The other day my twelve year old daughter Ankita asked me, "Papa what according to you is the most exciting and scintillating way of spending a day at home?" Without hesitation I replied, "Sitting on the sofa in front of the idiot box watching a world cup cricket final and not just any final - An India-Pakistan match and that too at Eden Gardens, Kolkota. I can't imagine anything more exciting than that?"
An India-Pakistan match conjures up images of thrills and chills, enthusiasm and energy, pageantry and patriotism and the sheer, undiluted spirit of sport. In those moments everything else is forgotten - the partition and the riots, Bangladesh and Babari and Kashmir and Kargil. At that juncture all that matters is that two cricketing giants are matching their skills in the sporting arena and a sub-continent of crazy enthusiasts is watching every moment with bated breath.
But will my dream ever come true? Will I ever be able to see Tendulkar and Shoeb Akhtar battle it out in Karachi or Kolkota and Lahore or Mumbai? As things stand not in the near future. Why? Because certain well meaning individuals have strong reasons to prevent this from happening. I'll first
tell you the reasons and then prove how hollow these are.
"How can you think of playing cricket with a country who's Government is sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere in the country?" "How can you imagine restoring normalcy with a nation which has already fought three wars and seems almost desperate to fight another?" How can you imagine having sporting links with a Government, which bad mouths ours at every international forum?
Yes, I agree. These are harsh truths. But by snapping of cricketing ties with Pakistan could we achieve anything. By listening to the likes of Bal Thakeray and company could we prevent Kargil or the attack on the Parliament and many other instances? It is said that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. We have to learn from our mistakes and instead of going one step forward and two-step backwards have to march ahead with a new vision and a mission.
The Preamble to the United Nations Charter reads: Since wars began in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace must be constructed.
The governments, the leaders, the statesmen of both India and Pakistan have failed miserably to keep two countries, born of the same womb, in harmony. I would suggest that it is on the generation next, of the two nations to construct the defenses of peace. It is my appeal to the youth of both India and Pakistan to raise their voice against the warmongers and fight for peace. And the first and surest step in this direction is the restoration of cricketing ties between the two neighbors. We have no
choice. If we want peace we have to play ball or continue bickering and destroy it all.
I am confident once we start playing cricket we'll soon move on to the other great passions such as hockey and squash and lots more. Ghazals and films and cultural exchanges will follow. The spirit of sport and the fragrance of culture will create an ambience of trust. Soon the rancor, the bitterness,
the animosity will be things of the past and peace and harmony will pervade. Gradually the Governments will step in and cement this friendship with stronger ties of trade and commerce.
I'll sum up my argument with these lines inspired by John Lennon's immortal song Imagine:
Imagine there's one country
It isn't hard to do.
No India - no Pakistan
And no fighting too.
You may say I am a dreamer
But I am not the only one
I hope some day you will join us
And the two nations will live as one.