Friday, July 26, 2013

Weapon of Miscommunication

Aman Chaupal with Saeeda Diep ji
"Do Hindus live in Pakistan?", asked a young girl to Ms. Saeeda Diep, a Peace activist from Pakistan.

With a smile, she replied, "Yes, my dear. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people of many other religious faiths live in Pakistan".

"How are they treated?"

"Why doesn't the Pakistan Government control terrorism?"

"Why did the army behead Indian soldiers?"

These were some of the many questions that students of a school in Delhi had asked the peace activist during an interactive session called Aman Chaupal, an initiative of Aaghaz-e-Dosti aimed towards Indo-Pak friendship. It was a small room with about 50 students heavily-equipped with questions and a lady with a serene and smiling face. She answered all the questions with an unchanging expression of calmness and with a warm smile. This was because she was on a mission. She was out to face the weapon of miscommunication. "We have about 20 Indian channels but you people do not have a single channel so you know nothing about Pakistan. We have not been able to present ourselves to you." So after each question, she would say, "please ask more questions".

Having some level of communication with people from Pakistan, I could not help laughing when the politically-charged questions didn't stop. But I was not surprised at those questions. Infact, I, like Saeeda ji, was happy that they asked these questions because then they won't think that we were there to "pacify" or "convince" them. Yet, I must admit that I was surprised to see that she had a calm and beaming face throughout the session.

Her words as well as those questions have stayed with me. She had emphasised on the lack of communication and the hawkish media that our Indian democracy has granted us. I would completely agree with her on this. The media is the fourth pillar of democracy yet in our country, it is not independent and is biased. It carries the burden of invoking nationalist fervor and in doing so, it often ends up with arousing jingoistic sentiments.

The media was at its worst best during the case of Sarabjit Singh when Sarabjit was made a "national martyr" and the attack on Sanaullah Ranjay was seen as a "reaction". The same can be said for the border clash of January. There was no reporting at that time. The news channels were busy running documentaries. I often find it a little surprising that the media which is desperate to do something 'innovative" does not ever attempt to consult the "other" side. There is a clear divide between what the major newspapers of both the sides report. Yet, no attempt is made by either sides to come up with a neutral source. No-one ever gets to know the "truth" and actually, it seems that no side is even interested to know. Why? There are reasons and the reasons are political.

This is a weapon and a far lethal one. The military clashes are short-lived. There is a ceasefire but this weapon is not short-lived. It is a slower process but much more effective. It allows for the proliferation of hatred to people beyond the direct sufferers. It is effective enough to make peace, a fantasy of the "liberal". A resource for many, it helps to create an unchallenged "need" for war, for hatred. The war mandate rests on the unchallenged assumption that the "other" hates us. Thus, it is an important raw material for what Saeeda ji had said, a "war industry". This also explains why there are attempts to disrupt any efforts to enhance people-to-people communication between the countries. Miscommunication is essential for hatred and suspicion.

In contrast to this is communication. It would be hard to find someone who has been to the other side of the border or has had some level of communication, with a negative opinion about them. With so much to talk about, share, in one's own language (Hindi for us, urdu for them), it becomes difficult at ground level to find differences. Infact, when one meets someone from Pakistan, one is pleasantly disappointed because the image of a different "other" is shattered. Communication is the key to all our problems and so Saeeda ji had concluded the session with the statement,

"We will make efforts to connect you with children of your age so that you can see Pakistan from our eyes, not from your media's eyes." 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The time when children were innocent

As kids, we had a desire to speed up the growing part and become adults. Adulthood meant an escape from the boring homework, having a lot more freedom and the power to decide. Ofcourse, now as adults, we like to laugh on that silly desire. It was silly but it was a very innocent one. We were too innocent to understand what adulthood would really mean. How that “freedom” would mean very little in front of that ever-increasing tension. We realize it now but it seems that parents these days don’t.

Recently, I came across an article in a TOI supplement, Education Plus, dated 12th January 2012, about preschoolers and little kids learning to cook, wash cars and doing computers. I anyway never understood the concept of pre-schooling as 14 years of schooling is torturous enough for kids but this came as a major shock to me. I wondered what has gone wrong with parenting these days.

I remember how our parents would talk about their ‘golden’ childhood and would totally discard our idea of ‘fun’ in childhood. My mother had a serious disapproval for Cartoon Network and my computer buddies, Dave and Aladdin. They would talk about their vacations back in the villages and the “real” fun, as they used to put it. Every vacation, I was forced to engage in some ‘fun’ activity like dance, music or playing casio. We all grew up being compared with a neighborhood kid or a cousin. This was our childhood. We were more ‘privileged’ than our previous generation but the next and the current generation have a lot more, like cellphones before college, facebook accounts much before their teen years, the obsession with branded and fashionable clothes, in short, an over-exposure!

Now, I think that we were so much better-off. And I don’t feel any kind of happiness as I write this. I feel really sad that what they are losing out on what happens to be what kids are famous for i.e. innocence. Now, when I think of my childhood, I review all the mistakes that I ever made. Some of them were stupid and others, quite serious, yet I don’t feel any remorse because I was innocent. I was not trained enough to see all aspects of things. I realized and learned from my mistakes only with time. I learned all that, at the right age. I was ignorant, immature and imperfect. It was only with time that I started shedding some of them. I now feel that growing up is so beautiful. And as I realize this, I feel sad for these kids.

It’s not their age to learn how to cook or how to wash a car. Why do they need to do that? Are they being expected to be independent? I see kids in reality shows trying to express emotions which they are not even supposed to understand and I have nothing but pity for them. Why are they being expected to behave like adults? Most of the times, the judges don’t seem to know how to talk to kids. They end up discouraging the kids. But Why? Why are kids supposed to be perfect today! They are expected to sing their throats out, dance till their legs give away and express emotions which are way-ahead than their ages. So we have a preteen TV actress playing the role of a wife(not child bride) on a popular TV show. Is there a dearth of better actresses, I wondered. What was the need for playing with the psychological mind-set of the young actress?

I see preschoolers having their ears pierced and I wonder the need. I remember having the ear-piercing done when I was in third standard. I fail to understand why things are growing so fast.
I don’t think one can blame the kids! The questions should be directed to their parents, their guardians and these schools. What are they playing at? The World is moving on very fast… there is an upsurge in technology and one needs to be updated but not at the cost of destroying the beautiful child-like innocence. Why are we exposing them to a world for which they are not yet ready? Why are they taking away from their own kids what they cherish the most… the “golden” childhood? Why are the parents in such a hurry?

The schools consider this as a step to better ‘prepare’ the students. They are ‘preparing’ the students for what? This competitive world? The world is definitely become ‘meaner’ day by day and the competition is a reality. But this does not mean that we end up producing miniature adults, rather than kids. And all this is only worsening the competition. The schools may claim “innovative” methods to make learning “fun” but actually, it is indulging into a lot of “learning” for the kids, with these “extra-curricular” activities. The “Extra-curricular” activities which sometimes also include personality development, a concept which again I fail to accept for kids. If immaturity is bad, so is over-maturity.

Why cant we just let them be themselves… and enjoy their innocent childhood which they will cherish later in their lives, when they will ultimately struggle in this notorious, demonic world? Why cant we let kids be kids again?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Do Hindus live in Pakistan?

Why is there so much of terrorism in Pakistan?

Did the Government know about Osama Bin Laden living in Pakistan?

What do people of Pakistani think about us?

Watch this video wherein a renowned Peace activist from Pakistan, Ms. Saeeda Diep interacts with students of Columbia Foundation Sr. Sec. School. This was an event of Aman Chaupal, an initiative under Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an Indo-pak peace and friendship initiative by Mission Bhartiyam.