Saturday, 27 July 2019

Pictures Say More Than Words


“It's actually quite a good thing, this whole friendship process…it'll improve the whole socio-economic, political and international scenario…." The voice trailed on. Heads nodded sagely in agreement.

All of this was being said by my schoolmates in reference to the recently promoted Pakistan-India Friendship campaign. The conversation was taking place close on the heels of my return from the World Social Forum held in Mumbai, India in January 2011. In that context it was not unexpected or even insincere that young people would talk like that, but somehow it was vastly amusing. In retrospect, it seemed surprising that years of inherited "distrust" could be so easily discarded overnight even though, to be honest, it was pretty reassuring. As my fellow pupils and compatriots waxed voluble on the subject, I felt intrigued by the possibility of their not being able to uphold their claims. I have a weakness for baiting people, putting them into unpredictable situations and seeing how they react.

And so it happened. Temptation, as well as the newly acquired glow of diplomacy and "love thine neighbor", led me to wear a T-shirt bearing the map of India emblazoned in the colors of its national flag to school the next day. There was no sudden hush, no simultaneous turning of innumerable heads in my direction_ only comments of "What, is this a joke?" floating around.

A group of boys, including the same diplomats from the day before, turning completely patriotic cornered me. I had never thought before how a crowd of seventeen and eighteen-year-olds could manage to look like a primitive tribe of spear-wielding barbarians, enraged at an outsider's smug violation of some sacred law of theirs. It's funny, really, how ordinarily people cannot even remember your first name and then suddenly you're on very familiar terms with them, none of which are even close to flattery. Delivering a scurrilous verbal assault was not enough_ the offending T-shirt had to go (along with a limb or two if it could be managed). Friends, from a safe distance naturally, managed to capture the moment on camera. Friends brave enough to defend me were 'taken care of', but I managed to beat a diplomat's (read coward's) retreat and saved my skin (as well as the T-shirt).

This photo will not always be just a memory, but a reflection of people not always saying what they mean. Even though the "attack" turned out to be just their idea of fun (a good reason to beat up the smart-aleck in Economics class) and I had the same people coming up to me later saying "Nah, we didn't mean it…. we're actually proud of you.", and that most young people I know are completely for better relations between the two countries, the fact remained: Change cannot be imposed so quickly on people. In the end, the photo says it all: Be prepared for the unexpected. It takes more than words to prove what you say. Oh and, get a T-shirt with BOTH maps on it next time.

Written by Absam Akbar. Absam is an aspiring medical student who is exceedingly passionate about writing, research, and various sports.

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