Pakistan apart from making friends across the border,” she said.

The Indian students had their own hesitation and doubt about Pakistan and their citizens. “It was so much fun when they were dancing to the same numbers which we enjoy.

They are just like us and not narrow minded as we thought. I thought they will not talk to us but I was so stupid,” Ken George, a Std VI at St Paul School, said.

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