I have never followed tennis in my life. In fact I don’t even know all the rules for the game. The only names I have heard from the tennis court are of Roger Federrer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and Sania Mirza. Well Federrer and Nadal because they are so good that they have had their pictures published on the front pages of numerable papers I have picked up to read. Sharapova because she is probably the hottest player out there on that court and therefore often a topic of discussion amongst guys. Thanks to Shoaib Malik that he introduced Sania Mirza to the cricket fans. Recently, however, I have been passionately following the US open and keeping myself up to date of the scores of matches played by the Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and his Indian partner Rohan Bopanna. The reason is simple. This time the cause is greater than the game.
Who could have pictured an Indian and a Pakistani player joining hands to enhance their careers? Who could imagine them entering a grand slam tournament together? Who could have thought of both Indian and Pakistani fans for the first time cheering for the same team? Who could tell the message they would give out to the world would be so strong that even the Americans would bow down to them? Qureshi and Bopanna may have lost their bid to win the men’s double’s title but they have won something much bigger than that. They have won the hearts of many on both sides of the border. They remain heroes in mine as well many others eyes.
They started their campaign this year with the slogan ‘stop war, start tennis’. The slogan made their aim clear. Through their partnership they wanted to create peace between the two countries and promote tennis in them. They knew that the two countries were at war at the diplomatic level but at a personal level they were very similar. The Qureshi-Bopanna pair just shows the possibilities of where unity can take us and what opportunities friendship can open up for us.
I can recall so many incidents where the people have gone out of their way to help their neighbors. When I was in India, my economics teacher told me she went to Lahore and took a taxi. On their way, the driver overheard my teacher and her friend talking and asked them where they were from. After finding out they were from Delhi, he asked a couple of questions about the city and when his passengers finally got off, the man refused to take money from the ladies insisting that they were his guests in his country and this was the least he could do.
I always thought if such actions would be returned from the other side of the border. I was delighted when once my family friends had come over to India for their child’s operation. Their child had a hole in his heart and needed 10 bottles of blood. In India obviously we couldn’t be expected to find 10 Pakistanis so I called my Indian friends and they welcomed the call and came forward to donate blood for our Pakistani guests. At a later time, we needed 25 bottles of blood for another family friend having a liver transplant and all blood was donated by Indian people. I found it very ironical that on one level we were after the blood of each other and on another level we were willingly giving our blood to others.
Pakistan and India have been at war for a long time. It is now time for them to befriend each other. I am sure every Pakistani would condemn terrorism attacks in India and I am sure all Indians would want peace in Pakistan. What happened in Mumbai was very unfortunate, but we should also look at what’s happening in Pakistan. The terrorists who attack India are also targeting Pakistani civilians. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, we should work together to fight extremism.
Like Qureshi said that if him and Bopanna can get along then why can’t any ordinary Pakistan or Indian. The political or the diplomatic relations might never change between the two countries unfortunately. I wish they could. I wish we could stop competing with each other on military terms and start competing on educational or economic policies. Had we spent even 1/10th of what we have spent on acquiring weapons on the education or the eradication of poverty in the two countries, today we would have been a rapidly developing nation. Let’s not wait for the governments to realize this. Let’s take the first step ourselves and befriend people from across the border. Let’s work together to move ahead.