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Pakistan and India in Sussex!



It’s been a pleasant experience meeting Indian students here in Sussex . So far as many Indians as I have met they have been warm, affable,approachable and down-to-earth. Obviously , this is a far-cry from what we were taught in the state text books about the ethos of our Eastern neighbor. The bonhomie takes no time to take root thanks to the common vein of sub continental ways. The first common denominator is language. You can say so many things using so few words with them while it takes awful lot of energy to connect to students from other countries. I don't mean one shouldn't reach out to nationals from other countries but the chemistry is unmatched with it comes to meeting Indians.

I have been particularly unsuccessful in geling with students from Arab countries partly because of my preconceived notions about them being rash, boorish and unruly in their day-to-day behavior and partly because of their disregard for Pakistanis despite the reverence we harbor for them. There are always exceptions of course so this might seem quite a sweeping statement for many , but this is what my experience (and hence the overriding impression of them) has been so far after my interactions with Arab students in the university for more than four years in Pakistan.

About people from Pakistan I have met so far, they seem to have come here (to some extent me too) with the perception of mastering their spoken English. But some get so carried away in the enthusiasm that they give a cold shoulder to their fellow country men in order to avoid speaking in Urdu. For those, like me, who feel some kind of pleasure in speaking Urdu language here in England, this behavior is a clear put-off. This is not to say that they are wrong in their preference of English over Urdu ( or i don't love them as my fellow country men just because they don't speak Urdu with me here) , it is just that I don’t feel comfortable talking in English to a country fellow.May be , many of them do. Looked from this perspective some Indian students have their English airs around though and wouldn't talk to you in Urdu/Hindi. But the majority will give you the kind of atmosphere you might be missing because of being away from your country : the banter , sharing weird Pathan/Sardar jokes that regularly made way to my/their inbox in the home countries , talking about food or just about anything makes you feel at home.

Like all the previous years, Indian students account for one of the largest country groups to study at the University of Sussex this year. In Institute of Development Studies(IDS) alone, there are 34 students (plus two tutors)compared to only 04 from Pakistan with a PHD fellow having started teaching recently. Two Indian Civil Servants(I came to know that the Indian Government sponsors study of 03 Civil Servants from India every year to IDS) couldn’t make it this year because of last-minute requirement of IELTS certificates by the university for issuing Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies letter (CAS) which is a must requirement for UK visa. This is a small reflection of a booming educational system in our neighboring country while we are yet to introduce basic education reforms back in the homeland.

In the South Asia Student Society’s maiden meeting this evening,I found Indian students more forthcoming about my idea for setting up an India-Pakistan friendship society than fellow Pakistanis. About planning celebrations of upcoming festivals like Eid and Diwali there was a clear division between students hailing from Sindh ,Gilgit Baltistan , KPK andPunjab. The president and vice president of the society hailing from Punjabwanted to bring in the Islamic Society when Eid Celebrations were discussed while the rest of us wanted it to be only an India-Pakistan affair. This was no survey of students from Punjab being against friendship initiatives with India but to find them in unison and the president and his VP clearly taking umbrage to my idea of keeping the Islamic Society out of the Eid Celebrations was strange. I wonder what they wanted to achieve by lumpingPakistan with Arab-dominated Islamic Society here. One reason could be the illusional concept of Muslim Ummah all the while forgetting that we owe more allegiance to our neighbors than to distant Arabs who love to hate us for all the wrong reasons!!