A tale of two cities
PARUL SHARMA SINGH
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A NOBEL DESIRE: Rashmi Talwar wishes to give a fillip to one-on-one interaction between India and Pakistan.
Rashmi Talwar’s blog ‘Saanjh’ on Amritsar and Lahore highlights the heritage and culture the cities share
Much before Doordarshan entered their homes, Rashmi Talwar and her friends were already hooked to shows on the Pakistan Television (PTV) network. Growing up in Amritsar and brought up on stories about Lahore — the erstwhile cultural and political capital of undivided Punjab — over 40 kilometres from here, she naturally followed everything happening in the neighbouring country with utmost zest.
While travelling to Pakistan in 2005, this journalist-turned-blogger felt a “personal initiative” was needed at a local level to highlight the centuries-old shared heritage and culture of Amritsar and Lahore. This maiden trip gave birth to her blog ‘Saanjh- Amritsar Lahore: Bonding the Twin Cities’, where she posts about people, things and events that would fascinate the denizens of both the border cities.
“Saanjh means togetherness. I want to create awareness between the peoples of these two cities and bring them together. I wish to give a fillip to one-on-one interaction between the citizens of India and Pakistan so that all misconceptions and mistrust is washed away,” says Talwar. “There is so much in common in both the cities, which we need to understand and cherish. People in Lahore are always so keen to know what is happening in Amritsar,” she adds happily.
During her past four trips to Pakistan, Talwar observed while people in Lahore are culturally pro-active with a keenness for heritage, art, culture, theatre and environment, their counterparts in Amritsar lacked the passion for “such finer nuances of life”. Through her blog, she is trying to eliminate this “apathy” on our side of the border.
“When I visited Pakistan for the first time, I was surprised to see how many men and women were so culturally aware, while in Amritsar women were whiling away time at parties,” rues Talwar, who later organised a Lahore trip for an all-women delegation comprising her school alumnae in May last year.
“The day I was to collect the visas for the ladies from Delhi, Osama bin Laden was shot dead by the US forces in Abbottabad and I thought our trip would be scuttled as no one would issue us visas at such a juncture. But we were lucky!” she reminisces.
While Amritsar is her old turf enabling her to write extensively about the city, along with her own journalistic pieces, her Pakistani friends also provide her inputs for stories emanating from Lahore for the blog. Some of her blog posts are quite interesting too! For instance, the educationist father of the Pakistan governor Salman Taseer, who was assassinated last year, was from Amritsar and met his English wife in the holy city. In fact, the nikah was solemnised by none other than Sir Muhammad Iqbal, who had famously penned “Saare jahan se achha…”
Incidentally, the younger sister of this English lady later married great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, after meeting him in Amritsar, before they left for Pakistan post-Partition.
Talwar who is now planning another Pakistan-trip next month, hopes the visit would result in more friendship, more camaraderie between the two nations, and, of course, more enlightening posts for her blog.