Aisi Azadi Aur Kahan! Bus Yahan and Wahan. Same 2 Same
S P Singh
CHANDIGARH: The Mahatma and the Quaid-i-Azam were as different as chalk and cheese, the divide being as wide as the gulf between ‘Unity-in-Diversity’ and the ‘Two-nation’ theory. Enmity and aggression between India and Pakistan is even celebrated at the mesmerising Wagah retreat, but frankly, to use that sub-continental butchered version of the language of the Raj, aren't we really same-to-same even 59 years after our trysts with destiny?
Sir Cyril Radcliffe drew his lines on the map, scorching his pencil through hearths and hearts, literally and metaphorically, but our destinies remain, though not united anymore, certainly same-to-same.
Tricolor and the green-crescent hues are colours apart, khaki and military uniform have textures so different but the essential natures of the regimes is, you guessed it, same-to-same. One look across the fenced border and poverty's colours are the same.
Flip through newspapers Pakistani and Indian, and if you didn't pay attention to the dateline, you won't know which country the news despatch is talking about.
Patients lying unattended along the hospital corridors, medicines missing, nurses on strike and doctors in short supply. Dateline? Your choice. What would you prefer? Pak Pattan or Batala?
Focus on education: 154 primary schools have remained closed since 1998 due to non-availability of teachers. The District Education Officer said 650 posts of primary teachers and 850 of junior and high school teachers were lying vacant. Dadu is a Sindh district, but it could well have been in Amarinder Singh's backyard Patiala. Patiala's figures are in fact worse.
Federal education minister Javed Ashraf Qazi tells the National Assembly – it's their Parliament, names sometimes aren't same-to-same – about hundreds of vacancies of college teachers with a face as straight as any of our politicians who assure people that administration couldn't do anything about floods because it rained so heavily.
Punjab Social Services Board chairperson Saba Sadiq has declared working women hostel in Gujranwala as a dangerous building since it is too dilapidated. And given the fact that it was constructed just in 1998, it could well have been on Radcliffe's other side. Contractors in both countries are, after all, same-to-same.
Just like us, they too ordered an inquiry. Same-to-same, no? After all, we travel the same way in life. Railways caught 1,940 ticket less passengers in July in a Pakistan district. Our figures aren't very different.
And MPs vote higher allowances for themselves with a regularity which is a characteristic behavioral streak. Acting president Mohd Mian Soomro had this year assured senior executives at National Institute of Public Administration Quetta that their salaries would be substantially hiked to make them competitive with the private sector. Indian PSUs keep asking for same-to-same privileges.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz took personal interest to ensure that two banks and a financial institution waive off loans worth millions given to a company. Our Prime Minister is a tad too scrupulous but an average politician is, well, s2s.
Punjab Police mercilessly thrashed protesters and rained lathis on women. In East Punjab, these were unemployed teachers and nurses, in west Punjab these were people asking for better drinking water supply. Go East or West, Punjab Police is same-to-same.
In Delhi, the police arrested women protesting at a water supply office after their taps remained dry for nearly six months. They were sent to Tihar jail for four days. On the other side, only the jail would have been different; the police is the same.
Liquor bootlegger advertises his stuff by hanging an empty bottle from the tree top, the cycle puncture-fixing chap hangs a rubber tyre instead. The two countries have similarities which the best of the cultural studies students will miss. Bindi often goes on the forehead, sometimes underneath a burqa. Sufi is sung on either side, so is Kanta Laga.
We aren't different.
How can we be? If you don't agree, even my choice four-letter word for you will be same-to-same. Teri Maa Di or Teri Behan Di? Mother or sister. Our respect for women is also same to same. If they have honour killings, we kill them even before they are born. Come to Patiala’s wells full of female foetuses as the new tourism highlight for an example of same-to-same unity in shamelessness.
So, Happy Independence Day to both. Same to same.
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