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.