What is common to Mahatma Gandhi, Sachin Tendulkar, Abdul Sattar Edhi and Imran Khan? They are among a handful of public figures who are universally liked, and even loved, in India as well as Pakistan. When it comes to such personalities, borders, a tumultuous past, wars, and mutual acrimony fade into irrelevance. What comes to the fore is genuine appreciation, respect and adoration. And maybe a tinge of jealousy that they were born on the 'other side' and not 'our side'.
Addressing Indians and Pakistanis, a Quora user asked "If you had to pick one famous person from your 'paros' (neighbouring country) to be born in your country, who would you pick and why?" The answers are both expected and illuminating.
Answers by Indians, in no particular order:
1. Imran Khan, Cricketer and Politician
The choice of this much regarded cricketer turned politician from Pakistan was no surprise. People from both sides have loved him since his cricketing days in the 1970s and the 80s. User Tarang Srivastava says, "Imran has so many diverse achievements that it's difficult to imagine how someone could do all that in a single lifetime." The cricketer was not only known for his brilliant innings on the pitch, he has also mentored the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Khan also runs a welfare foundation called the Imran Khan Foundation and has established the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Pakistan in memory of his mother. He also established the political party called Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaaf which heads the coalition government in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
2. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Qawwali maestro
The maestro remains a favourite because of his soul stirring Qawwalis and other sufi renditions. Fondly known as Shehenshah-e-Qawwali, Nusrat Fatheh Ali Khan passed away in 1997 and his loss was felt keenly in the entire sub-continent. Not only was Khan known for his collaborations with western musicians, he was equally loved for his contributions to the Hindi film industry.
3. Maria Toorpakay Wazir, Squash player
Before she became Pakistan's topmost squash player, Wazir spent 16 years of her life masquerading as a boy so that she could participate in competitive sports. Although her parents were supportive, they had to resort to such drastic measures so as not to offend the Taliban. Wazir had to give up the disguise when she needed to produce a birth certificate in order to enroll in an institution to learn squash. Two years before Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban, Wazir was threatened by them. She went into hiding for three years but eventually came out. During her time in hiding, Wazir wrote to many squash players and eventually, Jonathan Power replied. She went to Toronto to train in his academy and is currently Pakistan's top squash player.
4. Abdul Sattar Edhi, Philanthropist and Social activist
It is not often that people such as Edhi grace the world and when they do, their acts of love and humanitarianism is for everyone to see. While Abdul Sattar Edhi was called by some as the Angel of Mercy, others referred to him as Father Teresa. Guardian of the poor, needy and destitute, Edhi founded the Edhi Foundation. He started this all with a battered old van and eventually started the foundation that is responsible for the rehabilitation of over 50,000 orphans, training of over 40,000 nurses and rescue of over 20,000 abandoned infants. Edhi Foundation also operates the largest ambulance service in the world. Abdul Sattar Edhi received the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.
5. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Journalist and Filmmaker
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a Pakistani journalist and filmmaker and the country's first Academy Award winner. Chinoy has received two Oscars for her documentaries Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015) and also bagged six Emmy Awards for her work. Not only has she received numerous accolades for her work, she is also a key member of the country's women's rights movement. Her documentaries focus on, as user Rajat Mehra says, "the evils Pakistani society is facing, especially honour killings".
6. Hina Rabbani Khar, Stateswoman and Former Foreign Minister of Pakistan
This former Foreign Minister was the youngest woman to hold that position. Before that, she was appointed as the Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs in 2009 and became the first woman to present the national budget that year. Although she retired from politics in 2013, she still continues to publicly speak on foreign policy matters.
7. Shoaib Akhtar, Cricketer
Akhtar's name should not really come as a surprise. Anyone who has followed his career or has watched him play would know the destruction he was capable of wreaking on the opposing team. He was feared and wanted by every team. With the Indian team almost always dominated by better batsmen, a baller like Akhtar could have made the team invincible. His bowling speed has gone up to a high of 161.3 km/h; he was not known as the Rawalpindi Express for nothing. He retired after the 2011 World Cup.
8. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Freedom Fighter
Also known as Badshah Khan, the towering Pashtun leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan led the non-violent and pacifist movement against the British Raj. A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, Khan was also known as Frontier Gandhi. He strongly opposed the Partition of India and felt betrayed when the plan to divide the country was accepted. Khan decided to stay on in the newly-formed Pakistan. He passed away in 1988.
9. Mahbub ul Haq, Economist and Game theorist
Mahbub ul Haq graduated from Cambridge University along with Amartya Sen. He received his PhD from Yale University, and worked at Harvard University's Kennedy School as a research scholar. He moved back to Pakistan and served as the country's Chief Economist. After Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the Prime Minister, Mahbub ul Haq moved to the USA and worked in the World Bank. He came back to Pakistan in the early 1980s and served as the country's Finance Minister. In 1988, he moved back to the US and established the Human Development Report. He returned to Pakistan and established the Human Development Centre in Islamabad.
Answers from Pakistanis, in no particular order:
1. Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata, Aviator and Business Tycoon
French-born JRD Tata was India's first licensed pilot. After his mother's death, Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata moved his entire family from France to India. But as a citizen of France, JRD had to serve a year in the French army. After his time in the army, Ratanji Dadabhoy brought him back to India to join the family company, Tata Sons. He later served as the Chairman of the company. JRD Tata was honoured with the French Legion of Honour (1983), and Padma Vibhushan (1955) and the Bharat Ratna (1992).
2. Sachin Tendulkar, Cricketer
Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest cricketers of all times, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar joined the Indian team in the year 1989 at the age of sixteen. He is not known as the Master Blaster for nothing, being the only player to have scored one hundred international centuries. He was also the first batsman to make a double century in a One Day International match. He retired from cricket in 2013. He has been awarded with the Arjuna Award (1994), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (1997-98), Padma Shri (1999), Padma Vibhushan (2008) and Bharat Ratna (2014).
3. C.V.Raman, Physicist
Chandrashekhara Venkata Raman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1930. Raman was the first Asian and non-white person to win the Nobel Prize in any of the sciences. He is known for his work on light scattering. In 1954, he was awarded with the Bharat Ratna. He was the President of the 16th session of the Indian Science Congress.
4. Virat Kohli, Cricketer
Kohli's name should not come as a surprise to anyone. He has attracted all sorts of attention right from the time he began playing for the Indian team. Virat Kohli started playing for the national team in 2008. Only a couple of years later, he was appointed as the Vice-Captain of the ODI team and would fill in the Captain's shoes in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After Dhoni retired from Test cricket, Kohli stepped up to take the reins of the team. Kohli was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2013.
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