The journey so far
By Hassaan Zafar
It took me all of 15 seconds to decide that I was all for this peace initiative. I started to telephone Ronnie Philip but cancelled the call. I punched in the number again...It was the first time I ever talked to an Indian
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
My father taught me the meaning of this quote when I was in the seventh grade. I used to wonder why the world seems so ignorant of these words - so simple and yet so meaningful.
For years I thought of the people living across the border as enemies. As a child when I watched Bollywood movies, which like every Pakistani I am a big fan of, I used to ask myself, how can someone who looks just like me and talks like me be an enemy?
I remember that June day this year so clearly. After returning from my internship, I checked my email. My inbox contained an email from a guy named Ronnie Philip. It had travelled to me via Dr A.H. Nayyar (a faculty member at LUMS SSE) and Beena Sarwar of Aman ki Asha. The email talked about a student level peace initiative between IIT-Bombay Techfest and students at LUMS; it invited SPADES (Society for the Promotion and Development of Engineering and Sciences, a student run organisation that I am a part of) to collaborate in this regards.
I am usually not quick to make decisions but it took me all of 15 seconds to decide that I was all for it. Without contacting my team, I started to telephone Ronnie Philip. Then something struck my mind and I cancelled the call. Should I talk in Urdu? I punched in the number again. Deciding to play cool, I went for English. Conversing very formally we talked about the peace initiative Ronnie had mentioned. He sounded as enthusiastic as I was after reading his email. It was the first time I ever talked to an Indian. I assured him of complete assistance from my side.
When the call ended I felt a bit nervous. I should have talked to my team first to ask if they agreed. Was I committing to something I wouldn't be able to do? Would my team give the approval? I decided to make a formal plan about the collaboration with Ronnie's help. When I presented it to my team, they loved the idea. Everyone supported it.
A series of calls and emails with Ronnie resulted in conceptualising this initiative. I was now conversing with him informally in Urdu, just as I would with any of my friends here. With people from IIT Bombay wishing me "Happy Independence" on August 14th and Eid Mubarak, all the stereotypes were being proven wrong.
The question now was, what should we call the initiative. The name had to be powerful enough to touch people's hearts. With suggestions from both sides, we finally agreed upon "Ummeed-e-Milaap".
The initiative had two parts: the qualifier event for Techfest 2012 for which we invited teams from all over Pakistan to participate in a robotics competition, and a Peace Diary which had to travel across Mumbai-Lahore-Karachi inviting the youth to comment and give their messages to the brethren across the border. Since our semester was to start late in September all we could do then was to talk about the details and finalise them.
With a very short time for execution we got the LUMS administration's approval on this. I was a bit worried as that was a potential hurdle, but as they say, where there's a will there's a way. Our administration applauded the initiative and despite the time constraints, they helped us firm things up.
Ummeed-e-Milaap, which was initially just found in my inbox - I saw it happening. We announced our event and got an overwhelming response.
Around 25 teams registered for the event with just one week's notice. While decorating the venue, we decided to put up Indian and Pakistani flags together as the theme. Since participants were from different cities of Pakistan, I wasn't sure what their response would be at seeing Indian flags around. Nervously we received the participants - and to our surprise found them very much at ease with it. In fact, they appreciated our team for this wonderful initiative.
A team from GIKI even insisted on running their robot with the Indian flag on it to send a message of friendship across the border. Thus came upon me a moment of realisation that the youth which makes up the majority of the population of both countries wants peace. I felt the essence of "Ummeed-e-Milaap". It wasn't about arranging a robotics competition, nor was it about some Pakistani students going to India. It was all about such gestures of peace from the participants, expressed also in our mission statement: "There is no way to Peace - Peace is the way".
I would like to thank all those who helped make "Ummeed-e-Milaap" a success. Aneeq Zia (President SPADES) and Farrukh Feroze (Executive Officer SPADES) worked tirelessly for the execution of the event. The LUMS administration gave its complete support to make it a success and of course, the invaluable help of Ronnie Philip and Anish Sankhe from across the border.
My experience with this initiative not only cleared my misconceptions about the youth across the border but also about the youth in my own country. What the common man wants is peace and prosperity. Taking this vision further, we at SPADES plan to continue this interaction and are planning to invite Indian students to participate in our annual Science Olympiad, Psifi'12.
I believe that the youth can change a lot of things. As a student I would humbly request both governments to introduce academic and cultural exchange programmes for students so that the coming generations can remove misconceptions that have festered for the past 65 years.
The writer is General Secretary SPADES (Society for the Promotion and development of Engineering and
Friday, November 11, 2011
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Page 108 of 175
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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.
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