I got off the bus at Wiesloch and noticed that another person with brown skin had got off too. He saw me too and we took a few steps to be closer. I asked “Indian?”; “Pakistani?” was his question. This was November 1999. The man my country blamed for the Kargil war had just come to power in his country. But we were in a different continent. People around us spoke a different language, had a different faith, and looked different. In this context we were rather pleased to have met.
This guy spoke a few words in Bengali, good German and fluent Urdu. I had found someone to communicate with in a remote town where the only English you could hear would be in CNN. We introduced each other, I in my bad Hindi and he in Urdu. I came to know that he was a pizza baker by profession. He had come down to Wiesloch to meet his ex-boss, a Pakistani like himself who owned and ran a pizzeria.
There were three delivery boys. One of them was another Pakistani who used to practice medicine and had fled homeland when Zia had come to power. Dr. Waseem Ahmed now sold medical insurance policies by day and delivered pizzas at night in a Mercedes. The three of them adopted me for the rest or the three weeks I was in Germany.
Dr. Ahmed took me along with him in his Mercedes on the pizza delivery rounds. I saw rural Germany by night, went into the only psychiatric facility I have visited in my life, and had long chats about how our governments fought but the man on the ground on either side of the border had no mutual quarrel.
I am not sure that an Indian in India or a Pakistani in Pakistan would always feel the same way. I am sure if the two countries went to war then I would not be very compassionate about the common Pakistani. But when a dictator beats up lawyers and journalists, the average Indian would wish the average Pakistani all the best. But whatever be the situation the typical Indian would have nothing but the worst of intentions for the entity in power in Pakistan.
I suspect that sentiments would be pretty much the same on the other side of the border. The general mass of people on the average would waver between bouts of sympathy to blind rage and animosity. There would also always be some people with the strong belief in the brotherhood of mankind. They would deny the apathy and the hatred. God bless them, they are like the doctors without borders.
There would also be folks who for what ever reason, or lack of it, always scheme to annihilate each other. It doesn’t matter to them that we share similar heritages, languages, and gene pools. They must kill.
So what do I make of all this? Where does it leave me? Search me. But I will always remember three Pakistanis who accepted me, where happy to see me, took care of me in that foreign village where Chinese food had to be ordered from a German menu.