Howard Bok once hosted a speaker at Harvard who, in his commencement address, spoke of the absolute and ongoing importance of stretching in life. In every way, every day, he said repeatedly, you must stretch. I thought I was being reminded the lesson my cat gave me, as she stretched and remained fit through her long life. Yet so many years later, when I am still looking for the name of this well-meaning speaker, I see the meanings in so many different ways, that I feel my perspectives have stretched, enriching me and the message I derive from a speech that I initially felt was about: “The Importance of Stretching In Life”.
I went to Berkeley for a dinner tonight at the home of a Pakistani girl, who’s blessed to be friends with a most eclectic international circle across a long span of time. We discussed many things from different perspectives, increasing our own points of view available to us. We repeatedly realized how this was possibly the greatest & most significant act we could individually commit to. Why? For many reasons:
In enriching our perspectives, we learn to understand each other better. We also become representatives of other ways of thought to those who we share feelings, beliefs, & perspectives with. As ambassadors of understanding, we live truer to the maxim ”know thyself”, when we learn to know ourselves from the eyes of others. It also enriches us to what we might have been blind about before, like a miner who looks upon the face of another miner, who has a clean face, and doesn’t realize that his own face is dirty. While the miner with the clean face, looking upon the blackened face of the first miner, is making a resolve to wash & wipe his face. Each has a different perspective, and cannot know what the other is thinking, unless they share what they see with the other.
This point came home in some of the more grounded observations that were shared through dinner, & even proved itself through some of the more experimental ones. For instance, we inferred, if Pakistan and India were to allow free exchange of traffic across their borders, the Indian RSS of right-wing Hinduism and the Pakistani Taliban/Wahabi element of radical Islam, would more than likely balance each other, instead of wrecking havoc on the citizens of their respective nations. They would have a bigger enemy, so to speak, than the minor enemy of locals who disagree with them. This may lead to some nastiness on both sides of the border, but in the longer term, it can only result in balancing out the status quo. But that idea stood as a sore point we didn’t delve past, because this erudite crowd wouldn’t allow the conversation to move beyond this daring question:
Are India and Pakistan indeed “nations”? Do they fit the complete definition of Nation States? Are they more complete nations if seen as a single, joint entity, or would viewing the different ethnicities within them as nations be a more accurate way of measuring their combined claim? What claim is that? The claim that India, historic and united Hind, is a continent. The allegation is against the British Cartographic Society, of mislabeling a continent as a sub-continent. The reasons for this will be detailed and linked, but if this assertion is accepted, then India and Pakistan, indeed even Bangladesh, become more than merely national realms, and that has far reaching implications. But we must start with what we can argue without needing proof:
Colonial India’s partition was argued by the Muslims of what came to be Pakistan based on what has been called “The Two Nation Theory“. The effects of this theory are coming to pass in an ongoing international drama. An analogy is necessary here: I believe that, just like the parallel example of germ theory being possibly discredited, but continuing to enjoy practical hegemony due to established practices, this theory was initially accepted simply because of being the status quo. But the status shifted in 1971, when the two nations became -surprise surprise- “three nations!” That the theory is thus proven false and therefore in need of a re-evaluation is beyond obvious.
The truth is that our survival past the artificial force of a “border” currently dividing our families, communities, watersheds, natural landscapes, and even hearts, needs to be revisited on a fundamental level. Our perspective has to shift out of “Paki” and “Bharti” to “DESI”, and we must think of our Land, our Dais. This division now exists as an opportunity in a historic and continuing process, but that makes it no more real than East and West Germany was, or once-divided Yemen, or, for that matter, Civil War United States, or even Vietnam.
I say this despite a real possibility of being labeled a traitor to Pakistan, because I feel that unless an alternative is considered, “The Theory That Is No Longer TRUE” is becoming Historical Fact even though its very name makes it a fallacy! (Just as germ theory has been discredited in truth, but continues to hold sway because of the force of historic inertia. But you’re not going to get more out of me on that one. Visit the link above, it says enough.)
India and Pakistan, indeed Muslims and Hindu’s, are tearing themselves apart due to the insides coming undone at the seams. India’s economic miracle is cause for this tear to appear only in sporadic instances, but Pakistan is suffering at a much more visible level. The additional geo-strategic reason of Wahabism’s export (or import into Pakistan) notwithstanding, this lover of the land of his birth believes that Pakistan and India would benefit from a European Union kind of collaboration between the two countries, instead of the entrenched gladiators that our historic postures resemble. Once that happens, Bangladesh will be a willing participant, as they have shown themselves to be, if the construct they are adopting is better than the one they are currently in.
If we are to win an arms race, let us win over who’s got the longest arms, doing the most good. (Long arms: Arabic idiom for generous ways.) If we are to claim guidance from Iqbal, then let us make his words true, that “Hindostan is a Gulistan better than all the world”, which is currently not true: Historic India, what I call The Continent of Hind, isn’t yet the Gulistan (flower garden) that Iqbal dreamed of. The call is remains unfulfilled. Pakistani’s who’d put the burden of Partition on Iqbal’s shoulders might be hard-pressed to answer the question of what he may have meant by the words that begin this national song of India. I see blogs galore where idiots are arguing over this point, and trying to turn makers of these arguments into mean villains, when I’m nothing if not a well-meaning American who was born in Karachi, or long-term Arab Origins. I’ll say right now that no idiotic, narrow minded, ill thought comment will be permitted. If you wish to have an intelligent debate, then be cogent, speak constructively & share your peaceful mind. Anything short of peaceful exchange will be discarded.