Why I prefer meeting Pakistanis over Indians in America

My experience made me realise that they know more about us than most of us do about Pakistan.

 |  4-minute read |   27-02-2016
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Moving to the United States from India about two years ago was a challenge. I would be among strangers and in an unfamiliar land, far away from the large social circles I grew up in and all the people important to me. The excitement of meeting new people, seeing new places and experiencing new cultures was the only thing that kept me going. I knew that I would be homesick soon and so before I travelled, I did a little research on the Indian community and was pleased that the town I was moving to had a large Indian population.

Reality hit when I saw the first Indian couple here. I still remember the first time I came across an Indian family at a grocery store. This was just a week after I had relocated and I was glad to see them. It was like spotting long lost friends in a room filled with strangers. I saw them from far and almost instinctively gave them a big smile. Yes, I admit the smile was a little too bright but it wasn't creepy. The couple simply looked through me. I was upset but when this became a regular occurrence I realised that this is how an Indian abroad treated other Indians.

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Most Indians, from my experiences here, are not happy to see you. I have had more conversations with people for all other countries, including Pakistanis than I have had with the Indians here. I haven't been able to figure out the exact reason why we behave like this in a foreign country but most of my friends have had similar experiences here. To be fair, there have been a few Indians that I have met here, including a cab driver, who were very friendly and helpful, but only a few.

On the other hand, each time I have met a Pakistani, we have managed to chat just about anything from the demand of gold here to how we miss our homes, food and our loved ones. To put it in numbers, on an average of every 10 Indians I have met here, only one has probably attempted to greet me with a smile (here it is considered to be impolite to not smile or greet, if you make eye contact and most of these people have been living here for many years). On the other hand for every 10 Pakistanis that I have met, I have had a full-fledged conversation with nine.

Before moving here, I have never had the opportunity to meet a Pakistani national. My experience with them has made me realise that they know more about India than most of us do about Pakistan and it's a shame. They watch Bollywood movies and listen to Hindi songs. They know about our politicians, the current affairs in India and the television series aired in our country. All most Indians know about them is a few singers and TV shows aired on Zindagi channel. During conversations with these people I realised that it is great how when you are in a foreign land, you stop looking at differences and start concentrating on similarities between the two countries.

Back in India, we live in our own world and form opinions about others based on what we see on television. With all the rivalry during cricket matches, continuous bombardment about how our neighbour is responsible for all our problems on the news and people spewing hate on social media, I never expected Pakistanis to be so warm and friendly towards us. Before moving here, I have always considered us to been poles apart and I am glad all these barriers disappear when your miles away from home.

Now most people say that Indians react the way they do because when they see another Indian, they immediately start drawing comparisons. Or maybe, it has something to do with our culture that makes us all introverts. It would be wrong to say that all Indians across United States are unfriendly but at least the people I have met here in Houston seem to follow the stereotype.


Little Yadav Little Yadav @littleyadav

The writer is a freelance journalist and former crime reporter.

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