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My New Friend From Across The Border

My New Friend From Across The Border

September 02, 2010

Can ever-lasting friendship be forged between citizens of two sparring countries?

It was my second day at the local language school here in Germany and I was eagerly looking forward to mastering the basics of the country’s language. The classroom was large and bright, with huge French windows ushering in warm rays of sun on a chilly, winter morning. The students were seated in a U-shaped configuration - no front benchers and back benchers, no slackers or pranksters. Everybody was in the plain sight of our Lehrerin (teacher). The class numbered 19 till yesterday. Our classroom resembled a mini UN assembly meeting, so cosmopolitan was the mix of students. After our formal self introduction session, I had determined that between the 19 of us, we represented 17 different nationalities. We had Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, USA, Morocco, Russia, Macedonia, Lithuania, Belize, Iraq, Brazil, UK, Spain, Turkey, Portugal and of course India. But today we had a new student. She knocked on the door, walked in and nervously greeted the class in a timid voice. She appeared to be in her late thirties and sat at the opposite end from me. My Iraqi neighbour to the right leaned in and asked if I was familiar with the garb our new classmate had donned. I told her I was not. The seat to my left was empty. Soon our Lehrerin waltzed in and took the roll call. When she noticed the new student she asked us to introduce ourselves to her in German. When we were done, the girl introduced herself, “Hallo, Ich heisse Farhat und ich komme aus Pakistan”. For a second I lost my balance, after all I had never met a Pakistani before. Around 15 years ago my sister had a pen pal from Pakistan and that was as close as I had ever got to one.

Given the long standing feud over borders, one never knows what sentiments to hold for our “neighbours”. I, for one, had been unable to take a stand until that eventful day. I am quite liberal in many ways. I don’t care for race, religion, age, sexual orientation, political leanings or any other forms of personal beliefs. But due to the ever-super-charged atmosphere between India and Pakistan, I did know how to break the ice or where the boundary was. So you could imagine my surprise when Farhat walked over to my end of the table and seated herself to my left. I managed a charming smile when she immediately broke into full conversation, “Oh, so you are from India! Very nice to meet you. Where are you staying, why are you here, how long will you be staying, do you like it here, do you speak Urdu, where does your husband work, do you have children” - the questioning went on. I was delighted to answer all her questions because I suspected I had a friend in the making. She had just shown me how easily border disputes could be swept into oblivion.

Just a few weeks later, she invited my husband and I to her beautiful home. She is a marvellous cook. Her biryani and kebabs were scrumptious. Her husband is a warm person who fondly recalls how well he was treated by his Indian host when he visited Delhi in 1996. And her children have been brought up with good values and morals and are a credit to her job as a mother. When my relatives visited us here in Germany, she also invited them to her house and treated us to the best Rasmalai we had ever eaten. Since then, we have visited each other’s homes on several occasions. Some friendships are destined to live forever. It has been a year since Farhat reminded me that, international boundary lines apart, we are all in essence pretty much the same. 

8 Comments

  • anjaan rahgir
    By
    anjaan rahgir
    09.09.10 12:20 PM
    Nice read.
    Very often we hear such stories but still so much of hate is there within people. As a country we love to hate Pakistan (though not every Indian) but yet when we meet people from one another's country all hate simply disappears in thin air.
    Hope and dream of seeing two nations as if not good friends atleast as good neighbours.
  • Sreesha
    By
    Sreesha
    05.09.10 09:36 PM
    Jayanth - That must have been fun. You may also agree that Indians and Pakistanis share similar tastes in food, sports, movies and culture.

    Salaamreaders - I just love the philosophy behind your comment. It rings so true.... if only :) I am sure with time it will be a possibility.

    Keerthana - Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed reading it.
  • Sreesha
    By
    Sreesha
    05.09.10 09:31 PM
    Joseph - Very true, I don't think any of us hold any resentment against a normal citizen of Pakistan.

    Flawsophy - As you said, with time most people forget the reason why hatred bloomed but continue with the emotion anyway. However I don't agree that 'we hate the idea of them'. Most of us are just confused.
  • keerthana
    By
    keerthana
    05.09.10 11:44 AM
    Good read! :)
  • salaamreaders
    By
    salaamreaders
    05.09.10 12:40 AM
    If we could just unlearn our history and deal with people as they are, what endless possibilities there might be......
  • Jayanth Tadinada
    By
    Jayanth Tadinada
    04.09.10 02:54 AM
    My experience was pretty much the same... I interned for a summer in France where they were a lot of Phd students and researchers from Pakistan and we used to play India vs. Pakistan friendly cricket matches on weekends :D
  • flawsophy
    By
    flawsophy
    03.09.10 11:39 PM
    the funny thing ... is ... we can't seem to point what we hate about 'them'. We just hate the idea of them ... but cannot pinpoint why and what - just like with most hatred.
  • Joseph
    By
    Joseph
    03.09.10 07:06 AM
    It is so...
    The anger isn't against pakistani individuals, but against pakistan as an establishment which indeed gave support to antisocials..
    Now it's time for up to forgive them as they themselves are suffering...

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