One Step Forward

One Step Forward
Chintan Girish Modi and Shiraz Hassan

Cross-border friends look forward to a liberalised visa regime

From: Chintan Girish Modi  (Date: Sun, Sep 2, 2012)
Subject: Next letter: Building Peace
To: Shiraz Hassan

Dear Shiraz

Chintan Girish Modi

Chintan Girish Modi

I hope the last week was less hectic for you. It’s strange, the frenzied pace at which we city folk work. We crib about it, long for time with ourselves and loved ones, yet go back to crowding our lives with things to do, deadlines to meet, and stuff to catch up with. I am trying to reduce the clutter in my life, and having some success.

My four-day stay in Delhi was utterly memorable. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to attend the Wiscomp (Women in Security Conflict Management and Peace) workshop on ‘The Software of Peacebuilding’. The participants came from all over – Peshawar, Muzaffarabad, Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Lucknow, Jammu, Srinagar, Ladakh, etc. I enjoyed spending time with them, sharing meals, going to the Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah, and getting to know about their lives, experiences and countries.

Imagine how difficult it must have been to get us all together – particularly given the visa difficulties. Unfortunately, a few Pakistani participants could not make it because they did not get their visas in time.

The resource persons were remarkable – Bushra Gohar from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Scilla Elworthy from London, F S Aijazuddin from Lahore, and Mani Shankar Aiyar from Delhi, and others. Most were friendly and accessible, freely sharing insights, and willing to engage with questions.

Then, Anam Zakaria, my friend from Lahore, who works at the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, visited Mumbai for a short trip. She enjoyed the food, sights and sounds of the city – and we were able to get her over to our school, to interact with students. She made them feel comfortable enough to ask any question about Pakistan – history, religion, leaders, schools, food, status of women, languages, public spaces, terrorism, etc. Such dialogues are valuable.

I do remember your idea of working on an online photo archive to document the houses of people who migrated at the time of Partition. That’s a very good idea, and we must begin to look around for a team. Perhaps we could put together a concept note that explains what we have in mind, why we want to do this, and what sort of support we are looking for.

Hope you have been following the latest developments on the liberalized visa regime front. They sound very positive. Hope it continues. All the best with your travels to Jhelum and Chakwal. I will wait to see the photographs.


From: Shiraz Hassan  (Date: Sun, Sep 2, 2012)
Subject: Re: Next letter: Building Peace
To: Chintan Girish Modi

Dear Chintan,

Shiraz Hassan

Shiraz Hassan

It’s really nice to hear about your Delhi trip and WISCOMP workshop where you met friends from all over South Asia. These are really valuable moments, to come across people from different countries and different cultures and share similar ideas. No doubt the youth of South Asia look forward to a better and peaceful South Asian region. I appreciate your efforts.

I couldn’t manage to visit Jhelum and Chakwal last week because again I had to go to Lahore for some office work. A couple of friends were also visiting from Karachi during that time. It was nice to see them in Lahore. We roamed around the city – Delhi Gate, Shahi Hamam, Wazir Khan Mosque, Sunehri Mosque, Food Street, Anarkali, Tomb of Aibak and especially Mochi gate area of the Walled City.

The Mochi Gate area has its own unique culture. The havelis and houses of that area are worth looking at, people in that area have maintained several havelis very well. I shall try to manage my Jhelum and Chakwal trip in the coming days.

The idea of archiving old heritage is in progress. Several persons have contacted me and expressed an interest in volunteering in this project.

We shall start working on it soon. It’s quite a tough chore, but someone has to do it. I am looking forward to its kick off.

I am following the news related to a more relaxed visa policy and I am very hopeful about it. I hope the day will come when people from both sides move across freely or at least don’t face the kind of hurdles they face right now. Voices should be raised at different forums. A liberalised visa policy will be one step ahead towards peace. People-to-people interaction will also help tourism and trade.

Some friends are arranging a South Asian youth conference this year, and I hope several youngsters from India and all over South Asia will attend it. It sounds fascinating. Let’s see how things shape up.

Best regards,

Shiraz Hassan (@shirazhassan) is a journalist, photographer and researcher in Islamabad. Chintan Girish Modi (@chintan_connect) is a schoolteacher, writer and
researcher in Mumbai.

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