People-to-people exchanges between India and Pakistan are a 'soft' way to contribute towards peace and understanding at many levels. One such exchange recently was the two-week tour in April of the Karachi Sogetsu Study Group to Mumbai, at the invitation of the Bombay Sogetsu School. The tour, which included a workshop and exhibition that delegates from both cities participated in, was organised under the banner of Aman ki Asha, the joint peace initiative of Jang Group and The Times of India.
The Karachi group consisted of eight practitioners of Sogetsu Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Led by Nafisa Tapal, President and Founder of the Sogetsu Group in Pakistan, their experience ranges from one year to over twenty-five years.
Mumbai Sogetsu teachers participated in the themed Sogetsu exhibition for Aman ki Asha, and tested participants to achieve a higher level of teacher-certification. The teachers had worked on a theme dedicated to Pakistan, using flowers to form the Pakistani flag - a gesture that the Pakistanis found "truly heart-warming". There were also flower arrangements dedicated to the people of Japan, hit by a deadly tsunami in March this year.
The three-day exhibition drew an appreciative audience from all walks of life. "This is an attempt to consolidate our friendship, and affection for our Pakistani neighbours, through flowers," Renu Saraf, the deputy director Bombay Sogetsu School branch told Times of India.
After the show Sogetsu Master Leela Rajkumar certified as Riji, the highest qualification in Sogetsu Ikebana, and the director of the Bombay Sogetsu School branch says, conducted a four-day workshop, in which Sogetsu teacher Renu Shroff also demonstrated his skills. This was an excellent learning experience especially for the Pakistanis who learned new techniques and styles such as leaf multiplications and the concept of structural design.
"The Indians liked our work," Nafisa Tapal told Aman ki Asha in Karachi after her return. "They were extremely hospitable and really appreciated efforts being made for peace between the two countries. This was evident in their arrangements. For example, there was a beautiful flower arrangement in a teapot with the words 'A lot can be resolved over a cup of tea'."
These gestures meant a lot especially given that the venue -- Mumbai, where people feel particularly traumatised by the ghastly events of Nov 26, 2008. The Pakistani contingent visited the 'iconic' Taj Hotel, and "felt bad that the incident had occurred," as Nafisa Tapal put it.
However their hosts were very gracious and clearly did not hold ordinary Pakistanis responsible.
"I have visited India many times," she added. "Every time I experience the same hospitality and love. Since our two countries have so much in common, like culture, cuisine, music and so on, we felt quite at home there."
The Indians are also extremely interested in visiting Pakistan and seeing the culture and the lifestyle of Pakistanis, especially those who were born in cities that are now in Pakistan.
Nafisa Tapal agrees that a regular exchange of professionals will help both sides to learn about the other and overcome the myths created on either side. "I think the Aman ki Asha platform is a great way to bring the people closer to each other and improve relations between the two countries."
All in all, the trip was an excellent experience for the Pakistani group, who were wowed by the hospitality of their Indian friends. The agenda included a series of dinners and brunches, musical programmes and stand-up comedy shows.
The Karachi Sogetsu group returned with loads of shopping, heart-warming experiences and many, many new friends across the border.
-- Lubna J. Naqvi
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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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