Dear Bharat Mata,
I am not quite sure if someone from across the border has written a letter to you before, sitting in your beautiful land. But there is always a first, isn't there? So let me introduce myself and tell you my story. I have had a long relationship with you, one that spans generations. But more about that later.
My name is Maliha Khan and I come from the hustling bustling city of Karachi, Pakistan. I was born to your estranged brother, Pakistan. Although Karachi became the city of my birth, you were already in my blood, Mother India, coursing through my veins. No, it is not only because my far-removed ancestors came from your part of the world when both you and your dear brother Pakistan had lived together happily. My father too was born on your precious soil in a small village in Bihar called Kahalgaon. My mother, unfortunately, couldn't witness your beauty because, by the time my Nana and Nani got married, you and your dear brother had already parted ways.
I have two younger brothers myself and strangely enough, all three of us share a relationship quite like you and your two brothers, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
My mother was born in that younger brother's land, who you helped stand on his own feet in 1971. You were accused by your brother Pakistan for breaking up his home. But Bengal was your brother too and you were perhaps trying to help him find himself. That's what big sisters are for, aren't they? I have two younger brothers myself and strangely enough, all three of us share a relationship quite like you and your two brothers, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Why do families fight? Don't we all love each other at the end of the day? I am sure you love your dear brother Pakistan and he loves Bangladesh as you do. Then why did you all have to separate? The bloody pages of history books have the answer to these questions, yet none of those explanations satisfy me.
Even when you and your dear brother Pakistan were estranged, I tell you he never forgot you. Your beautiful people were all over the television screens of our homes through your films and soaps. That's how I learned about your distinct traditions and even began to dream about celebrating them one day!
Growing up in your dear brother's land, I never remember being told to hate you, despite the popular notion your people might have. Maybe my father was right to ban the television in our house because I was never exposed to the venom the media was spewing against you. I remember I used to stay at my Nani's place for hours when the elders would be watching those utterly gripping saas-bahu serials. I wouldn't take my eyes off the television screen when the local cable screened Kuch Kuch Hota Hai one evening. Years passed by but you still remained with me and as Shah Rukh Khan says, "Pyaar dosti hai!" I too began to fantasise about befriending you and your people and sharing a bond of love that is bound to exist.
Even when you and your dear brother Pakistan were estranged, I tell you he never forgot you. Your beautiful people were all over the television screens of our homes...
It was in 2013 that I first met some of your spirited people in a conference in Islamabad and I fell in love with them. We couldn't spend too much time with each other and even though I wanted to take them to my home in Karachi, you and your dear brother have made it practically impossible for your people to be together. Nonetheless, I forged lifelong bonds. My next encounter with your people happened not on your dear brother's soil but in a completely foreign territory, Bangkok, when I worked with one of your talented artistes. It was such a defining experience for me because all those Indians I met made me feel like I was one of them! I had never felt so in sync with a group of people from my own country and here I was thinking how well these Indians understand me as a person. That was when I decided it was high time I found an excuse to cross the border and come to your glorious land. Ah! I wish both our people didn't need to find excuses to visit each other.
Here I am today, at the end of my year-long Young India Fellowship at the Ashoka University. Your people have really loved me because not only did they give me this opportunity but also invested in me to come here. I know you and your dear brother Pakistan can't seem to get along well but both your people have uninhibited love for each other in their hearts. I was scared the authorities in your land might not let me see your magnificence but as they say, when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it.
Exactly a year ago, I was informed about my visa coming through, and on 14th July last year I set foot in this beautiful land. My cousins started teasing me that soon I would be singing the lines of the famous Iqbal song, "Saaray jahan se acha, Hindustan hamara!"
I implore you to let bygones be bygones and embrace your dear old brother Pakistan in your warm arms as you have embraced me.
As I sit here writing a letter to you, Mata ji, I want to tell you that I am in awe of you. I implore you to let bygones be bygones and embrace your dear old brother Pakistan in your warm arms as you have embraced me. I wish the siblings are able to give a chance to peace, friendship and love. Both you and your brother are struggling with the same problems for the past 70 years of your separation. I call on you to work together with him for a better future of the people of Kashmir who have been robbed of a peaceful life since decades. I beseech you to work with your brother and eradicate the rampant casteism and oppression of lower caste groups you both are plagued with. I know, together, you two can be an unstoppable force!
Although I will always love the land of my birth, Pakistan, my soul is truly yours, Mother India. Ma, tujhe salam!
Your daughter from across the border,