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The audience clapped uproariously.
And I smiled, seated in the audience, wondering how Husain Haqqani could even ask such naive and rather simplistic questions and yet walk away with such heartfelt appreciation from the enlightened audience.
Some of his earnest questions were:
- Would anyone spot him as a Pakistani if he were to walk in a crowded street in India?
- Would anyone even suspect him as a possible foe roaming in our midst?
- Does he not – like the rest of Indians and Pakistanis – owe his origin to the Great Indian Civilization?
- The answer being a Yes, why are we even making such a brouhaha between both the populations?
This definitely is a list of rather incredulous questions notwithstanding the fact that they were coming from an erudite, scholarly mind!
Because Hatred, I contended to myself, can be a scaringly powerful and relentless emotion… more so when it has been fanned by a violent history. Once ignited, it refuses to die… and, passionately promises to ravage relationships to ashes.
My intrigue, therefore, got the better of me and I desperately put my hand up during the question hour.
Mr. Haqqani was quick to give me his undivided attention. I still remember the way he turned himself in the sofa, faced me and politely nodded inviting my query!
“One of the irreconcilable differences between both the countries is the border itself,” I said and added, “‘Pakistan-occupied Kashmir vs. Indian-occupied Kashmir’, for instance, is one of the most inflammable emotions that keeps igniting the region into a war zone every now and then.”
Who, in these moments, cares about Indian Civilization being at the root of our relationships? Is not the blood bath that’s the most satisfying experience during these vengeful moments?
It is. Very much.
I didn’t need him to answer these questions. The answers are very much on the affirmative. ‘Cause, we see it happen every day. To this day.
With these truths plaguing me, I yearned to be enlightened on the possible outcomes, however remote or bleak or improbable they may seem.
But, Mr. Haqqani delivered. Once again. In his authentic, authoritative style. And, the audience went euphoric. Yet again.
With the intensity of a passionate world citizen, he addressed my intrigue.
The art of negotiation, he clarified, expects the political leaders from both sides to flex their mind muscles a bit, considering what really happened during Partition.
This is nothing new! We’ve been hearing this for years. This is a simple truth that has been eluding the good senses of our politicians for 70+ years now. So, in a way, no surprises there anyways! And, therefore, no enlightenment!
But, what followed this self-evident truism was a piece of awe-inspiring hope. Haqqani sparkled with his erudite candor. This is what he said. Not verbatim of course.
Give in. Consciously. Flex the LOC a bit this side or that. Consciously. ‘Cause, it doesn’t matter. No big deal about the line meandering this way or that. After all, it’s only on paper. So, keep it flexible. Consciously. But, keep the borders open. Consciously. Allow people to cross over to the other side like neighboring states. Let Indian musicians perform in Pakistan. Freely. Let Pakistani actors feature in Indian movies. Without any hesitation. Promote the cross-border culture. Consciously. Then, see the borders gradually fade out of your minds. Subconsciously.
Haqqani smiled. I smiled. Greatest truths are the simplest. Definitely.
The preposterous question, ‘Why can’t India and Pakistan be friends?’ slowly changed its hue, donned a new meaning and gave my troubled senses a glimmer of hope.
Like a sure winner, Haqqani had won my heart over.
And, of the audience.