One advantage that our Alumni, who study in the US through our CCIP program, is an opportunity to build relations with people from different corners of the world, including Pakistan. The US Embassy is carrying on this program in 12 countries. The students are asked to go through extensive interviews and written test before enrolling into the program.
After completion of their education in the US, the alumni are given an opportunity to meet also during different programmes organized by the US embassy. The embassies in India and Pakistan organized a Skype session for Alumni of the CCIP programme on 7th October 2015. Ravi Pahuja from Deepalaya attended the session and met some of his old Indian friends and those from Pakistan on Skype.
The session started with an introduction and welcome speech from Ms. Erin from the US embassy in Pakistan with fond memories of her visit to India. Her Indian counterpart Mr. Mathews, then discussed about the last Google hangout session held during September, which unfortunately Ravi could not attend.
Thereafter, all the participants were asked to give their opinion about what they thought about the second country and what kind of myths exist in the mind of people residing in one country about the other. The participants were divided into three groups and were asked to write their opinion. Within a few minutes, participants from India wrote the following stereotypes:
- Pakistan’s education system is not competitive or good enough as compared to the Indian education system.
- Weddings in Pakistan are glamorous and expensive
- Pakistan is not safe to live in
- Women wear Burka and Hijab
- Pakistani girls are beautiful
- Pakistanis are Bollywood fans
- Pakistan is not trustworthy
- Women don’t have any freedom in Pakistan
Thereafter, participants from Pakistan were asked to speak on and contest the views from Indian participants to draw a correct picture of their country. While most of the stereotypes proved to be true like girls from Pakistan are very beautiful and people living therein are Bollywood fans. One fact that shocked the participants was that education system in Pakistan is far better than the Indian system. Quaid-i-Azam University has been ranked higher than all the IITs in India. Women don’t wear burka and hijab all the time and are free to do anything.
As far as India is concerned, people in Pakistan think that it is very difficult to find meat in India, Muslims are not allowed to buy property in India and people in India are very poor as the largest slum exist in India.
The Indian participants then explained that as per a recent study 67% of the Indian population are non-vegetarian and meat is readily available. Muslims can buy property anywhere in India. As far as the largest slum in India is concerned, people from different parts of India moved to Mumbai in search of jobs that doesn’t make Indian people the poorest in the world.
Thereafter, all the participants gave ideas on how relations between both the countries can be improved. Some suggested social media can help in bridging the gap while others thought of tying the knot with music and cricket.
The session ended with a lot of positive energy from both the sides and a resolution to ignore the thoughts promoted by administrative and extremist groups in both the countries.