“Gawand ne, gawand ne, sohniye gawand ne, gall sun gall sun kann laake gall sun, chidiyaan tey kaan jado udd udd aande ney; jad laggey da meri churiyaan churaande ne, ni oh kehre daftaran ton visey kadhandey ne…Karda hai jee mera chidi ban jaava, jado karey jee mera jhapphi tainu paava (Listen my sweet neighbour, when sparrows and crows come flying freely across the border and take away my food, from which office do they get their visas. I wish I become a bird and hug you whenever I want to).”
At a time when the BJP is drumming up the ‘nationalism’ narrative ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, a four-minute peace rap from Pakistan has gone viral in Punjab, striking a chord especially with women voters in the state which votes on May 19. At least 47 per cent voters in border-state of Punjab are women.
The video titled ‘Humsaye Maa Jaye’ (Children of the Same Soil) — released on YouTube by Pakistan TV actor Bushra Ansari — shows two women neighbours inside their homes divided by a wall symbolising the Indian-Pakistan border.
In their heart-to-heart chat, the two neighbours use words like ‘atom (bomb), visa, vehri (enemy), siyaasat (politics), kandhan (walls), humsaaya (neighbour)’, as they talk about about poverty stricken families, hungry children and dishes that they can’t exchange over the wall. The two neighbours decide that since they can’t scale the wall dividing them, they should at least exchange their chunnis (dupattas) to ease this pain of separation.
The video is being shared widely across social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp etc. in Punjab on the Indian side.
The video is a collaboration between three sisters. Bushra Ansari (61), a TV actor, singer and performer from Pakistan, who features in the clip, told The Indian Express from Karachi, “My eldest sister Neelum Ahmad Bashir (66) wrote this poem and I along with my second sister Asma Abbas (56) performed it. We never knew that a video shot in a room taking just a few hours will create such an impact in both countries. We are receiving love from people of both countries. The idea was to give message through two homely women who can see the ground reality and perils of war.”
On the timing of the video, which was released on April 3 on YouTube, Ansari says that their focus was not the Lok Sabha polls in India, but diffusing the escalated tension between the two.
“When my sister wrote the poem last month, we decided to shoot it as soon as possible so that message of peace reaches people. The target wasn’t to influence Lok Sabha polls in India but to promote peace,” she says, adding that if the video helps Indian women in shaping their choice while voting, they will be happy because “women suffer the most when war happens”.
Talking about the response, Ansari added, “The love we are receiving from India is overwhelming. A Sikh woman has messaged me her address for ‘chunniyaan vataana’ (exchanging dupattas) like in the video.”
But not all reactions are positive, revealed Ansari. “Kuch log keh rahe hain ki hum India ki khushamad kar rahe hain (there are some who are saying that we are trying to please India). But these people don’t matter….We are not trying to speak to to any politician, any government official, but just common people from both countries with a heart-to-heart talk between two women. We have weaved symbols to connect that connect these women. Like they dance on songs of their countries — Jhumka Bareilly Wala and Kala Shah Kala to show their shared heritage.”
Dismissing the recent tensions between the two countries as nothing but politics, the video goes on: “Gawand ne, gawand ne, sohniye gawand ne, gall sun gall sun, kehnde koi raula hai, kaalja vi dola hai. Haasa eh, makhaula hai, siyaasian da tola hai (Listen neighbour, I have heard there is some tension between both countries. Nothing, it is just politicians playing games).”
Nuzhat Manto (70), daughter of Urdu playwright and author Saadat Hasan Manto, who lives in Lahore, said, “It is amazing to see women coming out with such peace initiative and the response this video is getting here is ghazab (excellent).”
Neelum Ahmad Basheer, author of famous short story ‘Pushpa Aur Surayya’ on two sparrows living at the border, spoke to The Indian Express over phone from Lahore, and said: “I am a woman….My words had to resonate what women think about this war rhetoric. In India, women should think about their families before voting and if our work helps them in making a choice, it will be great. They should decide if talking about war and escalating enmity is really a good option.”
According to Padma Shri Punjabi poet, Dr Surjit Patar, who is chairman Punjab Arts Council: “Women first think about happiness and welfare of their families, and then politics. People in India and Pakistan are now much aware about politicians who try to instigate them and they stand exposed now. When we talk about hamsaaya (neighbour), having good relations with them is more important than distant relatives.”
Punjab BJP, however, feels that the video cannot brush under the carpet the reality of Pakistan rulers sponsoring terrorism against Indian. State BJP chief Shwait Malik said: “Bushra Ansari and other artists in Pakistan should first tell their government and army to stop sponsoring terrorists who attack India. Incidents like Uri and Pulwama are proofs that Pakistan is a terror-factory and till that mindset does not change, there cannot be peace and friendship from just one side. Women voters or any voter are not going to be affected with such videos.”