” Excuse me” someone tapped on my shoulder as I was enjoying London’s Tube.
” Yes?” I turned around and saw an old South Asian lady in saree smiling at me.
” I am looking for this address” she showed me a handwritten slip with address and a map.
“I am not sure if I can help you as I am on visit here” I tried reading the details.
” It says you have to get down at Piccadilly. I am also getting off at Piccadilly. Lets see when we get there” I told her.
” Thankyou. Are you from India?”
” No, I am Pakistani and you?”
“I live here in London so now I am from London” she smiled.
” you have come from Pakistan to visit?” she asked
” No I live in Ireland. It was bank holiday so came here to visit London”
” Do you work in Ireland?”
” Yes I work and am doing my postgrad studies too” it felt good talking to an old lady from similar background after a very long time.
” I heard Ireland is a beautiful place. Do you like it?
” O yes, it is definitely a very beautiful place, seems like a piece of heavens. I love it!”
” and how about the people? we hear about racism?”
” I think Irish are a very friendly and intelligent nation. I have not felt any racism” I disclosed my experiences in Ireland.
She smiled, then said ” Pakistan and India are trying to mend relations now a days. I hope they realize there is much more in this world than their ego.”
” Piccadilly is next. Lets get off and then we will find your location” I said moving towards the doors.
We got off the tube and walked towards the exit.
” so, why do you think it is only ego?. I think it is their identity as Pakistani and Indian which is more important. They are trying to keep their identity to show one is better than the other” I tried to be pseudo philosopher as we got out of the UnderGround.
” what identity are you talking about?” she had a sarcastic smile.
” I mean we put labels to identify ourselves. We feel proud of our identity. Like I am Pakistani, my colleague Rahul is Indian. I think being Pakistani is better than Indian and he thinks the opposite”
” And you guys think that just by having the identity of being Pakistani or Indian makes you better?”
“Well, everyone in this world thinks the same. Don’t you ?”
” No I don’t “ she replied with a stern face.
Looking at my perplexed face she started ” let me tell you my short story. I was born when British were ruling the sub-continent. People were trying to push them out of there. My grandfather sacrificed his life in the war for freedom. He made everyone in the village proud to be Indian.
Then muslims wanted a separate homeland for themselves, Pakistan. My father was an active freedom fighter too and got martyred fighting for Pakistan’s independence. In 1947 we migrated to Dhaka, Pakistan.
Overnight I became a Pakistani. I remained the same person but people’s feelings towards me changed at once. I started the transition from being an enslaved Indian to a free Pakistani.
I got married , we got four children. My eldest son just turned 20 when another war of independence started. He was killed by Pakistani forces. Then one day in 1971, once again in my life, overnight my identity was changed from Pakistani to Bangladeshi. I had to go through the transition of changing nationalities again.
In 1975 my other son was charged with conspiring against the Bangladesh government. We had to leave the country and come here. Since then I am living here. Now I am called a Londoner, the same person that was once Indian, then Pakistani then Bangladeshi. Now I don’t relate to the land anymore…to identify myself. Infact I, as a person, bring the identity to the land. My identity is my character and my personality. I will remain the same person wherever I live”
her eyes were wet and glittered as we reached her address.
I bade her goodbye and left, thinking about my own identity…an identity that I could really be proud of..an identity that makes this world a bit better place for our next generations.