Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif: The partition goes on

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Pakistan and (the day after that) India's independence. Mohammed Hanif writes in Al Jazeera:

Flag-Pins-India-PakistanTwenty years ago I visited India for the first time. We were doing the same thing back then, celebrating 50 years of independence, or mourning 50 years of partition to a steady beating of breasts: why can't we live like friendly neighbours?

Like many Pakistanis I saw my first Indians in London and was surprised that they were a bit like us. Most Indians and Pakistanis have the same reaction when they meet. It seems as if they are brought up to believe that a community of ferals lives across the border.

My first Indian friend and colleague, Zubair Ahmed, came up with this rather clever idea that we should travel to each other's country, then come back and put together a series of programmes comparing our reactions. Originally we wanted to go and live with each other's families but in retrospect, wisely, we decided not to take this newfound brotherhood too far.

We applied for our visas after explaining our plan to the respective high commissioners. They loved the idea and it was followed by a lovely Lucknow-style stand-off where two gentlemen at a platform keep telling each other "No sir, you first" and then the train departs without either of them. For two months we went back and forth. Have they given Zubair the visa? But have they given Hanif the visa? Their logic was impeccable, if one of us didn't get a visa, how would there be a programme?

More here.