In the year 2011, my dear mother and I embarked on a journey to Europe. It was our first trip abroad and I’d be lying if I said that we were pretty confident and fearless. Our first stop was good old’ London. I was looking forward to it the most probably because of my undying love for Coldplay and Harry Potter.
It was everything you could imagine. It was rainy and there was something or the other to do everywhere. The city was so magnificent that we got lost in it, literally. Can you imagine 2 extremely anxious first timers getting lost in an alien city with no GPS and nobody familiar? Needless to say, we were panicky and almost on the verge of tears. To top it all off, it started to rain and we didn’t have an umbrella. This was turning out to be the worst day ever. This wasn’t how the trip was supposed to proceed. We didn’t fancy getting a red nose so to shield ourselves from the grey British weather we entered a shop. It was a small shop on the corner of the street. We decided to look around.
We were discussing everything in Hindi and there is a certain thrill about talking in a language that nobody around you understands. We probably looking out of place because a gentleman with a flowing beard and a cap approached us. He had a warm smile on his face.
He politely asked us “Aap India se ho?” (Are you from India?)
He continued, “I am from Punjab but Pakistan’s Punjab.” This intrigued us. Pakistan, our estranged sibling.
We bonded over how expensive and cold London is and how the food here isn’t as spicy or as great as it is back home. “Ye log toh ghee use hee nahi karte (These people never use ghee), “ he said, chuckling.
He, just like majority of the people in India, adored and worshipped Shah Rukh Khan. “Hume Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge kaafi pasand hai. (I really like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge)”
His name was Ahmad and he had moved to London in search of a better life with his wife.
While we were conversing, I realised that despite the tension and disputes between our nations, we are basically the same people. We have similar languages, similar appearance, similar cuisine, similar clothing and similar problems as well. We further discussed how politics is messing up everything and how, deep inside our hearts, we are longing for nothing but peace. It really touched me. I bought some accessories and when we tried to make the payment, he said
“Kiss Baat ke paise? Koi apni behen se paise thodi na leta. (Who takes money from his own sister?)”
After trying extremely hard, we gave up. We invited him to India.
“Kya aap humhe Shah Rukh Khan se milvaoge? (Will you take me to meet Shah Rukh Khan?)”
“I’ve always wanted to go to India but I bet, you can’t beat us in hospitality and kebab.”
We’ll see about that later.
We departed from his little corner shop with big smiles and full of optimism. I felt at ease.