How’s it going? Sab theek? Aur baaki sab?
You may have seen me, though. I’m ashamed to admit that I was once part of the jingoistic mob which screams patriotic challenges across Wagah Border every evening. For the sake of our friendship, I hope you weren’t reciprocating on the other side.
I’m writing to you because I’m worried. I recently read about a survey which found that a majority of my countrymen, and yours, hate each other. I’m worried because I know it’s true.
But I don’t hate you, yaar.
I realise that you are no more capable of presenting me with Dawood than I am of gifting you an undiverted Jhelum. What is firdaus bar roo-e zameen in India is the ‘k’ in ‘Pakistan’; neither of us can solve the Kashmir problem, so let’s not celebrate Diwali with N-bombs, okay?
Tough luck with all that political instability, man – I feel for you. Must be difficult accepting that the guys in power aren’t the guys you voted for (or against). And I hope you haven’t lost anyone you know in those horrid blasts that occur every now and then.
Those reports of an alleged dalliance between Hina Rabbani Khar and Bilawal Bhutto did warm the cockles of my Bollywood-romantic heart, though. And Fatima isn’t too bad to look at either.
I learn more about your world every day. Khuda Ke Liye was a gut-wrenching watch. Mohsin Hamid’s novels reflect our mutual disenchantment with irrational religious dogma. An anthology of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poems is the first non-English work I’ve ever read. I doze off every night to the strains of Farida Khanum’s ghazals and am just beginning to discover the greatness of Madam Noor Jehan. The porosity of our cultural borders inspired born-there-bred-here poet Gulzar to write:
‘Aankhon ko visa nahin lagta
Sapnon ki sarhad nahin hoti
Band aankhon se roz main
Sarhad paar chalaa jaata hoon
Milne Mehdi Hassan se.’
My orthopaedician uncle visited your nation – twice – and was charmed by its gracious hospitality. They’ve even relaxed the visa norms now, so let’s not wait until Aditya Chopra makes a Veer-Zara sequel (or we look as ghastly as Shah Rukh Khan) to meet, okay?
I want to visit Lahore some day. I’ve always imagined it as a replica of puraani Dilli, replete with cloistered courtyards, patli galiyaan and great street food. And I really want to meet some Pakistani medical students.
I hope you live in Lahore, yaar.
You’ll visit me here too, won’t you? I’ll take you to Mohammed Ali Road during Ramadan and you’ll tell me the kebabs are just as good as they are back home. I’ll visit Haji Ali Dargah for the first time, with you. And you’re going to love Marine Drive.
We’re not so different, you and I. You’ll see.
Your friend across the border,
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