In my second year of university, I visited India. Travelling to see my Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles and all forty-something first and second cousins.
The millennial in me Snapchatted and Instagrammed the three weeks away. Throughout my time in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and various cities in Rajasthan, I received the same reply from my friends in London.
‘This reminds me of Pakistan’
‘This makes me miss Dhaka’
‘I miss pani puri in Lahore – you’re making me want to go back.’
My posts of speeding autorickshaw drivers, of family, pictures by the road side eating pani puri or drinking fresh coconut water in India, evoked the same memories and sense of home from my friends back in England. Be it India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
These messages were a stark reminder of just how similar these three countries are. From the road side thelas to the low hanging electricity wires, if you didn’t know who I was, it would be difficult to tell where I was.
Bollywood also beautifully showcased this this similarity. The 2004 blockbuster Veer-Zaara is a love story across the India and Pakistan border with the song ‘Aisa Des Hai Mera, Jaisa Des Hai Tera’ – My country, is just like your country. The songs shows the love stories, music, fun fairs and food as just some of the many things that are the same across the border.
Amrit Sharma was inspired by a talk which highlighted the power of simple positive messages building bridges between communities. A quick search found a few pages on Facebook which were promoting peace and love across the India and Pakistan border, but he wanted to create something substantial, specially after realising how little Indians and Pakistanis knew about one another. In February 2015 he launched the app, ‘India or Pakistan’ which presents the user with a picture, the user then has to choose if this image is from India or Pakistan. The beauty of the app is the difficulty in choosing the right answer.
In less than six months, the app had been downloaded 200,000 times. Each user got to see the huge similarity in the food, the streets, the clothes and monuments of the two countries, making it difficult to tell the two apart.
It’s not about your score at the end of the game, but the renewed sense of realization that we aren’t as different as we had initially assumed. – Amrit Sharma, founder of ‘India or Pakistan’.
This app, just like my holiday pictures and the occasional Bollywood song or advert reminds us of how much the subcontinent has in common and seeks to celebrate this.