Two countries, one spirit

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Basharat Sami and Shammi Jallandhari. Photo: Niketa Dave

‘IndoPak’ best buds Basharat Sami and Shammi Jallandhari gives us a lesson in brotherhood

On both sides of the steel gates dividing the two nations of India and Pakistan, amidst chanting crowds, hurling emotions and drumbeating boots, patriots refuelling their nationalism is a common sight at the Wagah Border. Aware of the hard and bloody line of control—tremors of which often frighten our succeeding generations, living and celebrating different national realities are justified, however only without demeaning the other. What occurred in August 1947 was meant for a new beginning, not to create the Indo-Pak conflict, but to prevent it.

To India, as it held the majority, Pakistan broke away on that day. To Pakistan, it gained independence.

“When tensions escalate between India and Pakistan, it does not affect our friendship, not because we are indifferent—since we have so many relatives there and stay connected to the region—but because we don’t believe in giving into individual-level hatred because of political differences” — Basharat Sami

But, during this time of celebration for the 71st year of independence of Pakistan and India, I strongly believe that the only way forward is for the citizens of both these countries to recognise our shared stories and heritage, and to cooperate for a more prosperous future—like the people in the Asia-Pacific diaspora do.

Yes, in Australia we are not so narrow-minded or affected by the hatred that was sown a century ago and we haven’t let it grow into a forest, instead have stubbed it while it was still a sap. But then again, India and Pakistan are two different lands. Does that mean we are also two different people? That the blood in each other’s veins is of a different colour?

There have been words of wisdom, literature, verses and lyrics that have tried to bridge the gap between the two countries. The melodious bond of Mr Basharat Sami and Mr Shammi Jallandhari in Adelaide, who are friends but come from such warring nations—India and Pakistan will teach you all you need to know about friendship and brotherhood.

Shammi and Basharat. Photo: Niketa Dave

Mr Jallandhari, who was born in 1971 in Punjab, India, came to Adelaide in 2006, while Mr Sami, born in 1960 in the village of Patto Ke, near Lahore, Pakistan, landed in Adelaide in 2003. The two met for the first time in Mr Jallandhari’s grocery store, and unlike with most Indians and Pakistanis, it was not cricket over which they found a common passion, but over the written word. Both having the same passion for poetry, it wasn’t hard to connect, says Mr Jallandhari. “Writing allows one to quietly vent or release any pent up feelings and emotions. Clearly one don’t have to be overwhelmed in order to be a writer, it’s just another method to combat your emotions when they start to take over, expressing the most eventful moments in one’s life,” he adds.

The two friends believe that no matter how hard religious extremists try to create tension and differences between India and Pakistan with their dubious political agendas, there will always be something that unites the two neighbouring countries. For only those who can see beyond hatred know that we are the same people; just separated by a border, So while the haters and the trolls carry on hating, Mr Sami and Mr Jallandhari, bring two worlds together, with a combined effort ‘Hind Pak Mushaira’—mellowing the differences down and bridging the gaps with ‘words of wisdom, literature, melody, verses and lyrics’.

In 2011, to celebrate the New Year, and to share fond memories of their lands and art, Mr Sami and Mr Jallandhari began their initiative—the Indo-Pak Mushaira—supported by the whole Ahmadiya Muslim and Indian community

In 2011, to celebrate the New Year, and to share fond memories of their lands and art, Mr Sami and Mr Jallandhari began their initiative—the Indo-Pak Mushaira—supported by the whole Ahmadiya Muslim and Indian community, with a special contribution from Mr Basharat Chaudhary, Nazir Zia, Mr KD Singh, Mr Nirdosh Joshi, Mr Gurmeet Singh Walia, Mr Robbie Benipal and Mr Rishi Gulati. “Poetry and music buffs from all over Australia, since then have gathered in Adelaide especially to grace this one and only, annually celebrated, friendly exchange of music and poetry are both agents of recharging all minds and proving fruitful for tall to experience a magical spell. Taking all to an enchanting tour of what Punjab would have been, before 1947,” says Mr Sami.

The initiative, say the friends, was inevitable, because of the common bond they shared over writing. “After spending some time soul-searching, I’ve narrowed it down to three signs that let you know you’ve arrived at your passion—you never want to give it up, it keeps you up at night, and makes you want to wake up the next morning,” says Mr Sami. “Born and brought up in and around poetic atmosphere, with that ‘Ruhaniyat’ soulfulness, ‘Nazaqat’ Elegance and the ‘Lehza’ prounciation of the Urdu language doing wonders when put in a poetic form I was immersed in the beauty of language all my life,” says Mr Sami, who refers to himself as a ‘Paasbaan’ or protector of the language.

As a poet, he doesn’t see an end in sight. There’s no “sell a million books-type goal” that fuels him. Nor is there a specific genre that he wants to tie himself to or master. “My writings are humorous, rhymed prose, verse fable and satirical poetry targeting contemporary subject matter and issues,” says Mr Sami, who is planning a book sometime next year.

Basharat Sami and Shammi Jallandhari with Saru Rana. Photo: Niketa Dave

Mr Jallandhari on the other hand has already published two books, in 2007 and 2009. He is also a known lyrist with both the Pollywood and Bollywood film industry, with four of his songs set to be featured in the Hindi film ‘Raja Abroadiya’. In the past, his writing had strengthened projects on social issues and norms, with strong lyrics as ‘Jaago—Wake up’ and ‘Kacche Dhaage’.

“I’ve been so excited about things I’m passionate about that I actually lose sleep over them,” says Mr Jallandhari, who is working on his third book. “I keep thinking of things I should be doing, things I’ve learned from doing it the first time. Understanding how far we’ve come but still how far we have to go is the only way we get better,” he says.

“I’ve often had more than one genre in my writing. Some were seasonal, while others stuck around for years that covers genres like Sufism, romanticism, narrative and lyrical poetry,” he says.

“India and Pakistan may have separated, but that doesn’t mean that people from both sides of the border shouldn’t be close socially and culturally. I love listening to Coke Studio and if given a chance would love to go visit Pakistan” — Shammi Jallandhari

Here’s something to think about, say the friends. “It takes less time to get from Pakistan to India than it does within India. For instance, its takes two hours to get from Karachi in Pakistan to Mumbai in India… we’re so close geographically but history has made us so bitter,” say both Mr Sami and Mr Jallandhari.

“In our own life, our Indian/Pakistani-Australian friends and we have shared great memories. We have helped each other move apartments, attended desi concerts or melas together, and supported each other through thick and thin. When tensions escalate between India and Pakistan, it does not affect our friendship, not because we are indifferent—since we have so many relatives there and stay connected to the region—but because we don’t believe in giving into individual-level hatred because of political differences. Usually we are on the same page with respect to disliking conflict and preferring peace, but when we do disagree, we debate with civility, just as we would debate Australian politics. Otherwise, we focus on our many common interests and hobbies that stem from our shared heritage,” says Mr Sami.

“India and Pakistan may have separated, but that doesn’t mean that people from both sides of the border shouldn’t be close socially and culturally. I love listening to Coke Studio and if given a chance would love to go visit Pakistan. It would be an honour to see all of its rich historical sites, famous singing concerts and food bazaars,” adds Mr Jallandhari.

Clearly this friendship goes beyond borders. Hopefully, this kind of spirit can un-LoC the animosity between the two nations.

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