An Open Letter To Pakistan

Dear Pakistan,

Many people argue over whether a hamburger is considered to be a sandwich or burger. Some people call supporters of abortion baby killers, while others state abortion gives women freedom of their own body. However, peanuts are not actually nuts and fortune cookies from Chinese restaurants is not actually related to Chinese tradition at all. Confused? Let me explain.

My Dadi¹ and my Nana² hail from Lahore and would have lived there if the Partition never happened. After the Partition, they moved to India and the Indian Government mixed up my Nana’s birthday. Now, we celebrate both of his birthdays and visit India every other year, since my parents moved to America. My mother has never been to Pakistan, although she lived in India for half of her life and neither has my dad. In fact, my Nana’s brother was killed during a ceasefire in Pakistan, which led to my great-grandfather seeing Pakistan as a “treacherous state.” My great-grandfather, a wonderful and respected man, despised Pakistan because he saw the country as an enemy, a place which took away his son wrongfully. However, he himself was technically Pakistani.

In How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, Mlodinow writes, “People have a basic desire to feel good about themselves, and we therefore have a tendency to be unconsciously biased in favor of traits similar to our own, even such seemingly meaningless traits as our names.” This basic desire has shown to be toxic as it reduces your empathy. Empathy, a word many people assume to know but fundamentally don’t, is not putting yourselves in other people’s shoes; it’s recognizing that other people wear different shoes and you can’t understand their opinions sometimes because you are not them, but you can respect their views. In short, empathy is a necessity to humanity.

Because Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country and India is a Hindu-majority country, both countries have major differences; Pakistan consumes the most tea per capita and India treats cows with the utmost respect. As an American, I have talked to Indian Muslims, Pakistani Hindus, Indian Hindus and Pakistani Muslims and quite honestly, I have never seen a difference between them. Yes, there are fundamental cultural and religious differences, but Urdu and Hindi are similar languages and most kids raised by brown parents can agree how good mithai (sweets) are, banter over which Bollywood movies and Pakistani TV shows are the most melodramatic and most importantly, foster friendships. By talking to someone whom you don’t have many things in common with, you will be able to see how your differences don’t come in the way of a simple conversation or friendship.

Although I understand why my great-grandfather was not a fan of Pakistan, the Indian Army has committed war crimes as well. As Hardy writes, “Let the past be what it was.” Yes, we have committed sins and separated families, but in order to create a better future, both Indian and Pakistani citizens must move on by communicating and listening to each other without bias. On 25 July 2018, the general elections in Pakistan will take place, and the leader of Pakistan will be decided. By voting wisely and establishing an atmosphere where open dialogue between the two countries’ citizens is encouraged, hate crimes will decrease and empathy will exponentially increase. What could be better than that?

Sincerely,

Noorie Dhingra

A human with ties from both countries

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¹ Dadi is Punjabi for paternal grandmother

² Nana is Punjabi for maternal grandfather

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