The war-like situation on both sides of Indo-Pak border remains unchanged. But the recent exchanges on social media between India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and a young Pakistani peace activist, Aliya Harir, brought some cheer.
Aliya, who had come to India to attend a global youth peace festival in Chandigarh along with 18 other girls from Pakistan just before a war-like situation developed at the border, is back in Pakistan now. In a telephonic interview from her base in Islamabad, she speaks about her special bond with India…
The relations between our two nations being less than warm, did you face any opposition from your family to begin with?
This was my fifth visit but all the 18 other girls whose delegation I was heading, were coming to India for the first time. And I was flooded with phone calls from their fathers and brothers who told me beta hamari beti ko convince karo ki India na jaaye. When I came here earlier too, my friends would say ‘pagal ho. India kaun jata hai? Zinda wapis nahi aate wahan se.’ The kind of exaggerated stories that appear in media put fear in people’s mind. But when you personally meet people from the other side, the myths and the cliches fall apart. Hatred can never defeat love. All of us were overwhelmed with the Indian hospitality where they treat guests as God.
Speaking of hospitality, did you enjoy some Indian delicacies and shopping too?
We tried a lot of street food. In fact we had momos in Shimla and golgappe in Chandigarh. I think India has a lot of diversity in chaats and street food. We just loved trying out varieties of golgappas. And shopping was another amazing experience. Many girls bought phulkari sarees, dupattas, sindoor and mangalsutra. Some of the girls even wore mangalsutra and sindoor right away and they were ragged by our Indian friends who told them ‘ab tumhari aadhi shaadi ho gayi.’ Many of us even dreamt of meeting Shahrukh Khan. Honestly, while travelling to Jalandhar many of us felt as if we are in Lahore and not in India.
With so many similarities in food, landscape and language, did you also find any issues that are common to the youngsters of both the nations?
I feel youth of both the countries, especially women, need more platforms to showcase their abilities. I have been working as a peace activist for the last three years and people still tell me ‘ghar ka kaam karo. Yeh sab rehne do.’ And when I speak to my friends in India, many of them are facing similar gender issues. So both the countries need to focus on such aspects. All these wars that our nations have fought in the past have only caused deaths. So both the nations have lost this battle of life and peace ultimately.
At 25, do you also have to battle the family pressure to get married?
There is pressure, but my father who is a disaster management consultant and my homemaker mother are liberal enough to understand that I don’t want to get married right now. But I’m quite excited about my Indian friend who is getting married in January and I am coming back to India to attend that.
I love Arjun Kapoor, says Aliya
When asked about the popularity of Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan among the Pakistani girls, she says: “SRK and Salman are very popular in Pakistan but mera love Arjun Kapoor ke liye hai. I hope to meet him someday, sometime.”
Credit: – Times of India