March 21st 2004, Gaddafi Stadium, it’s bustling with cheerful crowd from India and Pakistan in an atmosphere exuding good humour and bonhomie. Looking at the crowd around me I was wondering who coined the word archrivals for India and Pakistan. To me that moment replicated the joy of two families gathered to celebrate. I was luckily seated right below a pavilion that thrived with enthusiastic youngsters asking questions ranging from Bollywood and incredible India to Shining India campaign and the so labeled anti-Muslim India. Their innocent queries and curiosity and my eagerness and desire to clear the cloud of doubts and misinformation were no less than a quick recap of the last 57 years.
But one question that remained with me was from a young girl, ‘Can I pray publically in India?’ That was the moment I decided that I must remain engaged with the people of the land of my ancestors and experience for myself the potential of the India-Pakistan relationship instead of being just another victim of hatred. It was during the same discussion that another young girl from Jhellum mentioned the famous Katas Raj Temple situated on the foothills of the incredibly beautiful salt ranges near Chakwal.
Eleven years later, after spending an evening in Lahore with friends and savoring the delicacies of Food Street in the backdrop of the magnificent Shahi Mosque, we set out for Islamabad. Taking the M2 Motorway that I must say is at par with the best Motorways of the world, we took the Kalar Kalhan Exit driving through the most picturesque landscape of green and yellow mustard farms and distant salt mountains on the fringes. The newly paved road to Chao Shedan Shah added to the pleasant and smooth drive. Our first stop was Katas Raj, a destination that had quietly remained with me all these eleven years.
As the myth goes, Katas Raj, a temple complex is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva and was built around the central lake of the complex believed to be a drop of Shiva’s tears as he mourned his consort Parvati’s demise. It is also mentioned in various research works that the Pandavas spent four years of their thirteen year exile at Katas Raj.
On the first sight of the complex, I could not but admire the Punjab Government that has restored the complex and has also maintained the architecture, aesthetics and cleanliness. The paths leading to various parts of the temple complex are also well taken care of. The lake inside the complex is jade green and has no sign of any algae or filth. Shehzad, our guide at the temple complex was a young and friendly man but his knowledge was very limited regarding the history of the complex. Curious as I was, I dialed my aunt’s number who hails from Pind Dadan Khan. She was 28 years old at the time of partition and has very vivid memory of her times across the border. It was a time, she said, of great communal harmony and Katas Raj was one hub of activities especially during the Hindu festival Shivratri where both Hindus and Muslims were equally engaged. The entire complex was lit up with thousands of ‘diwas’ and Muslims put up stalls selling prayer material and other sundries like toys and vanity articles. In pulsating carnival atmosphere, the complex would come alive with merry go-rounds and other rides with folk singers enthralling the devotees. It was also a time when Eid and Diwali were not restricted by religious identity and was celebrated all with same fervor by both Hindus and Muslims. This tradition continued for centuries until the day few nobles in their own wisdom decided that Hindus and Muslims are two nations and since then Shiva’s tears becomes symbolic of all of us who believed otherwise.
In my opinion we have reached the level of optimum saturation where nurturing hatred for each other is concerned and have set out to find our own answers for foregrounding larger avenues for amicable relationship. I must clearly say that my opinion is not based merely on assumptions, headlines and data but derived from long interactions, discussions and debates both in formal and in informal atmosphere with friends across the border and in India. The staple rules, laws and answers provided by our leaders on both the sides are proving to be grossly insufficient to suppress the one to one relationship gradually but steadily and strongly being built by thousands every day. And I remain positive to see the dawn of much better times before I put a full stop to my sentence and a closing bracket to my journey!