To Pakistan, with love
Times of India - 2 October 2005
“I want to live, you want to live. Then why do we fight? Why the bloodshed?'' writes 12-year-old Pooja More, from Mumbai's Maratha High School, in a letter pincoded Pakistan.
She's not the only one. There are 20,000 letters waiting to be hand-delivered — from kids in India to those in Pakistan. And the count is rising by the day.
It all started when Mark Peters and John Silliphant, two young Americans with a mission, came to India in February. ‘‘We had a dream: to give this country, which has given so much to the world, something in return. What better way than to spread the message of peace between India and Pakistan,'' says John.
In two weeks, the American duo has journeyed through Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and now Delhi, meeting school kids everywhere, getting them to pour their hearts out on paper. Helping them along in this task is Times Foundation. By October-end, they plan to head for Pakistan.
"These letters, which are written straight from the heart, carry a friendship message for children in Pakistan. We are not expecting anything in return, we are just messengers of peace. What we are looking forward to is the reaction of Pakistani kids when they read the letters," says Mark.
They aren't the only ones making a pitch for peace. Joining this amazing mission is a bogieful of kids from Mumbai — 54 to be precise — who've travelled by train to be part of an ongoing, four-day Peace Festival, presented by Times Foundation and Gandhi Smriti.
Before leaving Mumbai, these children interacted with actor Anupam Kher, the main protagonist of Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara. On their arrival here on Saturday, togged in Gandhi topis and white T-shirts, they livened up the dreary railway station with excited slogans like ‘‘Peace, peace everywhere'' and ‘‘Gandhiji amar rahe, aman chain bana rahe!''
The first thing they did was pen letters and draw posters to add to the rapidly growing pile of messages. The best of these will be exhibited both in India and Pakistan.
The Peace Festival will go on till Monday. On the agenda are peace prayers, marathons, film screenings, tree plantations... And meeting President Abdul Kalam on Sunday.