Did you just say you were part of a secular nation?

It was a cold chilly evening in 2008. As I stepped out of the BART station, the cold wind bit into my skin that day. “Lets take a cab today” I thought. It doesn’t snow in San Francisco or Fremont, the suburb of San Francisco I lived in back then. It just gets a little chilly at times ,especially during winter, and this was one such day. I somehow wanted get into the warmth of my apartment as soon as possible , and walked up to a cab a few steps away. “Where to?” he asked “Hastings Street” I replied.

On our way home, he asked “Are you from India ? ” “Yes”, said I,with a smile lighting up my face, and thought to myself  “I thought so.. He so looks like an Indian !”. “Where in  India are you from ?” He asked . “Bangalore” said I. “Ah” came the reply.. “the IT City! Its a nice place!! One of the few cities in India where you find trees lining up most  roads there.” I smiled back in acknowledgement .”So.. what do you do? ”  he continued .. “I am a software engineer”.  I replied ..  “Oh Great ! So you work for Wipro?” A lot of the people living in Fremont then worked for Wipro Technologies.  “No” said I “I work for MphasiS”. “Oh” he said. “Most people who live here in Fremont work for Wipro Technologies.” . My apartment had arrived .  Since most people from India knew Hindi, I assumed the old man also would be able to understand and speak the language “Kitna hua uncle?”(How much should I pay you uncle?) I asked . “5 dollar de do”(pay me 5 dollars) he said.. As I got off , I asked him “waise uncle.. aap kahaan ke ho ?”(By the way uncle ,where are you from ?) . Pat came the reply .. “Hum Lahore ke hain” (I am from Lahore). Although his answer left me stupefied , I responded with the warmest  smile that I could manage, and thanked him for dropping me to my doorstep.

The US of A today is where people from a lot of countries/cultures come together. You really have to go there once to experience it , find people from all over the world and understand their cultures.  I had just had bumped into a man from Pakistan, who I mistook to be an Indian. I connected with him just as well as I would have connected with a fellow countryman from India. His complexion and physical characteristics were no different from those of an Indian, and he spoke exactly the same language most Indians did as well- Hindi.  It sure did feel good to know that!

When in a foreign land, it’s difficult to distinguish between a person from India and Pakistan. We  neighbors share a lot in common, including language and physical characteristics, and unknowingly connect so well with our so called rivals from across the border. We, the people of India and Pakistan, are literally mirror images of each other, if I may say so.  Why then, I wonder, have some of us  closed our minds to our friends who hail from there?  Even if we do have a few “differences of opinion” as countries, it doesn’t make all of our neighbors bad, does it? That’s like saying everyone from India is a criminal because Veerappan was one!

Take, for example ,  the Wagah border ceremony (read more about what it is here) , which , I would like to believe,  was started with goodwill back in 1959.It’s a ceremony that is held at Wagah every evening at sunset ,  where  that the gates of India and Pakistan are open , and soldiers from across the border exchange handshakes, while the flags are brought down . (You can read a little more about some people experiencing it at here   and  here ).  It is said that the audiences of both countries  call out “Long live India !” or “Long live Pakistan!” at the ceremony here in an attempt to cheer their nation during the process . More often than not, this leads to them competing with each other there to see who shouts louder. This, in my opinion, is uncalled for, especially at a ceremony that indicates that the two countries share a little goodwill, despite their tense ties.  All “goodwill” is lost, and the ties become even tenser.  It is indeed ironical that , even where  the governments of both countries are trying to promote goodwill , we, the people, citizens of a “secular” nation , choose to behave in the most “non secular” way.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda