I made lasting friendships with Indians as a high school student in an an international school in Victoria, Canada, then later as a graduate student at MIT in Cambridge, Masachusetts, and recently as a professional working in the UAE. I have stayed in touch with them over all this time.
Thinking about writing for Aman ki Asha, I thought about my roommate for over five years, Aparna Laxmiratan (PhD in Artifical Intelligence), Nishreen and Shabbir from Mumbai (don't even remember how I met them), Sabeena Suri and Aradhana Goel, (architecture students), and realized that my experience at MIT was incomplete without one of my closest friends - Puja Nanda. In fact, had it not been for her, I may have given up fasting for Ramzan/ Ramadan while in the States.
Puja Nanda, an architect from Delhi, had not had the same exposure to Pakistanis as I had had to Indians, as I had attended high school in Canada at the Lester B. Pearson United World College, Victoria. And yet, we bonded almost instantly over Bollywood and masala chai in 1997. Writing this I remembered how I'd met her: she was the family friend of another good friend Amit Mehra who was doing his PHd in Aero-Astro at MIT, and had just been admitted into the Masters programme in architecture, so he asked me to look out for her.
Puja (or Puji) was there for most of my moves (housing), and quite honestly - I don't remember if I was there for her's. From Ashdown House, the beautiful Victorian building overlooking the Charles River and Harvard Bridge (a name we could never figure out since it was in front of MIT and led straight to its campus), to the rundown Main Street off-campus housing, to a house on Broadway, as a temporary guest at the Ahmed brothers' beautiful and happy Central Square home before I finally left the States. All these moves saw Puji calming my frenetic, almost OCD(Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!) packing with her wonderful cups of tea, ignoring my ranting and raving and just getting on with the packing, and the last minute errands. Her last gift to me was an MIT cap, and organisers for my CDs.
Architecture, adventure, and Puja: Ms. Nanda was also the official organiser of trips during spring break and long weekends. When we heard about Princess Diana's death, we were in New Hampshire on a white-water rafting trip. I discovered Harry Potter on our trip to Seattle, we went to underground mines near Pittsburgh, canoeing in Massachusetts, and if it weren't for Puja, I may never have experienced my favorite piece of architecture design: the Kauffman House at Falling Water (Bear Run, Pennsylvania) by Frank Lloyd Wright.
This is just what a good friend is. There. Puja was there for me and it was irrelevant whether she was from Pakistan, India or Mars. What did amaze me in all the years I knew her was the unquestioning way she made Iftar for me every Ramzan without any song and dance, while I organised all the Diwali parties!
I had graduated and started working in Boston, and was way too tired to make iftar after work- so I'd pick up some fast food, or try to have iftar after prayers at MIT's religious center, until Puja realized how depressing I found breaking my fast alone or with strangers, even if they were Muslims - it really was mostly Arab culture and Arab food.
So I would take the Number 1 bus down Massachusetts Avenue, run to the religious center, say my prayers and break my fast, but eat a nice desi Iftar with Puja later.
It really wasn't an issue or something I even thought about much, until I left the States and moved to London, and realized that iftar in a foreign country is a foreign affair. Puja, with her pakoras, bhel puris, chaats, and masala chai gave me a piece of "home". And she was an Indian.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
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The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw