Harper's Bazaar March 2016 - Page 205

Jerry Pinto WRITER Fatima Bhutto POET AND WRITER What would it be like if Indians, all of us, grew a thicker skin? We seem to be so thin-skinned right now that any criticism has us riled up. This is the position that starts with the assumption: Anyone who doesn’t think like me must be retarded or foolish or a sell-out. And from there: I will tell them so and I will also suggest that it might be a good thing if they were raped and murdered. So I’d like to live in a nation that learned from criticism instead of reacting to it with violence and violent rhetoric. How wonderful this nation would be if we could reach out to the perceived other with dialogue. How much India’s international image would change if we looked at what people said about us and thought, “Is that how they think? What can I do to make them think otherwise?” So journalist after journalist asks the foreign visitor: “What do you think of India?” And every foreign visitor talks about the culture and the colour, the curries and the cheerfulness. They know that if they say something like, “I found it horrifying how dirty your cities are. I found it nauseating that your industrialists build skyscraping houses while your poor live in filthy matchboxes. I found it disgusting how you treat your servants. I found it insane that you buy and sell your children in marriage. I found it frightening that your writers are terrified of telling the truth because mobs with mashaals will turn up at their houses,” they will invoke an immediate and vitriolic response. I’d like to see a thickerskinned India. Peace. Almost 70 years after partition, India and Pakistan are as remote as ever. Last year, I crossed the border between Lahore and Amritsar on assignment for a magazine. They were twin cities once, the jewels of the Punjab. And then, in 1947, Punjab was rendered in half—families divided, land separated, stories cut off mid sentence. Here’s the truth—you cannot tell the difference between Lahore and Amritsar. The smell of the earth, the food, the way people talk and worship and live, all of that is the same. The same is true our countries. The only thing that separates us is politics. If I could ask for anything, as we approach the 70th anniversary of our parting, I would ask for peace. n 205