Don’t live your life, live your dreams. The belief in this saying gave me strength to take the plunge of being the first Peace Youth Ambassador to Pakistan.
I was never challenged by life. I was a highly pampered daughter of a proud father who supported and beckoned me for whatever I did. For me, religion was a means to communicate with God. I was never stopped of going to churches, temples and participate in any social or religious forums of any caste.
I was taught that the messages given by the Holy Quran, the Holy Bible and the Bhagwad Gita were all similar with different interpretations. Whether it be Holi, Diwali, Christmas or Eid, all festivals bought heaps of happiness and togetherness in our lives.
But the communal conflict, outside our happy world made very strong interventions into our lives which changed my perceptions towards mankind and religion. There was so much animosity and hatred around me. This shook me up and threw me into the real world.
Sometime around this, I had two groups of people telling me different stories about Pakistan. One, always kept on telling me about how the cultures of both the countries are so similar, the people across the border have the same values and even the lifestyle. On the other hand, I was told about this country hosting terrorists, fundamentalists who always kept on interrupting the lives of innocent people of my country.
This gave birth to the idea of getting out of my comfort zone, take up the challenge and climb up a step higher to dream to experience Pakistan. Working with AIESEC (an International students’ organization) for three and half years, made me always dream big and strive to turn it into reality. It made me strong and compatible to the external world.
It was January 2005 when I took a tough decision of quitting AIESEC and move on with a white collared job. But my heart was constantly pulling me towards Pakistan wanting me to get answers to the questions which kept on popping up in my head. I tried my level best not to listen to my heart and be practical towards my life ahead. I used to tell myself that all dreams don’t turn to reality. Being the eldest amongst my siblings, I wanted to be independent.
After a lot of reasoning, I finally made a decision to come down to Pakistan. But wasn’t aware that I would go through never ending hardships to cross the border. I thought that being an Indian and looking at the peace talks between the governments of the two countries, it would be easy. I waited for 6 long months to get a visa where my life and career was at stake. My friends used to laugh at me for this decision of quitting a high salaried job. I did not know for how many more days, weeks or months I had to wait. As it was unsure, I couldn’t do anything but sitting at home killing time. I was highly demotivated and traumatized many a time but the belief in living my dreams and an urge to get the answers to all my questions about this country kept me fighting.
From the very moment I landed at Karachi airport, whatever I saw and felt, my subconscious mind kept on comparing with my country trying to dig out one thing, just one, which is different. But everything was the same, so familiar. Yeah, my friends who used to say that Karachi is alike Mumbai, Lahore like Delhi and Islamabad like Chandigarh were right. Even the natural diversity was surprisingly very similar. I listen to radio a lot when I used to be home just because they played Indian music which was unbelievable for me initially. Even the food, spices, aroma of the various dishes so much reminded me of the ones I have back home. Many a times I didn’t even feel that I was not in India.
Apart from experiencing and exploring the similarities between India and Pakistan, being a part of the team setting up AIESEC in Pakistan, provided an opportunity to interact with the youth of this country which was my biggest motivation to come down here.
I’ve had very interesting conversations with them regarding the peace initiatives as well as brainstorming on finding solutions to sort out the Kashmir issue. Being the ambassador of my country and exchanging so many thoughts, I feel that we are heading towards a mutual solution. We want this issue to be sorted out considering the feelings of the people on both the sides. Whatever we have for each other should be talked out without any fear. It would surely bring prosperity to the subcontinent; a happy and peaceful world for our future generations.
After coming to Pakistan, I have one more dream – the day when the people of India and Pakistan can cross the border without any visa and also the day when there is no border separating us. – Sharmin Vohra
I spent 6 long months with those kind-hearted people (Jan-June 2006).
The very next year, destiny gave me another chance to visit Pakistan. I was invited to chair a conference in Karachi where 110 students from 5 Top Universities were participating. It was again an unforgettable experience as I crossed the Wahga Border alone on foot this time. I was highly respected by being among very few Indians who get a chance to walk across the border at this age.
Since then, it has become a second home to me. I’ve been invited for weddings and other social occasions. Its like my extended family. I had made a very conscious decision that being in India, I would carry forward this peace initiative, bring a spark of love in the hearts of my people for Pakistan. I really don’t know why, but I always look at the optimistic side of the bittersweet developments between the two nations.
I agree that the people on both sides have gone through hell during the partition and the current terrorist communities. But a wound gets worse when we scratch it. To heal, we need cure. And I feel that THE ONLY to cure this is peace. We, as the youth can be a great and strong catalyst towards achieving it. How great it would be that both India and Pakistan get together and emerge as the superpower!!!! Lets make it happen in our lifetimes and leave a milestone for our future generations to move ahead strength to strength.
It reminds me of a quote by Jesus Christ that “Put your sword back into its place; for those who live by the sword, die by the sword”.
Warmly! Sharmin Vohra
About Sharmin Sharmin belongs to an extremely modest but highly liberal family. Studied engineering from Maharaja Sayajirao University and is currently based out of the cultural capital and IT hub of Gujarat, India. She believes in having a spectrum of experiences and enjoying her work. She has worked in fields of IT, Railways, Manufacturing and currently working for the best realty firm of her city.Follow @IndoPak_Peace