A brief introduction to Indireads’ anthology, Love Across Borders, which will be released on midnight, August 14th.
My first instinct on hearing about the Love Across Borders anthology was to write a story based on the Wagah border. Dividing the two strife-torn neighboring countries is this fascinating place where, paradoxically, some semblance of unity is found. The audience sitting on either side of the fence bear the same complexion and features with the only obvious difference being the style of clothing. This place holds immense potential, and not just for story-telling.
Surprisingly, when I actually sat down to write, my story took on a mind of its own. Away from the border and the parade, it started talking of Anjum, a Pakistani girl who lived in Bombay. That caught my attention. I had never heard of a cross-border migration in urban India, not in the recent times. Vandana, the narrator, was Anjum’s neighbor and after her initial guardedness about a Pakistani padosi, gradually lowered her defenses and took to Anjum like she never had to any other neighbor. While I was bent on knowing how Anjum was ‘smuggled’ to India—this was before the Shoaib-Sania alliance—Vandana could not probe beyond the point of decency.
Nevertheless, she was struck by Anjum’s simplicity. Strife, anarchy, political unrest did not exist for Anjum. She had grown up in a secure background amidst relatives, food and festivals and thought that the rest of the world was an extension of that warmth. That was how she disarmed Vandana.
And that was something! Having known Vandana all my life, I knew how hard it was to be her friend. She was in a constant hurry to accomplish her tasks; her tutorial was her pilgrimage and her students her pilgrims. She knew no life beyond them. As the eldest of three siblings she was equally adept at household chores and went about them with the professionalism of an event manager. It was a joke among friends that if we were to go to Vandu’s house unannounced, she may ask us to do our dishes because it was not on her agenda!
For someone as rigid as her, marriage was difficult. She detested the fact that she had to follow Vineet to Bombay, giving up her lifeline—her tutorial. It did not help that Vineet was her exact opposite. He was laid back and relaxed and lived for the moment. Vandu disliked him at once, but she was practical enough to know that she could not remain a spinster all her life. As she was convinced there was nobody who would be compatible with her, she said yes to Vineet. One alliance was as bad as the other, why waste more time!
Post-Anjum, Vandu was a different person, though. Anjum opened up a part of Vandu’s life that she did not think existed.
Read about Vandana’s journey with Anjum and decide for yourself if the fence between the two countries is just a mental block, or are friendliness and love actually hostage to geography?
Andy Paula, India
When my grandparents talked about Partition, the focus of their stories was a divide between religious ideals. As much as our rational selves will argue that there were political and economic realities to the divide, generations of Pakistanis and Indians have grown up believing that our differences are as basic as Hindu vs. Muslim. Volumes have been written on what, why, and why not Partition, on both sides of the border.
But we’re not here to talk about Partition. We’re here to recognize that both countries are a reality, they exist; the deed is done. Let our governments quarrel; it’s been a long haul of one step forward and two steps back for them. For the people, however, opportunities to change mindsets abound. From the distance of time, we can stop looking back, stop dwelling on differences, and start focusing on what we have in common.
Let’s start with the tenets of each of our religions: Blessed are the Peacemakers. The line itself is from the Bible; Matthew 5:9—”Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” Both Muslim and Hindu texts have similar references, though, so Indireads felt that this was a wonderful place to begin our journey to Love Across Borders.
Surah Baqarah 11:15—”Do not make mischief in the earth, they say. Verily, we are in fact peacemakers”
Bhagavad Gita—”Without meditation, where is peace? Without peace, where is happiness?”
One of the most amazing benefits of starting Indireads has been the opportunity to interact and become friends with authors on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.
Talking to them I came to two realizations, first the reinforcement of my belief in how similar we are (after all we are the same people and no line drawn in the sand can change that), and secondly, how little each side knows of the other.
My parents were born in Hyderabad Deccan, and while they moved to Karachi, they still have family there. Aunts, uncles and cousins regularly go across to attend weddings and visit on both sides, and we are all very much one big family. And in my own travels across the world, some of my best friends have been Indians, of all faiths and backgrounds.
Having been privileged to have both family and friends across the border, I feel strongly that it is important for people to begin to connect across this real border, but imagined divide, to see that the person on the other side is reflection of oneself.
If we all just begin to connect, we will see how much we have in common—music, food, colors, clothes and wise sayings—are all part of our shared culture and heritage. That’s what Indireads books celebrate and that is the inspiration for Love Across Borders, our first anthology, a collection of short stories to mark the Independence Days of these two neighboring countries, by teaching us how much we have in common to celebrate.
What are some of the things common across the sub-continent that you enjoy?