Divided by borders, united by aspirations

By M Waqas Nasir

“Who and how can anyone say that South Asia is divided?” asked senior journalist Namrata Sharma, editor of Nariswor (Women’s Voice), in Kathmandu. The divisions, she said, come from “different politics”.

“My heart reaches out to you,” she added, addressing Lee Krishnan in Mumbai and Mohsin Tejani in Karachi – the facilitators of a workshop titled ‘Write for Peace’. “The way, in such a short time, you made us all write, think and connect, was beautiful.” Sharma was delivering the closing remarks at the event on August 28, organized by the South Asia Peace Action Network (Sapan). The interactions she had witnessed and participated in highlighted “the very essence of the existence of Sapan”.

Bread loaf friends

Lee and Mohsin, friends since meeting at the Andover Bread Loaf writing academy in Massachusetts 25 years ago, designed the workshop keeping in mind Sapan’s ethos and values. What they put together gave us an opportunity to take a pause, breathe, reconnect, share, and get to know each other better. The online writing workshop brought our community together, to share, celebrate and cherish the bonds of love, friendship, and harmony.

Rules to live by

Krishnan and Tejani divided the workshop into a series of prompts that helped participants reflect, imagine and appreciate. The six rules preceding the exercise were as simple as our lives are complicated – rules to live by, not limited to a writing workshop. And it is lovely that they were read out in various languages – Urdu, Hindi, English, Bangla, Tamil, and Sinhala.

Envisaging peace

The prompts invited us to share how we envision ‘peace’ – what does ‘peace’ taste, smell, sound, and feel like? This elicited a wide range of insights – from ‘rosogolla’ to garlic and butter; from ‘chaat’ where flavors exist individually together to water on parched lips, giving a sense of hope and a new life.

The workshop provided a safe space to open up, share what we felt, and connect with one another. This event made us feel like a FAMILY. And it got me writing again.

(The author is an educationist working as a senior project officer at Science Fuse, a social enterprise in Lahore that works to improve the quality of science education in Pakistan. Views are personal. By special arrangement with Sapan)

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