Indian and Pakistani children take an initiative to bring the countries together
Hemant Lamba, from Auroville, was one of three Indian nationals who travelled to Lahore , Pakistan earlier this year. The team had an unusual mission: to deliver The World's Largest Love Letter from the children of India to the children of Pakistan .
The event was hosted by Friends Without Borders, and is part of a much larger campaign that aims at getting the children of both nations to communicate and get to know each other by exchanging letters.
“The whole movement was initiated by two friends from the US , John Silliphant and Mark Jacobs,” explains Hemant.
The World's Largest Letter, which was almost the size of a cricket stadium (86,400 square feet!) was made of tarpaulin, covered with drawings and had the following message written in Hindi, Urdu and English: “Dear Children of Pakistan, Let's join hearts in friendship. Together we can make a better world. –The Children of India ”
Tarpaulin strips bearing the names and addresses of Indian schools and the signatures of thousands of children from across the country made up the border of the letter. Those were to be delivered to Pakistani schools. The idea was to link up schools from both sides of the border so the students from both countries could start to communicate on a regular basis.
Before arriving in Pakistan , the letter travelled to a number of big cities across India . “I was fortunate to be part of it from the beginning, and to be present for all the big stadium events,” says Hemant. “Hundreds of children from different schools participated in the letter's creation in Bangalore , with the assistance of artist John Devaraj. Then it was unveiled in Bombay 's biggest cricket stadium. From there the letter travelled to Ahmedabad, where hundreds of children from different schools carried its border strips through the streets, walking to a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a temple, and then converging on the Gandhi Ashram.” From there everything was packed in small trucks which drove along the border between both countries “…releasing vibrations of love and goodwill in the area which witnessed one of the worst atrocities during Partition.” The last stop in India was Amritsar , Jallianwalla bagh, and from there the letter was carried across the Wagah border into Pakistan .
On April 4th, some five thousand Pakistani students gathered at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore to receive the world's largest letter of love and friendship from the children of India , as well as a symbolic pen. “The atmosphere was vibrant, festive. It was a truly momentous event of friendship between the two countries,” Hemant remembers. “In response to the letter, students from the Lahore Grammar School sang “The Friendship Song”, which they had composed for the children of India .”
Along with the letter, the team brought with them some 30,000 other letters written by children from schools in India to the children in Pakistan . And these children from schools in Pakistan will now write back to their new friends in India .
“The upsurge of goodwill and friendship amongst the children of both countries has been amazing,” says Hemant, “When we were in Lahore , the local press came up with rave reviews of the event. Television also made it big news.”
Hemant, who grew up in Delhi , hails from a family with roots on the other side of the North West frontier. Visiting Pakistan had always been one of his greatest dreams. “ Lahore is a vibrant city, with a very cosmopolitan look. Knowing I was from India , people were so open and friendly. I felt so welcome there. It was like being home,” he remembers. He had taken with him a handful of soil from the Matrimandir which he deposited at Datasahib's Mazaar, one of the biggest mausoleums of a Sufi saint in the city. “I asked the people: which is the place for peace in Lahore ? And they took me there.”
Coming back to the mission that brought him to Pakistan , Hemant continues: “All the children in the world have the same dreams. The children of India and Pakistan are not interested in the past, not interested in conflict. They have very simple, common goals: they love sports, friendship, looking towards their future. We need not keep fighting to change the border between both countries. Instead we should work to open the hearts. As one of the kids who participated in the event expressed so beautifully: ‘Borders are for geography not for the hearts'.”