Like many Indians who were born and brought up in the Middle East, I carried the burden of ostracisation. The clothes I wore were neither Indian nor Arab, neither was the tongue I spoke in. The colour of my skin branded me Indian, but my unfamiliarity with my own culture became blatant when surrounded by the cacophony of India. My passport is stamped with the place of my birth, Qatar. My earliest memories are of it’s beaches, I have cried here, laughed here, celebrated the birth of my sister here, mourned the deaths of family members here, but I and many like me, have never felt like we belong here.
Like many others, I felt adrift, home was a mysterious illusion that seemed to forever flicker out of reach. Despite the passport I carry, I felt a certain guilt in calling myself an Indian. It wasn’t until the freshman year of college when I had firmly integrated myself with a group of Pakistani students, that I ironically developed my own feelings of patriotism. I have never met a more passionate people than Pakistanis. They both love and hate with a fierceness I have yet to see in an other people.
As an Indian, I may be criticised for saying this, but their patriotism was infectious. I begun to appreciate the parts of my own culture that I had once overlooked. It took looking at it from across the border for me to truly be able to feel Indian.
Not because Indians and Pakistanis are so different, but rather because in our shared love of biryani, kebabs and cricket, we ceased to be Indians and Pakistanis, but just people having a good time.
For the first time, I felt a sense of community.
On that note, to Indians and Pakistanis around the world, Happy Independence Day, in the spirit of indepence, may we become free of the crutches of prejudice and hatred that we have carried for the seven decades since partition.
Along those lines of thought, I decided to reach out to people around the world, Indians, Pakistanis and others, and ask them to share their favourite memories of India and Pakistan.
Neha Ahmed (Pakistan)
Currently living in Canada, on the memories of the home she left behind.
In the daytime: Riding a rickshaw through the colourful streets, eyes glinting as bright as the vibrant swathes of cloth and dazzling bangles that line the stalls of the bazaars we pass by.
In the nighttime: Whispering to my cousins as the world around us lies deep in slumber, divulging our innermost thoughts and sharing dreams and aspirations until the azaan sounds crisp and clear through the air and rays of sunlight creep in through the windows when we could’ve sworn only an hour had passed.
11,300 kilometers away, my heart both aches for and finds comfort in these memories of my home.
Sania Gesudraz (India)
Currently living in Qatar, on the role of patriotism in her family.
Find more of her work at Sania Daydreams
This is one of the rare, blue-moon years that I decided to come back home before Independence Day. Naturally, I’m feeling a little nostalgic because celebrating Independence Day was a age-old tradition for me. The apartments where I live at have a flag hoisting ceremony every 15th of August. Me, my sister and my cousin used to get up early to attend it.
The best part: We used to wear t-shirts that would represent the tricolors of the flag. My brother would wear saffron, I would wear white and my sister would wear green (more often than not). We used to head up to the terrace and be filled with a sense of pride as we sang the national anthem. The flag was hoisted and sweets would be distributed. All of us grew up, but we could still never shake that tradition and would go up to the terrace every year wearing our tshirts. In fact, as the years went on, I would wear a brooch shaped like India, carry a tiny Indian flag mounted on a straw- dressed for patriotism. India always brings out the patriot in me because it is so warm and welcoming that I can’t help swell with pride.
Although I’ve never lived there, it is a very important part of me and will always be home.
Shahan Ali Memon (Pakistan)
Currently living in Qatar, on the things he misses most about living in Pakistan.
“Bhai jaan, Resham Gali jaaein gay” (Brother, will you take us to Resham Gali), me to the Rickshaw driver while my mom and sister wait at the door of our apartment building. I love shopping with my mom and sister, partly because we both have had a good sense of what to buy since forever. We advise each other, giggle on our way on lame jokes, and gossip about that tailor who ruined my sister’s dress.
Resham Gali and Kilaath Market are two famous and my mom’s favorite Bazaars in Hyderabad for Eid, weddings and well anything. When you live abroad, you lose the context of everything and all you get to hear on skype from your mom is “Oh I went to Resham Gali to buy clothes”; you don’t hear those tasty nibbles of irrelevant details.
That’s what I miss – those little things. I miss those Bazaar outings with my mom and sister, those 30 minutes stuck-in-the-traffic rickshaw talks, those unhygienic “channa chaats”, those sounds of shops opening, of bus conductors banging on the side of the bus to stop or start, of those annoying vendors on the donkey-carts selling bananas – “Baara ke Baara , le lo le lo” (Buy for 12 rupees a dozen), and of adhaan 15 times a day from three different mosques around our building.
Those little details are beautiful, and are what make Pakistan beautiful for me, and trigger memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
Happy Independence Day
Iris Nöbauer (India)
On her favourite memory in India.
Find more of her work at Eyerish Is Travelling
I was working for 15 months over a time of three and a half years on a Construction Site in Bihar. We were living in the small village and got to know the community really well.
Saher Shaikh (Pakistan)
Currently in Pakistan, with pictures of her favourite things about Pakistan.
An anonymous contributor with her favourite thing about Karachi.
Yousuf Akhlaq (Pakistan)
Currently living in Qatar, on cricket and conflict.
I crossed the street, panting and sweating like anything (thanks to Doha’s heat). But none of it mattered today. Excitement was in the air and one could unmistakably sense the sudden surge in national pride. Pakistan and India were facing each other today in the T-20 World Cup.
I walked into the screening room; words can do little do describe the passionate celebration and chanting that was going on.
There was a clear split in the seating arrangements, and the national songs played by either sides combined to make it nothing short of a disco. Either sides would dance out of joy at a successful shot/ball, and grieve a poor attempt or a missed opportunity (by playing sad songs).
5 minutes in, and the first innings ended. Chattering and arguing, Indians and Pakistanis emerged at a common table to enjoy some biryani for lunch – the most delicious treat that one could have hoped for, and such a fitting treat for that day.
Many claim that Pakistan-India cricket matches are nothing less than a war. True that cricket for both these nations is a sort of religion. However, truth be told, I feel all this fuss created over the cricket match is pretentious conflict, meant by both sides to only spicen the spirit of the match. We may have a conflict ridden past, which contributes highly to strained relations between the two countries. Deep down, however, we are more similar than different.
Vanessa Fernandes (India)
Currently living in Qatar, on the beauty of cross-border friendships.
You see the three guys in this picture?
They’re one of my greatest gifts from God! One might wonder what’s so special about this friendship?
Well, they’re Pakistani – from Hyderabad (Pakistan), Karachi and Lahore – and I’m from India.
If borders ever divided us, then we would’ve never met; we would’ve never made this second family away from our homes; we would’ve never stood by each other in times of distress and joy; we would’ve never shared some of the biggest moments of our lives with each other.
Borders matter only on maps. Our friendship knows no borders; we only know how to love, support and care for each other unconditionally.
As we celebrate independence, let’s not forget that though there might be many reasons that seem to divide us, there are many others that unite us. In the spirit of independence and even otherwise, we must make peace. Life is unpredictable and living in conflict does nothing but hurts everyone.
Why hate when we can love?