Our Great Divorce

It’s strange, this affinity with India. I find myself getting increasingly upset at the abuse and hatred tossed from one border to another, with little rationale apart from the 69 year old chips on our shoulders. These chips have, over time, turned into boulders, and who doesn’t crumble under the weight of those?

It’s very strange, this affinity with India. When Amitabh Bachchan is in the hospital, we pray for his good health; when Ranbir Kapoor’s film is a hit, we’re prouder than Neetu and Rishi; we never deny that no one brings romance to life like the voices of Kishore and Rafi; they are in unanimous agreement that their local music scene is not a patch on ours; if we happen to interact abroad, they’re the only pardesis we include in the ‘desi’ category; their monuments carry our history; our language carries their roots.

It’s far too strange, this affinity with India. Like siblings, we retaliate to each other’s provocations. Ultimately, we both share the label of being impulsive and emotional in our responses to one another – ‘Look at what you’re doing in Kashmir’ ‘Hah, look at what you’re doing in Balochistan’; ‘You attacked us first in Uri’ ‘Have you forgotten about Kargil’?; ‘You started it!’ ‘No! You started it!’

Like orphaned trust fund babies, we feel entitled yet have no idea how to cope. They neither acknowledge nor respond to Muslims being massacred for eating beef in Gujrat, for instance, and we? We turn a blind eye to Christians and Hindus being physically assaulted for eating before Iftar in Ramzan. They’re destroying Kashmir, we say, Kashmiris have a right to be independent (or choose us, of course), but we forget how we throttled Bangladesh – why should a Bengali speaking majority not accept Urdu as its national language? We never speak about that, do we? Too soon, perhaps.

When I think about some of my best days and nights in the last ten years, more than 50% of them were spent with my brothers and sisters from across the border; sharing a meal, listening to music, discussing politics, or anything but; laughing, dancing, singing; but most importantly, completely aware yet in vehement passive rebellion against the lines that keep us apart.

Come to think of it now, it isn’t strange at all, this affinity with India. Our proverbial Lord and Master, the gargantuan power that rules us, ‘The West’, is an absentee parent; one we’re constantly trying to please but one who never really loved us anyway. If there is anyone for us, it’s each other. What’s strange is our reluctance to acknowledge this.

What’s strange is the burden we carry of decisions made in our pasts, based on an entirely different socio-political context, when a common, exploitative antagonist made sure we saw each other as the aggressor, and boy, did we fall for it. What’s strange is our prolonged blindness to the immense opportunities that lie before us as a unit, and the vast desolation that lies before us as enemies.

The strangest thing about our relationship, in fact, is our propensity to change roles. To the world, most of the time, we are siblings; constantly at loggerheads, trying to get into daddy’s good books so that he may buy us a toy, or take us for a drive, or better yet, increase our allowance. Other times, we are like a divorced couple, sharing space, constantly bickering over who lost out in the settlement, unable to finally come to terms with the fact that we are no longer together. It seems the scars of our separation are still so ripe, so painful, that they can’t accept that we left, and we can’t accept that they let us leave. In an event like this, we only find solace in making sure the other is just as hurt as we are, so we put in our all our resources, our best efforts, to do exactly that.

I read today that India claimed they carried out a surgical attack in Uri. Ridiculous. I immediately read several, equally ridiculous Pakistani reactions; some hitting below the belt, others claiming that one shouldn’t expect more from mass murdering politicians, like the ones we have across the border. Somehow, suddenly, we are all too forgiving of our own ‘glorious’ politicians. It’s strange how quick we are to forget how much trouble governance is in, on both sides, when we jump up to point fingers.

I’m sure this news will leave me in a month’s time. What hasn’t left me is the news about a Pakistani Head of State’s arrival in Delhi for a test match, ultimately averting the threat of war; or an Indian politician putting his hand forward to greet his Pakistani counterpart, to curb tensions; or that time when Ganguly acknowledged that there’s no one greater than Wasim; or when Shoaib Malik married Sania Mirza; or that image of the guards in the most beautiful fraternal embrace I have ever seen, on Holi at Wagah Border. I suppose it’s because some of us look for peace, we hanker for it, while others, they look for war.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is, in 20 years’ time, Uri will be just another event in the text books. It will be labeled as yet another period in our collective histories when our ‘cold war’ with India almost turned into ‘hot war’. It will be just another opportunity for me to pick on my Indian friends or vice versa. It will be just another event our older uncles will discuss when they try to feel better about Pakistan’s failures and convince themselves that partition was the best thing that could’ve happened for us and that, without India, ‘we’re better off’.

What will never be ‘just another event’ is one we never address. The fact that we are now divorced; the fact that our separation is painful for both of us; the fact that where there is now hate, there was once unity and a common pride; the fact that we allowed an external power to come in and manipulate us, and we fell prey; the fact that no one will know us like we know each other, because after all, we were once but one.

It is comforting somehow, that when I messaged one of my closest friends across the border, expressing concern over the destructive megalomaniac tendencies of our governments, he responded and said, ‘It doesn’t matter what they do, you know I will always love you’. It is comforting somehow, that in 20 years’ time, if you look away from the textbooks, and turn to your ancient scriptures or your holy books, it won’t take you long to see that since time immemorial, there is only one message they are trying to convey, only one message we should be paying attention to; and that message is Love.

This post was originally published on Facebook here. It was republished and reported on dawn.com, IndianExpress.com, BetterIndia.comStorypick.com, Buzzfeed, Mangobaaz, NDTV, rediff news, Huffington Post India, Scoopwhoop.com, The News Minute, Catch News, Mid-Day.com, India Live TodayNamanBharat.com, tahlkanews.com, MadhyamamZee News, amankiasha.com, The Times of India, BBC Urdu and BBC News.

20 thoughts on “Our Great Divorce

  1. Nabajeet

    You indeed write well. Have a command over the language but this appeal is nothing more than a sentimental rant. Appreciate your effort but, no, my friend across the border, I don’t agree to this hyperbole of great affinity. That’s just your farcical whim right out of a ‘fiction.’ I would acknowledge the reality instead, which is ‘terrorism’ that has killed your and mine brothers and sisters. The need of the hour is to ‘kill’ those terrorists. Your appeal should have been to “your people” to not encourage terrorism (not allow your territory to be lived by them) and if they coordinate with Indian army ‘kill’ the cancer, I am sure ‘Our World’ will be alright. Until then stay blessed.


  2. MALAY

    Dear Alizay,

    I have gone through your well written and conciliated article on love and peace. I appreciate your feeling and thought. But if I am not being an Indian even though for the sake of humanity and from the sense of sane, does your thought seams to be indifferent or you are being a biased for your country and towards your people or are you dreading of Pakistan Film Industry that in your conciliated statement you have mentioned – ” It’s strange, this affinity with India “, for numerous time. Its mean your thought is highlighting a steepness.

    If you are qualified enough than you must know the meaning of – Pakistan / India. Ok, without going to bewildering you any more, let me explain this notion. The term basically denote the nation, the people who build the country and more profoundly the cornerstone of both the country were the agrarian society. So, now tell me did those people radicalised you, because this people in our country even don’t know what the hell is going out there in Kashmir. They are also representing our country and without concerning for them you gamut all of them in your post (again) by mentioning – ” It’s strange, this affinity with India “.

    Sorry, my motive is not to hurt your feeling, if does please bare me with my thought. Only thing I want to say think deeply before sharing your thought with the people in this matter.

    Once again thanking you for taking your time out from your busy routine and felt concerned for the apathy and cruel nature of unorganised society.


  3. KRS

    Totally agree with you sister from across the border!!
    You have taken a step back to see the big picture form a bird’s eye view and yet managed to send an emotional and powerful message to jolt us awake from decades of slumber to take notice of what is happening to our beloved family. Now is the time to start piecing together, bit by bit ,all the shards of the shattered but beautifully fragile relationship.
    Very articulately written, the words just seem to flow out in such a manner that it is difficult to ascertain that probably many hours had been spent organising your thoughts,typing and retyping, editing in order to present such a cohesive statement.
    Very impressive, both the message and the prose..!!


  4. Great message! Even better timing!! People like you change the world. They should make you “People’s Ambassador of Pakistan to India”. As an Indian (and not least because I’m probably as nomadic as you) I would definitely support that idea and your thoughts. Do keep writing and expressing them as freely as ever!


  5. Earnest

    Well articulated. India and Pakistan will definitely get to a stage where they will live in perfect harmony and enhance eachothers wellbeing. All that is happening now will serve as a constant reminder then, for us to continually keep improving. For a society to be good, they need to remember how consequences of being bad feels like. Its a cycle. Unfortunately though, some will be victims in the process of this cycle playing out. Believe me, the abuse we throw at eachother stands as a testament to how familiar we are with eachother and how dependent we are on eachother. Its a very strong bond. Such a bond can quickly turn into a positive relation but as history teaches us, the stronger the memory of suffering we have the longer we will remain in good relationship. But first as a society people should learn to calm down and stop knee-jerk reactions. If we are all so proud of our scriptures, that is one thing we can learn from them.Today’s proud muslims don’t really know what Quran teaches nor do the proud hindus who gloat about Gita. One doesn’t need to appreciate others culture or heritage, just understand yours well and the world will be a peaceful place. Lets learn to keep our minds sane until we see such a turn in events as to celebrate together all the diversity we have. Cheers!


  6. Pamela Pereira

    Hi Alizay,
    It is so beautiful to see the tremendous response your post has garnered. It only goes to show when the politics of power is taken out of the equation then what remains is a genuine longing for peace and oneness in both our countries.
    I agree that we are more same than different…. More benefitted together than apart .. Hope this message spreads afar ..
    Keep writing..
    With hope and love


  7. adda

    Commendable…!! At this hour, worlds propagating peace and solace should be encouraged, We fight wars, encourage bloodshed and massacre in search of peace. How ironic is that.! Efforts for peace and humanity as these should be appreciated and propagated not the war cries and hatred. Terrorism should be eliminated by all means for sure.. collectively. As a fellow Indian I support your views we are same people forced into different paths, Lets just be our self… what our roots makes us. HUMANS FIRST..!


  8. sajad

    Almost three months and scores of international squabbling matches after, Delhi and Islamabad are inching toward a confrontation to satisfy their national egos. But Kashmir wonders why in the age of knowledge and wisdom, world should be telling the two nuclear neighbours that even after war they will have to talk…
    live and let us live…
    dont use kashmir as battlefield…
    love from kashmir for this majestic piece..


  9. Ramkumar R S

    The Confessions of a Hater

    If it weren’t for your religion
    I would have hated you for your race
    If it weren’t for your race
    I would have hated you for your caste
    If it weren’t for your caste
    I would have hated you for your language
    If it weren’t for your language
    I would have hated you for your outlook

    If you had been my neighbour
    I would have hated you for getting more water than me
    If you had been my colleague or boss
    I would have hated you for getting more attention than me
    If you had been my school friend
    I would have hated you for having more friends than me
    If you had been my brother or sister
    I would have hated you for getting more love than me

    If I could’nt find any reason
    I would still hate you without reason

    So my dear fellow
    Don’t take it to your heart

    I just want to hate you
    Your religion is just an excuse


  10. Rohit

    Hi, I am from India and like everyone else don’t wish for a war.
    I want to know your opinion on why is Pakistan obsessed with Kashmir? I don’t know if it should have been a part of Pakistan after partition but now nothing can be done. No government ever in India would let Kasmir go. And how does it matter anyway?


  11. Vertiti Scrutator

    Fully appreciate the sentiment!! What’s a world that has no hope left in it!! The solution however doesn’t emerge clearly because even in that surge of emotional bonding you’re failing to see the real problem while creating a false equivalence between the efforts and motives of the two nations.

    The root cause of the malaise is “Ghazwa-e-hind”. The erstwhile aristocrats and clerics of Mughal empire (who engendered the Deobandi movement) dreamed of regaining control over India after the British exit – because they’ve always felt that Muslims are ordained through Quran to conquer/rule India (Ghazwa-e-hind Hadith). Realizing that the soon-to-be independent India intends to become secular-n-democratic, the Muslim League (offshoot of the Deobandis) compromised on its dream of Islamic theocracy and settled to demand that 25% of population (muslims) get 50% of ALL government positions at ALL levels!! This undemocratic and non-secular demand was turned down. ‘Pakistan’ which actually was a bluff created in the 1940s to get 50% power got called out and hence the partition!!

    Pakistan’s army still thrives on the tenets of ‘Ghazwa-e-hind’! And hence all the terrorist Lashkars and Jamaats (owing allegiance to Deobandi doctrine and Ghazwa-e-hind) are patronized by the Pakistani army to unleash death and destruction in India!! Not to mention the hatred against Indians and Hindus are imbued in every Pakistani child right from primary school!! Kashmir is a mere symptom – not the problem!!!

    India on the other hand had bent over backwards to keep its muslim population happy (despite all the lies the Pakistani establishment would like its people to believe and despite the occasional aberrations on the Indian side). Muslims are allowed to follow Sharia laws but non-Muslims had to forgo their religious laws for laws based on modernity. 100,000 muslims go on Hajj every year fully funded by ALL Indian tax payers!! It’s illegal for anyone to make loud noise, but muslims are permitted to blare azaan through loud speakers from 5am !!

    The right-wing in India doesn’t want to discriminate against muslims but would like real equality to be brought about!! (Needless to mention, there are also some nut jobs who go beyond the pale of decency and law to commit some reprehensible acts). A perverse evidence of how muslims live fearlessly and as rightful citizens of India is that despite the unequal population (15% muslim & 80% hindus), when communal riots happen the numerical count of the dead on each side are almost equal (not a pleasant way to prove that muslims are not discriminated)!! Pakistani commentators love to jump on the Gujrat riots as evidence of muslim persecution – but conveniently forget the context! Random group of muslims torched a train – burning around 50 hindu pilgrims. The instantaneous and angry reaction by Hindus was unfortunately far worse than the provocation!! Both communities have learnt their lessons and have worked well to eject out of the pernicious cycle – there have been no major riots for the last 15 years!! Muslims (even in Gujrat) know the difference between reality and communal rhetoric.

    That said Muslims in India do need upliftment. The partition took away most of the educated and professional middle class from India (to Pakistan), leaving a small sliver of ultra rich and vast populace of lower-income muslim population. As such the statistics will show that the majority of muslims in India are slightly on the lower economic strata. The worst thing that Indian system did to its muslim population was to leave them in the hands of the mullahs, who determined their way of life; essentially discouraging kids from progressive education, pilfering hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payers money every year for Hajj (close to $100 billion spent so far, in today’s value), when that money could have been better spent on professional education of muslim kids!!! In contrast, Pakistan does not fund/subsize Hajj of its citizens!!

    Coming back to the Indo-Pak problem: The (peaceful) solution for the India-Pakistan problem is for Pakistan to stop the curriculum of hatred in the schools, wait for couple of decades for a new breed of Pakistanis to emerge. This of course is only possible if Pakistani army wrests control to the civil society – there’s a sizable section of progressives in Pakistan (yourself included) who would definitely like the country transformed.
    The not-so-peaceful solution (also lasting) is when one of the armies is vanquished (like it happened with Japan, Germany etc.).


  12. Shucheta

    Lakeeren hain.. toh rehne do,
    Kisi ne rooth kar,
    Gusse mein shayad khench di thi
    Inhi ko ab banao paala,
    Aur aao Kabaddi khelte hain !
    — Gulzar

    Let all of us vow for peace….
    — Love from India.


  13. PraJwal ThaKare

    I got your point.I think that Pakistan and Bangladesh are the broken hands of India.India will have to look after them and they will have to look after India.Anyway we all are Indians.We will have to help each other and Make India(with Pakistan and Bangladesh) great again.


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