Uddhav Thackeray, please go visit Pakistan once

You'll blend into the landscape as easily as if you lived there.

 |  4-minute read |   23-10-2015
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Dear Uddhavji,

I have a suggestion. Go to Pakistan. I mean it. And I don't mean it the way you or members of your political outfit or your allies mean it. Not like a slap in the face with that heartbreaking insinuation that you don't belong in India.

I mean that a trip to Pakistan might be an interesting (dare I say, educational?) experience. A nation is its people. Millions, hundreds of millions people. Men, women, children with two eyes, two legs, one heart and a belly that need filling.

A lot of them are - like our compatriots - hungry and homeless. Remember, Uddhavji, we used to hear that our own Dharavi was the biggest slum in Asia? Now I'm reading reports that Orangi Township in Karachi has this distinction.

I have not seen Orangi but I did have a chance to visit Karachi a few years ago. A group of Indians had been invited to participate in a social media summit. Reporters covering the event often asked: "So, how does it feel to be here?"

Also read: How a Pakistani views India's beef ban

Uddhavji, I had to tell the truth. Karachi looked quite like Bombay/Mumbai, except that most of the signs, hoardings and graffiti on walls were in the Urdu script. The air, the smells, the food - there was so little difference that I was a bit put out. All that nail-biting about the visa, that absurdly long flight via Dubai (to think it would be only a few hours on a ferry!) and for what? Their halwa tastes like halwa and their poori tastes like poori.

Walk down the street in your kurta pyjamas and that smart sleeveless jacket you like to wear. You'll blend into the landscape as easily as if you lived there. Many of the languages will be familiar - Punjabi, Sindhi, Hindustani/Urdu. But when you go into a posh coffee shop or a five star hotel, you will notice a different world - a faint smell of lavender or lemongrass, women wearing elegant kurtas, men in Western suits or collared T-shirts, teenagers with fake accents picked up from American TV shows. But that too will be familiar.

If you had gone for Dussehra, you would even have seen a few Ravan effigies burning. Lucky you didn't go though. Dussehra coincided with Moharram this time and there was a blast at a Shia mosque.

Also read: The story behind Moharram and why we must know it

That's another thing we have in common - the blood of innocents staining streets and hearts. Do you know, Uddhavji, Pakistan has had 355 blasts in 2015; at least 738 people have died and the year is not done yet. More than 35,000 died in terror attacks between 2000 and 2011. Dargahs, mosques of various denominations, churches, hospitals, schools. Schools!

Imagine, if you can, the grief, the fear, the ache in the hearts of men and women who show up at work every day in cities like Karachi. They send their kids to school - not madrassa, school. They teach in schools and colleges. They agitate for human rights and democracy and minority rights too. They sow crops and pray for rain. They are electricians and plumbers and doctors and artists. They paint. They make films and write books. They sing. They take photos, like you.

Some of them are illiterate. Most are not educated very well. Their books, especially school textbooks, don't give them an accurate account of history, how much of their heritage is Buddhist, Hindu, pre-Hindu, Shia, Ahmedi, Sufi, all of it mixed together. A lot of time and energy is spent denying that. That too sounds familiar, eh?

Oh, another thing. Lots of cows there. Not just in the market before Eid, but also in tabelas. I Googled a photo of a Pakistani tabela. It looked pretty much like an Indian tabela. You could check out how the cows are doing and reassure your allies. And if you go, please do take Ramdas Kadam. Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Manohar Lal Khattar and Arshad Alam may also want to join you. They seem to be thinking of Pakistan all the time.

Also read: Why don't the hatemongers listen to you, Modi and Amit Shah?

Getting a visa is difficult but not impossible. Your ally in Delhi might be able to help.

Sincere regards and wishes for your good health.

Writer

Annie Zaidi Annie Zaidi @anniezaidi

Annie Zaidi is known for her collection of essays, Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales, which was short-listed for the Vodafone Crossword Book Award in 2010.

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