|A tiny slice of life|
In the summer of 2008, I accepted an invitation to participate in a meeting of historians to be held in Lahore. On November 24, after months of trying, I finally got a visa from the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi. Two days later, terrorists based in or coming from Pakistan struck in Mumbai. Inevitably, tensions escalated between the two countries.
My meeting was scheduled for the first week of January. Should I go? Must I go? With these questions on my mind, I went off to the Niligiris on a family holiday. A few days before the new year dawned, the ministry of external affairs issued a travel advisory, asking Indian citizens not to travel to Pakistan. My mother, for whom this 50-year-old is, well, still a boy, urged me to heed the advisory. An aunt added that I had no business to visit an “enemy country”, one which, as she put it, “was full of Muslims”. But their sentiments and reservations were vetoed by my teenage daughter, who insisted that I must go to Pakistan, if only to show that “not all of us hate all of them”.
If I chose finally to go ahead with my visit, it was partly out of a sense of professional obligation — some colleagues had been kind enough to invite me, and I could not let them down — and partly out of curiosity — what would Pakistan be like at a time like this? Continue reading