End of a long grueling work day. Me walking out of the office. At the top of the stairs, I hear a tentative voice behind me saying hi. When I smile back, he asks me where I was from. Upon my answer his wrinkled face changes ..laugh lines appear around the cheeks and his grey eyes twinkle.. he has a lot of family there. We exchange a few pleasantries of how nice it feels to hear Hindi away from home. Out of politeness, I ask the same question back. Where are you from? His hesitation at the question, then taking the time to assess what my response could be and a slight hint of a deep rooted pain before saying ‘Same as yours but my father moved to Karachi in 1947 due to ..you know.’ His eyes fall for a second.. I fight back tears. Then he goes on to tell me that he had to leave Karachi as well because of the current situation there and now trying to settle himself and his family in another foreign place.
He was easily 65…
I cried all the way home.
The first time I gave any thought to the issue of India-Pakistan enmity was when I read ‘Train to Pakistan‘ . It had left me numb for days..to get beyond the idea of a ghost train filled with corpses.
The communal riots and the constant enmity between these countries is almost an everyday topic in that part of the world. People have not forgotten the scars of those days. Wars have been fought. Lives have been lost. Poverty is rampant. But the terrorism, the violence, the hatred has not subsided. I still don’t know what I think about it. Especially because looking at the big picture, it is easy to generalize. But on the micro level, does a common man in either country have the time to hate the other or the inclination? People in both countries are still struggling to have a steady day to day life..then why are their lives turned upside down? Why do people in Mumbai have to leave home thinking they might not make it back in the evening and yet leave running every day to catch the 8.17 local train? Why isn’t war ever the sum of its parts?