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Home > 2021 > India-Pakistan Hatred is a Mindset Problem | M R Narayan Swamy

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 40, New Delhi, Sept 18, 2021

India-Pakistan Hatred is a Mindset Problem | M R Narayan Swamy

Friday 17 September 2021, by M R Narayan Swamy


I was cursing my luck after encountering young Chinese women tellers at a Hong Kong bank who could neither understand nor speak English. I wanted to convert 900 HK dollars into Indian currency before flying back to Delhi. Just then I saw a South Asian man, in the bank’s blue guard uniform, flash a smile and ask: “Koi problem?” (Is there a problem?)

I heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, I could relate the issue to someone. After hearing me, the man took my HK dollars, went in and, within minutes, came out holding Indian rupees!

I thanked him profusely. Where was he from? Karachi, he said. “And you?” he asked in Hindustani. When I replied I was from Delhi, he wished me good luck and said I could get more currency changed. We shook hands like old friends.

Another chance meeting in a third country with another Pakistani, a taxi driver, was equally unexpected.

I had hurriedly walked out of Washington’s Smithsonian National Museum when a taxi screeched to a halt at a traffic light. I ran for it, only to stop two feet away after seeing a white man seated behind the South Asian looking driver.

The driver hurriedly rolled down the right window and shouted: “Janaab, aiye! Front se! Jaldi! Main appko chod doonga!” (Sir, come! Get in it from the front! Hurry up! I will drop you!)

I was in two minds on getting into a taxi that already had a passenger. But something in the man’s voice made me obey him. Just as I got in, the traffic light turned green and the taxi sped off.

In no time, the driver and I introduced ourselves to each other. I am sure the passenger felt I was the driver’s assistant.

The driver was a Pakistani from Karachi. He had been driving a taxi in Washington for 14 years but without a license! He admitted getting caught many times but he always managed to give a false address and get away. Amazing, I thought.

I had a question. I had to reach the Indian embassy. I had no idea where the taxi was headed to. How will I be charged?

“Don’t worry, Sir! You are my brother. Just pay me 5 dollars.” I paid him 10 dollars and we parted after a hearty handshake.

Barring exceptions, Indians and Pakistanis get along very well, as individuals, particularly in third countries. The more Pakistanis you meet, the more you realize they are just like you. They have merits and demerits – like any Indian. They are proud of Pakistan just as we take pride in India. They have dreams, so do we.

This is why most Indians who visit Pakistan come back with positivity after interacting with people in a country which – minus its road signs and shop names in Urdu and with most men in pathan suits – well looks like a part of India.

There are other differences too. It is overwhelmingly Islamic with its attendant images, it is a non-vegetarian society, and buses and trucks in Pakistan are garishly – some claim attractively – painted in multiple colours.

But don’t expect every woman on the streets to be in burqa from top to bottom! Yes, many will be veiled but in most major cities the majority will be outside of it. And not all males sport long, Taliban-style beards.

Most Pakistanis know quite a lot about India (even if everything they know is not factually accurate), urban Pakistanis are knowledgeable about Bollywood, and scores of Pakistanis would love to visit India.

This is one reason why most Pakistanis extend genuine hospitality to Indians they meet. Unfortunately, the reverse is not equally true.

Today, if more and more Indian athletes with international exposure are insisting that they don’t see their Pakistani counterparts as “enemies” except in the sporting arena, the reason is simple: the Pakistanis they have met are as good and as bad as their own compatriots.

Indian journalists who have been to Pakistan have been surprised by cabbies who charge no money or discounted fare after knowing your nationality: “Janab, aap tho hamare mehmaan hain!” (Sir, you are our guest!)

Pakistani shopkeepers are no different. In both cases, it is not the money or discount that matters. Indians get extra care whatever the state of bilateral relations barring exceptions.

I know of school children from Delhi and Mumbai who made it to Lahore some years back in an exchange programme. When the students went shopping at Anarkali Bazar, they were taken aback at the huge discounts offered at shops when it became known that the kids were from India. As it is, the boys and girls had limited pocket money; the shopkeepers’ generosity made the day memorable.

Of course, there are hotheads in Pakistan – like in India. There are Pakistanis who would love to break up India. We have their counterparts. An odd Pakistani may charge 10 rupees extra from an Indian! The reality is the Pakistani deep state –built on anti-India oxygen – doesn’t take permission from Pakistanis before sending terrorists to India – just as Indira Gandhi didn’t seek mass approval before arming and training the LTTE.

Indian journalists posted in Pakistan have no doubt faced harassment. (I too had a nasty encounter in Islamabad but that is another story.) But this did not prevent an enterprising Indian journalist from Delhi to become the pillion rider of a Pakistani intelligence operative on a motorcycle who was tailing him. The Indian’s argument was bold and unique: If you let me ride with you, you will know where I am going. As for me, I will save all my taxi fare!

This could have been happened only between an Indian and a Pakistani!

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