WagahIn February of 2000, I was invited to visit Pakistan by His Excellency Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the then high commissioner of Pakistan in India. I made the trip, crossing the Wagah border on the Delhi-Lahore bus. I spoke at colleges in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Taxila.I really had a great time there. Made a few friends with whom I’m in regular touch with, some on a daily basis. This did surprise a few of my college mates. I was known on campus as a staunch Indian nationalist. How can he be so popular with Pakistanis? Did he change while he was there? Did he go soft?

MitwaNo. I didn’t. I remained a nationalist. All my Pakistani friends are staunch nationalists too. They love Pakistan as much as I love India. Maybe that’s why we get along with each other so well. This doesn’t mean we don’t have our differences, we disagree on almost every issue related to India and Pakistan. I like to talk to them about these issues because it gives me a better understanding of their arguments.

It’s only if we talk to each other as Indian and Pakistanis can we solve our differences. What I absolutely dislike is the BASTARDISATION of our national identities. In other words, when we stop being Indians and Pakistanis become Macacas. This is a phenomenon largely followed by those settled outside our sub-continent (not all, some). They prefer to be desis, brown, asian rather than Indians or Pakistanis. They prefer to sweep our differences under the carpet for the sake of making it easier for natives of their host country to identify them.

As Indians and Pakistanis, we have our rough patches. This will only get smoothed out if we discuss and debate our differences as Indians and Pakistanis not Macacas.