Well it happened in London.
My flight was probably one of the last in at Heathrow (yes, it shuts down for the night) and the terminal 3 was pretty much deserted after I had wasted much time roaming around. Being so late it was hard to find a taxi at a decent fare (Black cabs charged almost 15% of my air fare). Seeing me upset, a South Asian guy, well suited-working at the terminal, walked up to me and asked if he could help. We talked in English about arranging a mini cab(private hire/radio taxi) and London Black cabs being ridiculously expensive and something about the ‘busiest’ airport. I never thought about Pakistan until he asked me, “Hindi toh samajhte ho/Do you understand Hindi?”, I said “Yeah I do” and he was “Kam se kam ab toh bolo/ Converse in Hindi now, at least” lol and then we discussed being so similar in London. He was from Peshawar.
The second incident.
This happened browsing a grocery store in west of London. The store had good Indian food and South Asian staff so I started talking to the guy at food counter about Indian food and it’s demand among Britons except British Asians. He seemed uncomfortable speaking English at length so I initiated in Hindi with “Kaha Se Ho, Tum/Where are you, from?”. Instead, he asked me back “Aap Kaha Se Hain/Where are you, from?”, I admired his decency and replied “Haryana se near Chandigarh” and he said “Hum Azad Kashmir se hain/I’m from Azad Kashmir”. I wondered reading about it and if it really exists in Pakistan or they just call Kashmir that, I had no idea until then. I said “Oh tum Kashmir se ho/Oh you’re from Kashmir” and he sneered at me correcting, “Azad Kashmir se”. I was on the back foot, I had no intention to hurt his feelings and he became least interested in talking to me after mocking those words. During the ten minutes walk to home, Kashmir being Azad or not was the only thing on my mind. I guess it’s best leaving it to the people of Kashmir and decide for themselves.
I recalled my first chat landing in London with a Pakistani identifying me as his “own people” and the most recent one ridicule our shared bond. For the first time I felt how sensitive this issue could be for the natives of that beautiful region and our two countries. Left me in a paradox. On top of everything, I realised the irony of these polar experiences involving an Indian and two Pakistanis happening in England!
Now Mountbatten must be enjoying the crack.
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