The World's Largest Love Letter
The now famous "World's Largest Love Letter," written from the children of India to the children of Pakistan, is MASSIVE! Bigger than a football field, it measures 240 by 360 feet (73 by 110 meters). It's so big that we actually had trouble fitting it into the enormous Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium and had to leave the border pieces off.
The text of the letter is written in Urdu, English and Hindi, and reads:
We hosted massive events in various cities throughout India and Pakistan that involved thousands of children and created front page headlines in papers all across both countries.
When we began our India-Pakistan penpal initiative, we knew from the beginning that it could bring lasting change between the people of both countries, but only if we could get schools everywhere to participate.
'How to get the word out?' was the big question.
It was when Mark Peters saw a newspaper photo where the H.B. Kapadia School in Ahmedabad, India had laid out their penpal letters, impressively filling a gymnasium floor, that he got the idea that we should create the "world's largest letter." Surely, that would generate a lot of media attention and help promote our initiative.
When, by chance, we met artist John Devaraj in Bangalore, founder of the Born Free Art School, who specializes in large-scale art pieces, we told him about our idea and asked if he might be interested. He too had been thinking about exchanging letters between the kids of India and Pakistan, and so it seemed like a natural fit.
Together, we collaborated on a design, using tarpaulin as the material, which we could afterwards donate to the victims of the late 2005 Kashmir earthquake, for use as temporary roofing material.
John Devaraj, his kids, and many others all began painting the massive canvas just a week or so before its initial unveiling on January 16th at the M.Chinnaswamy Cricket Stadium in Bangalore. Hundreds of kids were bused into the event to help in its creation and to sign along the border. The event was intentionally timed to coincide with the fourth day of the opening test match between India and Pakistan - one of the most watched cricket matches of the year. During the match, we arranged for a live televised cut to our event, introducing our campaign to over 100 million (10 crore) viewers!
The day was filled with fun and the children got to take part in an incredibly meaningful and memorable event. The next day, the picture of the massive letter graced the front page of newspapers all across the nation!
From Bangalore, we were given two trucks from Mahindra and Mahindra to carry the giant letter to Mumbai for another highly publicized event at Wankhede Cricket Stadium. It was a huge success.
Our team then jumped in our bus, also sponsored by Mahindra, and headed up to Ahmedabad, where six gigantic strips of the letter were hand-carried through the streets by hundreds of kids. The march began at six different houses of worship and culminated at the Gandhi Ashram, out of which our program was based. The day was a spectacular celebration of the unity within diversity. This was particularly relevant in Ahmedabad, where Hindu-Muslim riots had broken out just a few years earlier.
From Ahmedabad, we got in the bus and traveled west, through Gujarat to the border, stopping at schools all along the way to collect letters of friendship. During our campaign, we have collected letters from the richest kids in the very best schools as well as from kids living on the street... and everywhere in between. We have gone to deaf schools, blind schools, religious schools, and international schools. You name it, and we have been there, and this trip through rural India was a demonstration that our campaign is not only focused on the kids from the cities, but all the children... from every corner of both countires.
We made our way through Rajasthan and Delhi, then through Haryana and Punjab, stopping for visits all along the way. In Amritsar, we hosted another event at Jalianwala Bagh. Unlike all our other enormous events, the one at Jalianwala Bagh was intended to be more quiet - a candle light event to serve as a pause for reflection - a quiet before the storm - as we were about to enter into Pakistan to deliver The World's Largest Love Letter along with tens of thousands of friendship letters, collected from all across India.
From Jalianwala Bagh, we literally walked 30 km to Wagah Border and crossed into Pakistan, receiving visas at the very last second. In Pakistan, we were greeted with a hero's welcome - with a marching band and all!
In Pakistan, we set up an enormous event to deliver The World's Largest Love Letter at Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore. Thousands of kids were bused in to view the gargantuan letter and to sign along the yellow strip. The kids also brought with them letters of friendship for us to carry back to the kids of India. Along with these letters, a song of friendship was written and sung at the event by high school students as a gift of love to the children of India.
As in India, the press went crazy in Pakistan. We received massive coverage from all the newspapers and news channels.
The return home was equally grand as we laid out the yellow strips from The World's Largest Love Letter all in a row, totalling 1008 feet, or nearly a third of a kilometer in length! This yellow strip was named "The Golden Bridge of Friendship" and was signed with messages of friendship from thousands of Pakistani children. It stretched from within Pakistan, all the way through Wagah Border (known as "No Man's Land"), and into India. Again, the press was there to broadcast our awesome return to viewers throughout the world.
All in all, it's fair to say that this was one heck of a spectacular grassroots movement - a highlight of all of our lives. It involved thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of kids. Our simple message of friendship was heard and felt loud and far, making a real difference, and the promise of our campaign is as strong as ever. This new way to peace is truly only beginning.
|It may be long before the law of love will be recognised in international affairs. The machineries of government stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another. -- M.K. Gandhi|