Indian and Pakistani conversations begin in the UAE
Celebrating similarities as well as the differences under one roof - that has pretty much been the story of expats from India and Pakistan.
What do an Indian and a Pakistani expat talk about when they get under one roof? Over to Indian actress and Suno 1024 RJ Tarana Raja and Pakistani entertainment writer Sadiq Saleem.
Their countries' independence days are just a day apart, and when you're celebrating in the UAE, it calls for an occasion to reminisce about all things we love about India and Pakistan. But what do we talk about when we talk about cultures that are so similar, yet different? Get an Indian and a Pakistani under one roof and the conversation that starts from food and music will eventually graduate to Bollywood, Pakistani dramas and more. This week, we invited Indian actress and Suno 1024 RJ Tarana Raja and Pakistani emcee and entertainment writer Sadiq Saleem for a chat to gauge their respective knowledge about each other's culture. What came up was a conversation dripping in nostalgia and laced with curiosity about each other's countries. It may, however, have started on an unusual note.
With both our guests dressed in all-white, our gaze inadvertently turned to Sadiq's colourful Peshwari chappals with Pakistani truck art motifs.
"These seem to have a personality of their own," jokes Tarana, her spontaneous wit marking its presence right from the start.
The room is filled with laughter, as Sadiq attempts for his shoes to get the camera spotlight. Pakistani truck art is almost a genre in itself. These trucks, much like ones in India, are often embedded with hilarious messages and the truck art has inspired many fashion collections. Sadiq goes on to add that these are often so huge that people often write messages in any empty corner. "Dekh magar pyar se (stare, but with love), Jisne Maa ka dil dukhaya usne rickshaw chalaya (whoever hurts a mother ends up being a rickshaw puller) are some of the common ones," he says. The Indian answer to these messages? "It's usually 'Horn OK Please," says Tarana. "But we also have 'Buri nazar wale tera mooh kala' (those with an evil eye, may you be damned)."
Sitting in a restaurant, food is an inevitable subject. Working and living in the UAE allows expats from both India and Pakistan to try each other's cuisine. Tarana adds that while she's loved everything she has tried over here, she has a newfound love for the nankhatais. "Once, I went on air and asked our listeners how Tapal Danedar tea, that had become popular, tastes. To my surprise, a listener actually showed up with a cup of tea and because he felt that you do not offer someone tea without biscuits, he also got me some nankhatais that are my new favourites," she says.
Sadiq, whose maternal grandmother and mother hail from India, (his father went to India years ago to meet and propose to his mother) says he likes to stock up on the shrikhand (an Indian sweet dish made of strained curd) for his mother whenever he flies back home.
Being '90s' kids', both Tarana and Sadiq have their own memories of the cultural exchange that would often happen between India and Pakistan through arts, music and dramas. Before satellite television made its presence felt strongly in India, there were Pakistani dramas that would be available on video casettes. Dhoop Kinare, a pathbreaking Pakistani drama in the late 80s, had begun to command a huge following in Indian households. Tarana remembers a time when, as a pre-teen, she cut her hair as short as Marina Khan, the lead actress of the show, hoping to look like her. It didn't help that she had curly locks while Khan had straight hair. Failing to resemble her favourite actress back then, she decided to name her doll Zoya, Khan's character in Dhoop Kinare. This was also a time when her music playlist comprised of Junoon and Fuzon. While Pakistani independent music - not to mention Coke Studio - has been rather popular, Sadiq says Indipop music of the 90s was something he grew up listening to. "I would listen to Bally Sagoo, Sunitha Rao and Alisha Chinai. Can you imagine a car being driven around in Karachi with music blaring 'Made in India'? he jokes.
Both Sadiq and Tarana have familial roots in the other country and hope to visit more often. "My grandfather was born in Dera Ismail Khan and my mother, to date, often expresses her wish to visit the place. Personally, I would like to visit the Attabad Lake," says Tarana. Sadiq's entertainment assignments have often taken him to India, but he recalls a very special visit. "I love Bollywood and am a huge fan of Lata Mangeshkar. I once boarded a Mumbai Darshan bus, and we stopped in front of her house for a bit. I kept standing outside and insisted that the bus wait for 10 minutes in the hope that Lataji would show up and I could catch a glimpse of her. Unfortunately, I couldn't."
Celebrating similarities as well as the differences under one roof - that has pretty much been the story of expats from India and Pakistan. In the UAE, both have found a sweet spot to savour and engage with each other's cultures.
Log on to www.khaleejtimes.com/videos to catch the whole interview with Tarana and Sadiq.