Nitu’s mission: Save Kiran

My column PERSONAL POLITICAL published in The News, TOI blogs, and Aman ki Asha

Kiran Soomro: "I want to live".

Kiran Soomro: “I want to live”.

Nitu Jiwani-1

Nitu Jiwnani: “Save Kiran”

By Beena Sarwar

Didi, I want to live,” 16-year old Kiran Soomro in Karachi tells her friend Nitu Jiwnani in Mumbai. “I don’t want to die.”

They are talking on Skype in Sindhi as they often do, since first meeting at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, in May 2013.

Kiran had gone there with her parents to undergo surgery for her congenital heart defect (“hole in the heart”) that should have been operated upon when she was much younger. But her father Sikandar Ali Soomro, a tall, thin matriculate who earns daily wages selling potato wafers at a Karachi roadside stall could not afford the operation. Her parents were resigned to losing Kiran, a weak and sickly child.

But she wouldn’t give up. Pulled out of school when she was in class five, Kiran studied at home. A few years ago, as a spunky teenager, she realised that without the surgery, she would die. Continue reading

Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

Mahesh Bhatt-Imran Zahid play

Mahesh Bhatt’s forthcoming play is creating a media buzz

My article in the Aman ki Asha page of The News, Dec 4, and in the TOI blog

Play for peace: Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Milne Do’

A behind-the-scenes look at what is driving a veteran film producer and peace activist’s fourth stage production, coming up

By Beena Sarwar

It was Google’s “Reunion” ad released on the web that pushed Delhi-based actor Imran Zahid to move on an idea that he has been thinking about for some time, creating waves in the media.

Last week Imran messaged me, asking for story ideas for a stage play “to promote Aman ki asha and the concept of ‘Milne do’ (let them meet) to be staged in various cities of India and Pakistan in association with Mahesh Bhatt Saab”. Continue reading

India /Pakistan – That elusive visa: You can’t just ‘Google it’

My article in The News’ weekly Aman ki Asha page today (also on the website and TOI blog)

"Ye mein, ye Yusuf"... That's me, that's Yusuf...

“Ye mein, ye Yusuf”… That’s me, that’s Yusuf… Still from Google’s “Reunion” ad

Google’s tearjerker “Reunion” ad released on the web has tapped into a rising groundswell for peace between the people of India and Pakistan

By Beena Sarwar

The internet search engine Google’s moving, beautifully made little video “Reunion”, released on November 13 has gone viral. In less than a week, the ad on Youtube has been played over four million times, and shared endlessly on facebook, twitter and blogs, and posted on other video sharing portals like Vimeo (over 70,000 views). Continue reading

Google’s tearjerker ‘Reunion’ ad, and the ‘Milne Do’ campaign

“Reunion”, the moving, well made little video released by Google today is going viral. And it’s not just the one ad, there’s a playlist of five in the series – ‘fennel’, ‘cricket’, ‘Anarkali’, and ‘sugar-free’. If it doesn’t move you, you’ve got a heart of stone. And if oh, it was that easy. For Pakistanis and Indians to get visas to visit each other’s country is just short of impossible. Check out their visa requirements for each other’s nationals — Pakistan visa requirements for Indians, India visa requirements for Pakistanis – which includes the notorious Sponsorship Certificate “mandatory from 07/03/2011 for all visa applications”, to be signed and stamped by an Indian first class gazetted officer vouching for the Pakistani applicant. But let’s suspend disbelief for now, and  watch Google’s heartwarming Reunion video below. If you can’t access Youtube, here’s the Vimeo link.

AKA LogoIf the Reunion ad moved you, go to the Milne Do (Let people meet) petition link and sign (and share) the campaign against India Pakistan visa restrictions. Every voice counts. Text below. Continue reading

“Why are India and Pakistan at war?” asks 14-year old Kshitij…

Like father like son: Samir and Kshitij Gupta

Like father like son: Samir and Kshitij Gupta

My article published in The News oped, TOI blogs and Aman ki Asha on Monday, Nov 4, 2013 

“Why are India and Pakistan at war?”

Beena Sarwar

Some days ago I got a call from my friend Samir Gupta, on his way home after picking up his son, 14-year old Kshitij, from a Delhi train station late at night. Kshitij was returning from a school trip with some 30 other students from Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad. They’d taken an early morning train to Amritsar and watched the flag-lowering ceremony at Wagah Border.

Samir, a passionate advocate of peace and good relations between India and Pakistan, asked Kshitij about the trip. Continue reading

India, personally…

Fishing in Troubled Waters, launched in Delhi, Aug 13, 2013

Fishing in Troubled Waters, launched in Delhi, Aug 13, 2013

Update: See ‘A half-full glass‘ on the Singh-Sharif meeting at UNGA (and the ‘dehati aurat’ brouhaha), published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News on Oct 2, and in my column at TOI blogs.

This is a long-pending post, compiling articles, video and photo links (below) following my recent, brief trip to India at a time when tensions along the Line of Control (LoC) were running high. The Programme for Social Action (PSA) and the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) had invited me to a seminar on Aug 13, where they launched two publications. (I took the direct Karachi-Delhi PIA flight both ways, which has since then been discontinued — apparently not enough traffic because it’s so difficult to get visas; credit where credit is due – PIA is the only Southasian airline to fly to all the regional capitals and more).

Continue reading

India, Pakistan: Cross-border cooperation against polio. “Failure is not an option”

‘Bowl out polio’: Pakistani cricketers Younis Khan and Imran Farhat give polio drops to a child at a UNICEF event in New Delhi, Jan 2013. Photo: PTI

‘Bowl out polio’: Pakistani cricketers Younis Khan and Imran Farhat give polio drops to a child at a UNICEF event in New Delhi, Jan 2013. Photo: PTI

Here’s something I wrote for Aman ki Asha recently, published in the June 5, 2013 edition:

India and Pakistan are working together against a common enemy. Pakistan’s new government must take up the baton

By Beena Sarwar

Over the past year, Pakistan has been studying how India dramatically eradicated polio, with the World Health Organisation striking it off its list of polio endemic countries in February 2012; the last case was recorded in January 2011. Continue reading

Quenching the thirst for peace

Tracing a peace sign together via a giant web-cam

Tracing a peace sign together via a giant web-cam

Here’s something I wrote about how a soft drink giant creatively connected Indians and Pakistanis with ‘the other side’, with a three-minute video that was easily the most shared link on the Aman ki Asha facebook group last week (not that it’s going to get me to start drinking Coke, or any other soda); published in the Aman ki Asha page in The News, May 22, 2013

Quenching the thirst for peace

An innovative idea connects Indians and Pakistanis with ‘the other side’

“It saddens me that we have neighbours that we can’t even go visit.”

“The perception is that they’re the bad guy. But when you actually meet them you realise they’re just like me.” Continue reading

“It is essential for Pakistan and India to make peace” – Pervez Hoodbhoy

My article in the weekly Aman ki Asha page in The News today.

Speaking at MIT recently, invited by an Indian colleague, a leading Pakistani academic and physicist makes the case for peace

Indian and Pakistani scientists for peace: Pervez Hoodbhoy and Subrata Ghoshroy last week at MIT

Indian and Pakistani scientists for peace: Pervez Hoodbhoy and Subrata Ghoshroy last week at MIT

By Beena Sarwar

In the midst of ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan amplified by hyper media on both sides, an Indian scientist warmly introduces a Pakistani colleague at one of the world’s most prestigious universities – and that too for a talk on “Pakistan’s Bomb – Past, Present, and Future”.

The Indian scientist is Subrata Ghoshroy who leads the Promoting Nuclear Stability in South Asia Project at the Science, Technology and Global Security working group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Pakistani scientist is Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, an alumnus of MIT where he obtained his BS, MS, and Ph.D degrees. Continue reading

Rabid dogs and Shia killings

Omar Ali blog screengrabSharing here a screen grab from one of the most horrific videos of cold-blooded killings I’ve come across, that was posted by Dr. Omar Ali to his blog today. The incident probably took place about nine months ago, and those killed were probably Shia Hazaras; the video has been shared on facebook. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Omar Ali’s post:

It took a lot of work (partition, two nation theory,Punjab holocaust, madressas, CIA, ISI) to get to this level of cold blooded hatred. And of course, the roots go back much further, all the way into our species and its biological evolution (though like Ghataprabha, I too fantasize about the goodness of the folk versus the evil of the elite, but then..)…anyhow, whatever the cause, these particular dogs are now rabid. Continue reading

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