I write this while listening to Pujabi Bhangra music sung by Miss Pooja–A part of our collective cultural heritage. The music moves me, reminds me of home, even though Punjabi is not my mother tongue.
One of my best graduate students is from Bengal, India, and yet in our conversations so much is expressed through our collective cultural memory despite the distance between Bengal, India and Punjab, Pakistan.
While the politics of India and Pakistan has been solidified as politics of conflict and belligerence, we all share a strong poetics of reconciliation. In the national divide, I believe, Pakistan lost more as its culture was transformed from that of complexity to a flattened definition of identity. Our current condition is underwritten by that loss of diverse cultural capital.
India, on the other hand, has been able to construct a more complex and larger national vision. And while they have their own “Taliban/Hindutva” to threaten this complexity, the national culture can sustain those threats. We, on our side, have attenuated the national identity to a mere flat line and thus are constantly under threat by those who want us to flatten our identity even further to conform to an outdated, almost prehistoric model of Muslim identity.
I think it is time for both India and Pakistan to build on their common poetics a more cosmopolitan and complex regional politics of acceptance and reconciliation. We have nothing to lose and we might end up reaching out to those who once shared the same part of the world as their collective national space.