By: Khuda Bux Abro
It was not just the land that was partitioned. Hearts, minds, behaviours and emotions had been partitioned long before so the final division could be made ‘smoothly’, and it went as smoothly as expected. The ground was pulled from underneath someone’s feet, while the sky was pulled away from another’s head! Millions of people neither belonged here nor there, only those who were to lead the new states remained. The new leaders had not only been involved in dividing the state but also dreamt of ruling the new countries in the name of religion and nationalism. A single announcement managed to create a border that cannot be seen anywhere except in books, files and maps.
It was as if a wall was erected in the courtyard of a large, lively house. Those who lived and played together would sulk one moment and reconcile with each other the next. Their hearts beat together as one. If they liked a certain tune, they all sang it together. If they got drunk, they danced in harmony with each other. Their souls were fragrant with the scent of the soil; their breaths were perfumed with the same culture. But the formation of the wall of hate and treachery neither divided nor affected their breaths, their heartbeats.
It doesn’t matter whether the leaders belong to this side of the wall or to that side. They have always sowed seeds of hatred within the divided hearts of their nation in order to prevent the demolition of the wall erected within their hearts and minds so that not only their rule would be established but their sustenance is guaranteed, as well as their luxuries.
What does it matter if the people on this side or that of the wall live below the poverty line? Forget having healthcare and education, what does it matter if the people are deprived of basic needs like ‘roti, kapra aur makan’? Instead, not only did they build mountains of weapons but they also filled their own homes with the money they earned from the sale of weapons.
On one hand, both countries are atomic powers. On the other hand, they have no electricity, water, gas or petrol. We line up for CNG and other fuels; there is no electricity neither here nor there. We say it’s ‘loadshedding’ and they call it ‘katoti’. At night, their footpaths are full of sleeping, homeless people. A similar sight can be seen on our roads at night. We have katchi abadis and they have slums. Piles of rubbish litter our streets and theirs. There are armies of beggar children on both sides of the wall. But we still stand amongst the developed nations with our heads held high, saying that we are atomic powers. They stand in dhotis and we in old, torn shalwars.
The awam here and the janta there are stuck in the clutches of the same kind of leaders. We hear cries of “Corruption! Corruption!” from both sides of the border. They are ruled by the bureaucracy, businesspeople, politicians and the army. Similarly, we are ruled by the bureaucracy, politicians, waderas, businesspeople and the army. Everyone is related in one way or the other. The pundit rules there, while the mullah rules here. They both fear love as it were their mortal enemy. Each tells his people to follow the ‘true’ path. Each considers his path as the right one.
Everyone has their own path and destination. Your job is merely to follow in their footsteps, not think and question your leaders. Just close your eyes and follow them because it is their responsibility to take you to the destination. The revolution is on its way. We have kept walking on for the last 65 years, losing generations in the process but we still hear that the revolution is on its way.
When the talks of lessening the distances begin, steps are taken to increase the distances. Firing occurs, throats are slit or sometimes you’ll hear a blast. Then all measures announced to decrease the bilateral distances are either completely withdrawn or remain as mere announcements. The nationalist politicians in both countries begin to speak in a common jingoist language. The media in both countries lets go of all control, trying to gain higher ratings. If they could, they would bring the two armies to a confrontation or blow up both nations with a single bomb.
The public of both countries breathe, smile, laugh and cry together. Their grief and happiness are the same. Films, drama and songs are the same for both; while someone from Calcutta hums the tunes of Mehdi Hasan, someone else in Peshawar is a great fan of Jagjit Singh. Their hearts beat together. Their dreams are the same. But this wall between the two countries has been elongated and heightened instead of being shortened. Those who keep fortifying it don’t know that its height cannot prevent the winds, scents and the sounds of music and laughter from travelling across the border.
Poetry, literature, history, philosophy, theatre, dance and music are our common capital. How are you going to stop these? What methods will you use? The people think at an equal level and are not dependent upon you anymore. Whether it is instruments, voice, art or literature, the roads have opened for them.
The world is getting closer everyday and you are adamant on not saying hello to your neighbour.
Our children would like to benefit from each other’s developments. They wish to study and learn from each other’s teachers. The fearful atmosphere spread by our leaders has greatly harmed our previous generations. For goodness sake, let the new generations familiarise themselves with their culture, traditions, art and literature. The entire world is coming closer but we are being kept apart from each other every single day.
Why are we forbidden from knowing about ourselves? Why we are not allowed to look into the mirror? We are supposed to be each other’s reflection. Why are we being forced to look into opposing directions? Who has ever been saved by weapons? Only love can save us! Please cut the crop that you have been cultivating for the last 65 years. And just let us be.
The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.