BY VASANT DAVÉ
As dawn broke on 15th August, India’s Independence Day, I landed at the Lahore airport. A few hours earlier, Pakistan had celebrated its Independence Day, and the entire place was bedecked with green flags carrying the crescent.
One could sense hope and excitement in the atmosphere even at that early hour.
I reached the immigration counter, preparing myself to be grilled by an officer, whom I imagined would be looking like a headmaster about to discipline an errant school boy. My feet came to an abrupt halt. Behind the desk sat a young lady wearing a black hijab.
She shattered my perception that most Pakistani women were burqa-clad, like the ones we see in Bhopal and Lucknow.
I handed my passport, both my cataract-operated eyes keen to watch how her comely face would look when she twitched her nose – that’s just what a bearded co-passenger had once done upon spotting the logo of the three lions on my passport.
She leafed through it, stamped it, and returned it with a smile, “Happy Independence Day to you, Sir.” Her words shattered my second perception: That every Pakistani was as hostile to India as those elderly Pakistani guests in our TV debates. In the following three days, I came to understand the people of Pakistan even further, and discovered that basically, we are more alike than different. The average Pakistani has the same anxieties as we do in India – price hikes, children’s safety and education, the impact of saas-bahu TV serials on our family life, and a deep concern for the future.
My tryst with Pakistan had commenced on a rainy June morning, when I opened the Facebook page of my novel, and out popped a message from a stranger – Dr Shahid Ahmad Rajput, Professor at COMSATS Institute in Islamabad.
He informed me about an international conference, referred me to his Facebook wall, and asked if I would be interested in participating. He also added, “I’m intrigued by the title Trade winds to Meluhha.”
Trade winds to Meluhha is my novel, set in the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation and Mesopotamia.
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