A misguided romanticism of what was lost in the fire has for long been the fulcrum for most communication between India and Pakistan. It’s understandable for people who suffered the fire to have such an outlook; after all, the heartbreak of being uprooted overnight on account of a line being drawn on a map can never be over.
Perhaps for them, a rejection of order and restraint is needed and such an emotion could be best described by the words of Khalil Gibran—“Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you.” But when the same notions are put into play by officials of the two countries such as the recent exercise on the part of a former R&AW chief and the erstwhile head of Pakistan’s ISI in the form of a book that discusses the ‘workings’ of their respective agencies when it comes to shaping the illusion of peace, you are convinced that even if one were to write a line of zeroes, in the end, it would amount to nothing.
For good or bad, India and Pakistan are destined to be hyphenated forever on more fronts than many of us would like but such an association needs to be used with a few caveats. In the seventieth year of India’s independence, there has been a surge of literature that has recast a look at the seminal event of the twentieth century. Unlike before, there is a difference.
The manner in which the word ‘partition’ accompanies the birth of India, as we know it today, ensures that irrespective of how we try to steer ahead, our eyes would keep shifting to the rearview mirror. Wordsmiths such as Gulzar rekindling the question that has haunted the common man for decades—what was the need for the Partition—is not the same as a conversation about missed opportunities for peace between former spies such as AS Dulat and Asad Durrani. Unlike the former, the latter with the softness of a blowtorch hyphenates the two nations as equals on certain matters, which, unfortunately, completely flips the issue on its axis.
Nietzsche observed that there are no facts, only interpretations. Of late, popular culture has been employed as a tool to expound notions that appear to offer deep analysis but in fact, is rhetorical drivel. If a single line of dialogue in a TV show such as Quantico can in some way validate the bogey of ‘Hindu terror’ for the average global citizen, two spymasters talking about how a former ISI chief’s (Durrani) son could be helped by his Indian counterpart in the name of humanity when he lands up in an Indian city for which he doesn’t have the necessary visa, is good enough to show how rules need to be bent or unlikely bonds help resolve strife.
It’s precisely this kind of approach that has guaranteed that nothing changes. If the 2009 India-Pakistan joint statement in Sharm el-Sheikh where the heads of states avowed to share real-time credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats, efforts like Quantico or two former spies insinuating that terror undermines the attempts of the two countries to talk is akin to a badly written narrative that is being lapped up as the truth.
Film historian and bestselling author