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Student Speak

Amne Samne: A Seeds of Peace Project: (in the words of Jehan Lalkaka)

For us, who are selected for the Seeds of Peace Camp wonder, before we arrive at camp: what is a Pakistani like? This question, to which the answer is unknown to us, can fuel stereotypes based on what we learn from the media and our politicians.

The main aim of this project was to change that; to get as many people from both sides to have the answer to the above question. We wanted them to have a face to project in their minds when they read, speak or hear about the "other side". Thus, "Aamney-Samney" (in English, Face-to-Face)

We went about planning what we wanted to do, based on principles of Camp. We believed that if the student made just one friend, that would be a step to peace.

There were four participants from both sides. Helping me, was a large, ultra-dedicated team consisting of some Seeds and non-seeds from both India and Pakistan.

From India:
Neel Karpe, Priyanka Mariwalla('10) ,
Karan Vakil, Kanika Nerurkar, Isha Keskar, Rohan Surve ('11)
Vikramaditya Joshi (non-seed)
Mr. Imran Ismailjee (teacher at B.I.S) and
I, Jehan Lalkaka ('08,'11)

From Pakistan:
Noorzadeh Raja ('09,'11)
Fatema Zahra ('10)

Being the first time, we wanted to limit the number of schools to two- The Bombay International School (B.I.S) and Lahore Grammar School (L.G.S).

Our first step was to get them to blog on a safe blog site that we had created. We gave them topics to blog about, each topic went deeper than the previous topic, revealing more about the persons personality, beliefs, and life.

Just like at camp, when we begin talking to "the other side", our similarities surface, and we are able to build our friendship on those similarities and even celebrate our differences. It was no different here- the participants were constantly reading the blog and commenting on what others had written, realizing that they had so much in common, right from our culture to family to beliefs. Of course, there was a small, inevitable conflict that took place- which was the best Mission Impossible movie made? Some said the third, while others said the fourth. Sides were taken and things got heated. However they did reach a consensus- Tom Cruise is a good actor.

We even added a "Special Activity" where the participants had to photograph a picture of their idea of religion, friendship or peace.

Some bonded over food, some over photography, some over motor racing accidents and some over the Twilight series.

It was like the first week of camp unfolding before us, on the computer!

After eight-nine topics, we moved on to the next phase..


We made groups of 2- one from each side of the border. Our first session was a simple ice-breaking session where they had to introduce their partner.

Until now, this project has been no different from any pen-pal relationship, so we added another dimension to it by making them work on a project based on a theme set by us!

The theme was "The Differences Between India and Pakistan are blown out of proportion". So the topics that were chosen were: Food, Language, Clothing and Beliefs.

For every group, one mentor was assigned from both sides for monitoring the skype sessions, helping them and to get the conversation going when an awkward silence would prevail. They would tell me what happened in the skype session, update me about their time-lines, their ideas, progress and just a general thumbs up. Exactly like a Facilitator!

They worked on this project for around a month. They spoke about things unrelated to the topic, stories, information, researched, taught each other and helped each other.

Eventually, they would present their work in front of an audience in both schools through a video conference. Most groups made a video which consisted of interviews, movie clips, facts, etc while some made a slide show.

They Skyped at home, coordinating times and praying that there would be no internet connection problem.

At times, things did get frustrating. For example, uploading/downloading a big file. Ultimately, they did work around that, managed to overcome difficulties with the help of their mentors, finish their projects and then..

D-Day! The day they all would present their projects. Noorzadeh and I carefully planned the proceedings of the day the night before, planning back-up plans, transferring files (since the participants weren't allowed to stay awake till 3am) and discussing ways we could make it as smooth as possible, without any glitches.

The set-up began at about 2.30pm: starting the video, testing audio, chairs, lights, A/C's, etc.

After giving a brief introduction of the projects and the efforts that went behind the scenes, the first presentation began!

Each group, from both sides, came up front and sat on a chair (which we called "The Throne") gave a brief introduction about their projects: why they chose the topic they did, how did they do it, etc. As soon as that ended, we muted the microphones so that what was playing on one side would not interfere with the audio on the other side. The presentation played on both sides and while that was happening, Noorzadeh and I would speak to each other through the phone affirming that everything is in order and go through the proceedings for the next group. Then, questions from both sides were asked to which both members of the group answered, giving personal examples as well as general information.

The first group, Aziz and Rudabah, came up front, gave a little introduction of their topic which gave a brief introduction of what people generally think of "the other side". That was followed by their video being played which looked almost professionally done.

The second group, Cyrus and Anum, began their introduction of their topic: Language. They gave a brief description of how similar our languages are and proceeded to their video which was a wonderful out-of-the-box idea: through an interview, they narrated a joke in Hindi/Urdu and asked the interviewee which language did they think the joke was in?

As expected, everyone in Pakistan said Urdu and everyone in India said Hindi. This showed that the spoken languages, are extremely similar and if an Indian speaks in Hindi, a Pakistani who speaks Urdu, would understand.

The third group, Svarina and Miraj, made a slide show presentation of their topic "Food". As soon as the pictures flashed on the screen, everyone's mouth began watering. Svarina and Miraj probably must have expected this mouth watering, and to quench this, they planned and added another dimension to the presentation- by preparing traditional food of the other country!!

Smiles and excitement filled the room as they were told that Miraj had made an Indian (Mumbai-specific) dish, "Vada-Pav" and Svarina had made a Pakistani dish "Biryani". After tasting, we asked someone in the audience, from both sides, to come up and speak about what they thought of the dish.

The fourth group, Arusha and Mahnoor, began playing their 20 minute long video about Clothing. It contained interviews, information, pictures, personal likes and dislikes. They interviewed a diverse group of people differing in age, sex, beliefs, professions, etc, and each of their answers converged, highlighting the similarity in what both countries wear and like to wear.

During the presentation, one of the parents in the audience got an SMS inviting her to a sale of Pakistani clothing in Mumbai, which Arusha read out the audience on the other side

At the end of each group's presentation, all of us could hear a thunderous applause from both the sides, and a smile on the participants faces that made them realize what an extraordinary thing they had just accomplished.

What struck everyone in the room, was how comfortable the participants were speaking to their partner, sometimes cracking jokes between themselves that nobody but them understood, showing just how much they bonded over the past month and a half. Apart from just making a friend, they learned a lot about their so-called enemy country. And not through Google, but through a real person. Not through the news channels or newspapers, but their friends on the other side.

There were times where they came up to me or Noorzadeh and exclaimed how frustrated they were because videos weren't transferring, electricity would go, times wouldn't match or slow internet. But in these "hard" times, we told them exactly what we were told at camp, "Hey, nobody told you this was going to be easy", we continued, "You are doing a project with someone that you are made to believe are your enemies. There will be problems, and you're just going to have to work around them".

The audience at the presentation went home with a lot of information, open mindness and more respect for the other side. We also told the participants to make something related to their projects for the audience to take home..something like a "back-home present!" This was a big hit as their ideas were put to material perfectly-

Group one made a post card that consisted of a picture of the skyline of Mumbai (for the Pakistanis) and a picture of The Lahore Fort (for the Indians) along with a stamp from both countries and a quote by M. Gandhi, M. Jinnah and their own quote!

Group two made a booklet of the Hindi alphabets and its' Urdu equivalent, so that the audience could now maybe write a little Urdu/Hindi! Along with that, they made a comic strip, comparing our conflict so sibling rivalry which can be easily overcome.

Group three made a recipe book consisting of recipes from both sides

Group four put together a common fabric that is used in both countries but differ in the colours that are used and named it "Threads of Peace".

We kept reminding the participants that they were a part of something bigger..
If they could make friends, why couldn't others?
If just by realizing similarities and valuing differences through a small project, a strong bond could be formed, then why can't our Governments do the same?

"Treaties are made by Governments. Peace is made by people"

This project instilled a sense of peace and mutual respect for each other.

Having a friend from across the border is not a very common thing, but when one is made, thoughts, hobbies, ideas, dreams, they all converge and meet at a point where everything goes beyond our conflict, our nationality, who we are and what we are made to believe.

It is at this point where all that matters, is Mission Impossible 4 is better than Mission Impossible 3, or how nice the other person's hair looks, or how their day in school was awesome.

After all, the "enemy" does have a face.”


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