The students of the Apni Shala Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO offering leadership training for young people, had just finished a session on “identity” where they discussed the concept of looking at a person beyond labels when they participated in a Clap Talk – a 75-minute cross-cultural conversation – with Haroon from Pakistan. The session proved to add a lot of value to the dialogue, as afterwards the students realised how Pakistanis are just like them, with a similar culture and a similar set of issues facing both countries. They discussed how the shared history of both countries is taught very differently in each country and how according to the other, they are the victors and the other is the enemy. In this classroom though, it was quite clear that there was space for many new friendships to blossom. We sat down with Haroon to hear about the experience.
Hi Haroon! How was your experience of giving a Clap Talk at Apni Shala?
I learnt a lot! There was learning on both sides. The way they were engaged in the conversation and the way they could relate to what I was sharing showed their interest, for example when I spoke about the food we have. Also when I showed photos of my family I could see they connected. The main thing they connected with was the language though!
Did they seem surprised by just how much they could relate to you?
I personally had a little bit of an idea, but I didn’t think they would relate this much. Obviously, there are a lot of similarities between the two countries, more so than differences. But this is something I came to know even more so through speaking to the students.
Did anything come up from the talk that particularly shocked you?
They asked me about the water issue (the water mafia in Karachi). They wanted to know how it was affecting the people in the city so they asked me about that.
What made you want to have a conversation with a class of young people in India?
Firstly, I was interested to see how they approached me, someone living in Pakistan. Secondly, I am against these radical stereotypes and I want to help remove that. I also would like to remove Xenophobia which stems from such stereotyping and to increase cross-cultural communication between the two countries. I believe that this is very important, for children from both countries, whether India or Pakistan.
What did you grow up knowing about India?
Actually, on my mother’s side of the family, some relatives are from India, near Kashmir. I have a lot of friends in India also, so I personally have had a good experience. But something I am aware of is that our political differences often overshadow all other things, and this happens on both sides of the border. But what you come to know, though friends and family, is that the two countries are almost the same. We both have the same loving people. Whether they live in Pakistan or India. People (on both sides of the border) form opinions on each other based on what they hear in the media, on the news etc, despite both being peace-loving people. Thankfully I’ve grown up in a very positive atmosphere. I myself believe in the Law of Attraction, so I think this has helped me to see beyond all the negative that gets said. Had this not been the case then perhaps I would have been more influenced by these kinds of perceptions. But as a lover of humanity, I’ve grown up respecting others and other cultures.
Do you think Clap Talks, as an educational tool in classrooms, can help build bridges between cultures?
Yes, I believe they can. I feel it is a necessity for those especially aged between 13-20. When you are interacting with children, what you say often remains in their mind and sticks, so cross-cultural communication is very important.
What 3 words would you use to sum up for Clap Talk experience?
That would be informative, ‘a need’ on both sides, and ‘beyond boundaries.’
Thank you, Haroon!
If you would like to participate in a Clap Talk, visit our website and get in touch!