Sleeping with the Enemy

I have named it so because we as Indians always consider Pakistan as an arch rival and vice versa.  It manifests not just in Kargil or Siachen but also in Cricket or Hockey Stadiums. Any move by the Indian Government to concede in any form to Pakistan is met with a Dagger & Stone Fury. On other side, no government can survive in Pakistan if it is not Anti India.


But what happens when two Pakistanis and an Indian stay together? I happened to be in Bahrain and was looking out for an accommodation. I stumbled upon a Paki Gentleman who had a room to rent. At first I was reluctant but the urge to go through the experience overcame me and I decided to stay with them

I was provided a well furnished room and I settled down to live there. There was fear, anxiety and curiosity. But soon it all melted down to one of friendship, sharing and fun.The hospitality that I enjoyed therein was simply overwhelming. Food was prepared and set aside for me when I was not around. We spread out the food on a carpet on the floor and sat around it, in truly mughal style. By the way, I must add though, that  I was not paying a penny for any of this. The bargain was only for the accomodation. My water jug was regularly replenished. The room was cleaned and I was asked regularly if there was any inconvenience I suffered. Initially I was suspicious on why they were treating me so well but as the days went by, I realized it was coming from the heart.

In the evenings, we went out together to dine out, sometimes to Indian restaurants and Paki restaurants at other times. Mr. Shabbir the elder of the two was about 50 years and the other was Ahmed, about 30 years. Mr. Shabbir was more or less a vegetarian and ate only chicken and never any red meat or fish. He was well educated and spoke of the follies of the Indo Pak policies. He was saddened by the fact that fundamentalism was on the rise in Pakistan and that it was detrimental to the nation. He was critical of the fact that the perpetration of violence anywhere in the world almost always zeroed in on Islamic Activists and the reason he felt was the lack of liberal thinkers and the motivation of the younger generation towards violence.He spoke of instances where he had openly opposed the actions of many, at small forums or congregations, which he felt was not Islamic.

Islam does not propogate violence or the killing of fellow humans. He felt it is not important whether one is a muslim or hindu or a christian, it is important to be a good human being first. This touched me more than anything else.

We had long hours of desultory conversations wherein I learnt a lot about Pakistan and its culture. We spoke in length on beliefs such as that of Witchcraft, spirits, marriage and relationships. These guys knew more about Bollywood actresses and actors than I had ever known. They enjoyed watching the music shows on Star and Zee and were fully aware of the players in each of the IPCL teams.

I was feeling I was staying with someone from India. Indeed, it left me wondering how much of goodwill can be built on people to people relationships. We have so many things in common but the rivalry dwarfs them all. I can only say that the rivalry is only skin deep and that people to people contact can shed all that skin.