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When there was no India or Pakistan

Updated June 20, 2013

enter image description hereI love History but for far too long it has been defined by big events like World Wars, bombings, independence days and for even longer, the people who steal the limelight of these events are the Nehrus, the Gandhis, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis. Not much is said about the cook who made the King’s Feast or the housewife who dropped her children to school in the morning, or the old man out for a walk when the Army came. That’s sad, because that’s who I am. And I’d like to know more about how people like me felt about these big events that changed our lives and countries.

So much is written about India and Pakistan and especially about Partition – little includes testimony from those who saw and felt it for themselves. The dialogue between these two nations has been dominated by their Governments – the only thing that joins them truly are their people but when have they spoken?

From Qissa Khwani Bazaar, a unique series of story-telling sessions being organised by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan from the 20th to 22nd June 2013 in Lahore and Islamabad, I hope to get the chance to live a little of what we don’t have and will lose very soon. It is a chance to hear first-hand about what happened to people during 1947 – when we didn’t know that there was an India or a Pakistan; when we were still finding out.

Partition was painful for both Indians and Pakistanis who experienced it, but neither of them knows this because they became a part of the generation that was full of so much pain about what happened - they never spoke. Hoping for this event to be cathartic might be setting the bar high, but when I hear references of Gujranwala or Civil Lines from a Lahori, I know I will smile and think of what else Dilliwallas have in common with Lahoris. It is precisely this kind of outlook that gives us hope.

I want to be told stories of these people that I don’t know but am connected to and then, I want to grow old telling and re-telling tales of the few days when we sat together in an old bazaar reliving what we had in those tales. Without this sharing, those moments of togetherness will be lost. And then what history will we have? The Historian will have won.

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan pays tribute to Peshawar’s Qissa Khwani Bazaar through storytelling sessions over the course of 3 days at Kuch Khaas, House 1, Street 1, F-6/3, Islamabad and Faiz Ghar, 126/F, Model Town, Lahore from 20th – 22nd June 2013.

The event covers different aspects of Pakistani history and culture, with the first day dedicated to the theme of Partition and Migration, the second day to early years of PTV and Radio Pakistan and the third day seeking to track the Evolution of Pakistani cities.