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Bridging The Gap

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna lost in the US Open finals. Big deal….someone  always loses right? Yet, their feat still deserves applause. Qureshi and Bopanna lost to the top seeds, Bob and Mike Bryan, after a well-fought match. Again, if you’re not an avid follower of tennis, you must be wondering, who cares? Let me tell you. What gives the tennis duo’s success an extra dimension is the unusual pairing. Indian and Pakistani citizens rarely join hands, even in sport. Sure, you saw them, once, in the IPL…but consider this…it really wasn’t by choice, was it? Probably the only reason why sportsmen from the two countries would even bother to play together is the big fat cheque that they receive (not to mention the fact that they were bid for by rich socialites and businessmen). 
 The two tennis players have offered us a scenario rarely imagined in the subcontinent, a partnership involving Indians and Pakistanis. The Qureshi-Bopanna partnership is evidence that such a prospect can be real and rewarding. It’s a model worthy of emulation not just in sports but in other spheres of human activity. I know…on first thought…the  possibility of this happening is quite remote, but here is living proof ( proofs? ) that athletes from two different countries CAN forget the cultural and political differences and together indulge in their passion. What’s possible in sport is surely possible in business, trade, education, and so many other sectors, isn’t it?
Here, it may be worth asking what made Qureshi and Bopanna click as a team. Bopanna summed up their success in a single word: trust. The baggage of the past may weigh down heads of states and restrict their capabilities to rise above mutual suspicion and forge a climate of peace. Now…I for one can never imagine them(the heads of states )  sitting down and have a nice chat about the latest Resident Evil flick, but shouldn’t civil societies be able to transcend such animosity and work together for a single purpose?
Look,the facts are simple. As a nation, we don’t trust Pakistan. Not one bit. And why should we. The relations between the two states are far from cordial, what with the Kargil War and the Kashmir situation. Granted, although there is no direct proof that Pakistan was in any way related to the event, the terror attacks on 26/11 have not helped strengthen our bonds either. But why should we hold it against the people of Pakistan. After all, they are human as well right? I’m confident that as I type this this out… there must be some youth over 2000 km away, writing down the same about us. The relationship that exists between the two governments shouldn’t really come in the way of how one Indian citizen views his Pakistani counterpart.
 One way to marginalise this adverse effect on Indo- Pak relations is for civil societies to build alliances that are not restricted by the logic of the nation state, like the Qureshi-Bopanna bonding. Once such alliances gain momentum, even states could be brought to realise the transformational potential that is present in collaboration.
Both Qureshi and Bopanna claim that they had no political motives to play as a team. In their opinion, they were brought together by sheer love of tennis. Perhaps that is true. But that one simple act of theirs has proven that we can set aside our political differences for a greater cause. Who knows? Perhaps someday, Qureshi and Bopanna might be remembered as the tennis players who brought two countries together. The flag bearers of peace! That remains to be seen. But I hope that in the future, more sportsmen will stand together with flags of both India and Pakistan printed on their caps, ready to truly play as a team….
It’s time to bridge the gap.

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Vijay Narayan


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