How I Connected An 85-Year-Old Grandfather From India to His Pakistani Roots

Pakistan is one of those countries that tends to fall victim most often to negative media portrayals. The media usually focuses on showing terrorism, politics and poverty from Pakistan. However, I am using Everyday Pakistan (an Instagram based project) to showcase everyday life in Pakistan through the eyes of local photographers.

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo of Katas Raj Temples, which is located near Chakwal in the Punjab province.

The most admired Katas Raj Temples are located near Chakwal in Punjab, Pakistan. These multiplex temples, and conglomeration of temples,standin homage to the deity and goddess of Hindu folklore. Assorted temples are connected to one another by walkways.It is the considered as the main temple, an important Hindu Pilgrimage site and the second oldest location of Hinduism where they worship and show the adoration to their religion.The whole area of Katas has covered the space of about 260 kanals. Its history dates back to 200-300 years BC. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva – one of the three main Hindu Gods. He is also known for his deep feelings for his wife – their love is the reason for the creation of Katas Raj Temple.The other two are Brahma and Vishnu and when the three come together, they are called Trimurti and complete the cycle of life. There are three main emblems of Hindu heritage in Katas Raj: 1) The lake of tears 2) Stone of Shiv Mahraj 3) Main Mandir (Marriage Hall) Every year 200-300 Indian Hindus come Pakistan to visit this temple and the local Hindus often visit it. Photo by @shahzebsalehzada . . . #everydaypakistan #everydayeverywhere #everydayindia #katasrajtemple #temple #ancient #photojournalism #reportagespotlight #pakistan

A post shared by Everyday Pakistan (@everydaypak) on

As we have many Indians following the project, I received a curious message from an Indian user who told me that she showed the photo of the Katas Raj Temple to her 85-year-old grandfather and that he wished to speak to me.

She shared her contact number and I promptly called her. She was very happy and connected me to her grandfather. At first, I first started talking in English but eventually switched to Urdu and Punjabi. This former resident of Pakistan’s Punjab shared stories from before 1946, when as a youngster, he used to visit the Katas Raj Temple. He expressed a desire to come visit his hometown in Pakistan. But due to the political situation, it was difficult to procure a visa.

This call that lasted 11 minutes made my day. I had made someone happy across the border with just a photo project. Not only this, when I shared my story about this call on Instagram, I started getting messages from Indian users who congratulated me on my project. Here’s one follower response to that story: “I’m an Indian living in the US and want to let you know how much your account means to me. Getting to see these pictures is like seeing a part of my own body, that I could never have otherwise seen. Thank you.”

However, the path towards peace between India and Pakistan has to commence with bold political vision. Till then, I will keep winning more hearts by showcasing Pakistan.

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