Monday, September 6, 2010

The Pakistani Couch

My father is what you consider the male Indian immigrant stereotype. He is hard working and determined, but at the same time, very proud and opinionated. But more than anything, my dad is proud of his country, India. India, land of corrupt government officials in Khadi (a coarse cotton that is a symbol of piousness and simplicity) who drive in Mercedes Bens cars. India, a land rich with culture and history and cows walking up and down highways sodden with traffic. Every time he hears the Indian National Anthem, he has tears in his eyes. When we were sitting down for dinner on Saturday, I noticed that we had a new couch in the parlor. I asked my mom where she got it. It was beautiful: silk red cushions with gold thread and teak wood. My father huffed. "Your mother ordered THAT from Pakistan". I nearly choked on my naan. "I will never sit on it! Ever! For I am an Indian!" My mother and I couldn't control our laughter. 
(no joke. this is the couch)
How eerily relevant to sovereignty week. Pakistan declared itself a sovereign nation 70 years ago, yet as you can see with my father, the wounds are still fresh. In fact, I once heard a This American Life special on NPR about the closing of the gates on the border of India and Pakistan. People CHEER for their country as soldiers on respected sides begin the ceremony. Slogans are shouted: INQALAB ZINDABAD(long live freedom, an Indian saying). Here is a video. It seems like fun and games, but there is an underlying meaning that evokes a mixed feeling in me.

After reading HOW SOCCER CHANGES THE WORLD, I saw that the enthusiasm for sport was an alternative to war. People took out their anger and rallied behind sports teams, but the heated arguments and passions over teams were saturated with politics: modern and from years ago. I like how the closing of the border of India and Pakistan does not result in bloodshed. It is a forum of movement where each side can physically voice their deep frustration with the other in this majestic dance without touching each other. A cross country break dance, if you will. But at the same time, the area is a potential crucible for violence. One side could get out of hand by being in the sways of emotion. Sometimes extreme nationalistic pride like what my father exhibits is humorous, but I wonder, will India and Pakistan ever be comfortable with each other? I guess I am a dreamer because I see the borders of the nation states as more fluid than others see them as. I guess you would call me a constructivist. Issues of identity fascinate me. Looking at the Pakistan/ India tension, I think we should bury the hatchet. With the spectacle of the closing the border every day, won't this demonstration inspire generations of citizens to dislike their nation-state neighbors? What has happened has happened. I think India and Pakistan should not look past their borders to see what the other side is doing, but look within. We both have our fair share of poverty, illiteracy, famine. Shouldn't we tackle those issues first? I think so. Its time to get off the fence that both sides claim their own and think. Work together. Time for both countries to prosper together.


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