As India and Pakistan are still at loggerheads with each other even after 67 years of separation, I am bemused here in Sweden. As an Indian back at home, I was all guns when an Indo-Pak cricket match was on or news on the border got a little heated up. And the irony of life is that when both the nations are fighting with each other at the border, they just got the coveted Nobel Prize shared by an Indian man and a Pakistani woman, that too for peace. It is like the entire universe telling us to kiss and make up. But we wouldn’t, would we? The Pakistanis blame Indians for being too high-headed and Indians blame Pakistanis to be full of conspiracies and falsehoods. It is a never ending story.
On a broader level, nationalities hardly hold any accord when you are abroad. Life after moving abroad is saner and mature as you see the bigger picture of things. When I came here initially, I tried to find my fellow Indians abroad. Eventually, after some time, I found some people who shared the same language, food habits and customs to an extent as my country: So to say, from my smaller sub-continent – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Being abroad, I learnt not to make a distinction between a Pakistani, Bangladeshi or an Indian.
In fact, I think we tend to search smaller groups here irrespective of the nationalities. All people from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are famous for their hospitalities, friendliness, warmth and openness. We don’t remember the wars we have won at the border or loathe at Bhutto’s comments when he said something amiss or lash it out on a fellow Pakistani abroad when their team won a match against us. It is the absence and longing for our homeland that make us bond better here.
I go to an Indian grocery shop here run by two Pakistani men and I am quite appalled by the life they have back home. Lots of unemployment, poverty and disengagement within the government they complain of. I have made two very good friends at my university, a Pakistani guy and a Bangladeshi girl who try their best to ‘fit’ in the mould of the society, while I don’t have to make a conscious effort, I slip in very easily. I come to the rescue of my fellow friends when they are questioned at the poverty, disturbed conditions and unemployment rage in their respective countries. And I keep running into all these folks every now and then who want to settle abroad, as situation is not so great in their respective countries. All these make me thankful each day, thankful for being born in a country like ours, where Hindi is our national language (my mother tongue) and still we speak English with much ease. Thankful that tomorrow when I go back to my country, it would be my choice and not because I didn’t want to be there, I wanted to explore the world, not settle in any part of it. Thankful because our education system is so elite and at par with the world that studying in any university abroad, even from the place where the Nobel Prize is awarded makes me sail through the classes smoothly. Thankful, that the real patriotism in me is not my blood boiling when I hear about the Indo-Pak war but the notes that I share with my Pakistani friend who find it difficult to understand the professors accent. Thankful that I chose to celebrate Eid with my Muslim friends here as I am going to celebrate Diwali.
As a parting note, I am not here to preach that we need to end wars or stop swearing at Indo-Pak cricket matches. Nor embrace anyone with open arms. It is the reflection that has made our vision blurry. We have dug ourselves into a deep hole and not wanting to come out, like ever now. Our vision became cleaner when we moved abroad and learnt not to make distinctions among India or Pakistan. Patriotism is not posting updates of Satyarthi and Malala winning the Nobel together; it is about bringing that ‘noble’ ness in you whether in India or abroad in your little ways. Come out of your shell, revel in the grandeur of your country and your sub-continent and clear the airs of the Indo-Pak rivalry.