By Arun Joshi
On Tuesday ( November 30) Kartarpur corridor that connects Indian and Pakistani sides for the pilgrims visiting to pay obeisance at the last resting place of Guru Nanak, was engulfed in thick fog. It was the first fog of the season, and the early morning visitors were somewhat disappointed as they could not have a clear view of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Sikh temple, located in the middle of a vast expanse of land, meticulously maintained by the Pakistani side. This fog was also symbolic of the current relations between the two countries, but as the day passed, the whole complex was lit by sunlight, it also held a promise ;
Amidst all the fog and half-visible faces, what was heard clearly: “ Jee ayyan nu”, Punjabi way of greeting the guests, depicting their warm hospitality and pleasure to welcome the visitors. This phrase, when translated means “ we extend heartiest welcome ( to you)”
Since this is common way of greeting in the two sides of Punjab, it is easily understood and replied to with a “ big thank you” by visitors” from India, mostly elderly Sikhs and their families ..
The corridor was re-opened, after remaining closed during the Covid period- after it was initially opened in November 2019. It is full of welcome everywhere, but a fence that separates the corridor from the Pakistani villages symbolizes the distrust – the fear is that the visitors might not stray into Pakistani villages. Similar fencing on the border characterizes the international border between India and Pakistan on the Indian side. Once the visitors reach the shrine, all the symbols of distrust melt away like the sunshine removes all the obscurities stirred by fog. The nature has its own way of defining the things, this also serves a lesson to the humans to learn from the mother Nature. It is truer in the relationship between India and Pakistan .
At the Gurdwara complex- there is a plate with the inscription of the burial place of Guru Nanak- Muslims come and offer prayers and seek blessings. Most of them come from Pakistani side. Guru Nanak was revered as a “ Peer” or saint by Muslims. Hindus and Sikh bow before a place where it is inscribed that Guru Nanak was cremated there. This shrine melts all differences, and at Langar hall or the community kitchen, all communities sit and eat together: primarily Indian and Pakistani visitors.
Much has changed in the 20 months for which the corridor was closed due to the pandemic – the number of visiting pilgrims has come down drastically, but what has not changed is the urge, very loudly heard from Pakistani side as also from the Indian pilgrims, of better ties between two countries. This urge has gained currency as the frozen relationship between India and Pakistan characterized by the mutually hostile statements by political leaders and media is considered outlandish. The Indians know that it is Pakistan’s support for terrorism in Kashmir, where hundreds of Indian soldiers have sacrificed their lives in fighting terrorism, and they are also aware that once the terrorism tap is shut, things would normalize. Pakistan, however, continues to live in illusion that it can annex Kashmir from India.
But, during the interaction between the visitors to the Corridor and the hosts , the word “ K” or Kashmir is missing. Perhaps, the two sides are conscious that this is contentious issue and need not be brought in. This is an emerging change in They talk about Indo-Pakistan ties in the holistic terms: become nostalgic about the common and shared heritage about the places and rivers. “ This is common, why are we not allowed to meet once again>’
The new generation of Pakistan, intelligent and articulate, is conscious of the future, and without mentioning the hostilities between India and Pakistan in direct terms, they talk in aspirational tome: “ We are longing for the days when we shall be able to celebrate our festivals _ Eid – together and you ( Indians ) can visit all parts of Pakistan without any restriction and we get the access to see what Delhi and Chandigarh look like”, Mariam, a student is quite vocal about it.
This is reflective of the changing mood in India and Pakistan, where the younger generation wants to be part of the global competition, and to them, it makes no sense why should the two neighbouring countries , having a shared heritage and culture, should stand as estranged. They want their governments to tap commonalities and move ahead.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with it.