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Let’s Be Friends…Again!

Pakistan!

One word capable of invoking so much inside me and my compatriots.  Every time a soldier on the LoC dies—we hate Pakistan. Every time they ban our film—we pity Pakistan. Every time one of their artistes moves us with his/her creativity—we wish he had chosen India to live in. Every time their politician says rot about us—we curse him. Most of us can attribute these feelings to everything we have heard the news presenters say or have read in our newspapers.

So, in a nutshell, it’s a bitter-sweet relationship jo nibhaya bhi na jaaye or nibhaaye bina raha bhi na jaaye (can’t live with ’em, can’t live without them!).

I have had a different relationship with them. I have a strong opinion on everything that is political in nature but somewhere I had this crazy urge to see someone who lives in Pakistan from close. In my head I always wondered, how a normal person lives there? As in do they also wear nightsuits while sleeping? Do they eat out in restaurants and look at each other as to how much they should tip? Do they watch movies like we do in multiplexes and buy a bucket of popcorn in the interval? Do they walk on a busy street against the traffic or with it? Do they have bad hair days? Do they also crib about Monday blues? Yeah I know it sounds utterly obnoxious but I am like this for most of my fascinations (I have just two more—Celebrities and Times Square).

I guess if I had studied somewhere abroad, all these seemingly stupid enchantments would have been satisfied long ago. That didn’t happen and I built imaginary walls in my head which had its own notions of them being inaccessible and almost—aliens.

My first published work gave me a lot of things. But I never imagined it would give me a gateway to personal relationships with Pakistanis. My publisher is one and every time she called (although she lives in Canada), I would get butterflies in my stomach that I am about to hear a—”Hi Parul”—from a Pakistani. That definitely confirmed one thing—they address me like any other person from any other nationality would! Then came into existence a closed group on Facebook where all the authors were added. I could see a lot of names there which had Karachi/Islamabad/Lahore written underneath them. That was just too much excitement. And then came the real surprise! I got a ‘friend request’ from one of them. The world called Pakistan opened up in front of me. In pictures I saw, they have the same beds or sofas or parks or streets like I have in Delhi. And then I kept adding all the authors who kept sending requests. And now, I post a picture—they can see it. They write a status on their day-to-day life—I can read it! How cool is that?

The story that I have written for the Love Across Borders Anthology is really the culmination of my interactions this past year and a tribute to knowing the human side of Pakistan, who, I am now sure, aren’t two-headed monsters.

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Journal

The Way to Love

To compare my first book with my first-born baby is a tad clichéd, I know. However, the similarity in both these experience is uncanny. They both started with a defined hope. They were both dependent on me for their first journeys. I was equally apprehensive about being able to take them to a logical end. Everything I breathed, ate or drank was done keeping in mind that I was responsible for them. So let it just be a cliché. Just this once.

The whole process of sketching out the story, its characters, defining their relationships to the plot and each other, engaging them in a dialogue, not just with each other but also a potential reader and weaving them into believable people is a journey that has changed my life tremendously. It’s different from writing an article or a blog. To write a book that has an identity and soul of its own is something I learnt only after taking it up. It is an all-consuming thing with a life of its own, and it will take over yours.

Am I complaining? NO. “Love will find a way” has helped me find the real meaning of life itself. As I started building the intricacies of human relationships between the three main characters of my novella, I realized I was drawing inspiration from the various relationships that I have or have had with people who have come and gone. Sometimes when you are in the present, you do not realize the other side of things that are happening with you. But this novella gave me an opportunity to build three fictional characters and, basing their behaviors on people I have known or heard about, I realized that there is so much I would like to go back in time and change.

My story is not about finding love. It is, in fact, about love finding you. It is about believing that love is not something you can give up on. It is not something you can move on from. If it is meant to be yours, it will happen to you, stay with you, guide you, take you in its fold and transform your life again and again.

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