Serenading at a New York City dinner party, Junoon rocker Salman Ahmad’s call for social change in Pakistan is a reminder of mirrored atrocities in India

01 July 2011

INDIA AND PAKISTAN are like two drunks stumbling out of a bar on a dimly-lit street. They part ways, going in opposite directions, but frequently stop to look back in the dark. "Bloody drunk", each mutters at the sight of the other.

On both sides of the border, grief or outrage felt when news comes of an atrocity or a massacre on the other side is always mixed with a degree of satisfaction. "What else can you expect from them!" "We’ve been saying this all along. You should have listened to us." "Let me tell you one thing…" The Internet is a huge portal to this shared reality: just read the comments where Indians or Pakistanis offer their opinions on the role of the state as well as citizenry across the border. "State-sponsored terrorism!" "Occupation in Kashmir!

The remarkable truth is that it is not only the responses—complacency mixed with contempt—that mirror each other. Often, the news from both sides also appears to be identical.

Amitava Kumar is a professor of English at Vassar College in upstate New York, USA. His latest book, A Time Outside This Time: A Novel, will be published by Aleph next year.

Keywords: Pakistan Amitava Kumar New York City Karachi Junoon Salman Ahmad Pakistani Rock