Musings on an online discussion with author Haroon Khalid on Rakshabandhan Day
Visualising India and Pakistan as sibling nations, volunteers of the ongoing campaign Peace Now and Forever organised an online discussion forum on Rakshabandhan on 7 August, called Walking with Nanak across Borders. Leading the discussion was Pakistani anthropologist and travel writer Haroon Khalid, author of the recently published book Walking with Nanak (Tranquebar 2016). Streamed live via Youtube, the session can be viewed online.
The book traces Guru Nanak’s journeys in Pakistan and explains the conditions of these places in the modern Indo-Pak context. It also explains the evolution of Sikhism. The youth group Aaghaz-e- Dosti facilitated the submission of questions from India and Pakistan.
This is Haroon Khalid’s third book. His first, ‘A White Trail: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities’, was followed by ‘In Search of Shiva: A Study of Folk Religious Practices in Pakistan’.
A wide range of questions came in at the Q and A session from around the world. Asked what kind of obstacles or interference from government officials he had faced, Khalid responded that he hadn’t. To another question he shared his journey, talking about how he had become interested in working on this issue as he followed his curiosity about the lives of those who are less visible in the public narrative.
To the question of why Guru Nanak’s contribution to Punjabi culture is not included in Pakistani school syllabuses and in general in Pakistan, Khalid’s partial answer to was that the quest to form a Pakistani sense of nationalism and identity submerged regional culture in general, including Punjabi.
Khalid also talked about how the Sikhs he worked with for his research were largely cooperative and his work was being well-received by Sikhs in India too. Khalid is plans to visit India in December or January.
I’d like to also share some thoughts on Rakshabandhan, and a miracle performed through the love that emanates from Aman ki Asha. I am sure there are many who have made great cross-border friendships through this initiative. Those who have will not be surprised by the recent twists in my story for Rakshabandhan or rakhee this year.
In 2012, I paired up with two Rakhee brothers from Pakistan through Aman ki Asha. But sending rakhees to them in Pakistan has never been a straight-forward experience. One year when I couriered it from an online Indian website, one rakhee brother got stuck paying a heavy customs fee. In the following two years, the Mithai for Peace exchange (another Indo-Pak peace initiative where people of both countries exchange sweets on the other country’s Independence Days) took my rakhees physically to Pakistan.
This year I put a post in Aman ki Asha’s facebook group asking about any Pakistani websites that may domestically ship rakhees. The response I got was like God sent an angel on earth. A group member responded, offering to buy and courier the rakhees to my rakhee brothers on my behalf domestically. I couldn’t believe what I was reading but before I knew it, the volunteer had everything sent and done and the rakhees were at my rakhee brother’s doorsteps. I felt like I’d been dreaming and didn’t know what hit me.
Perhaps what this story has done is that it has enhanced my belief in miracles and the greater good that can be if more cross-border relationships are given a chance.
I also realized something my guru often mentions about doing a good deed. If you resolve to do a good deed, all the good forces will come your way and tune in to make that good deed possible.
To come back to the session with Haroon Khalid on Rakhee Day – it was a beautiful Indo-Pak webinar, that I hope we see more of.
If you would like to team up or suggest future similar opportunities, please contact [email protected]
Based in Hamilton, Canada, Swati Sharan writes for various publications and edited Hello Gujarat: An Edition of Gujarati Achievers. She has been active with the Indo-Pak peace campaign Peace Now and Forever and the Celebrate Days for Peace initiative.