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Two of a Kind

Times of India - 16 August 2005
Nandini Shah and Paarth Joshi

Mark and John -- the American duo who have made headlines with their charitable work in the state over the last six months, now embark on a mission to Pakistan -- carrying the message of universal brotherhood

Move aside, netas and babus! School children from the city have decided to do their bit to bring the people of India and Pakistan closer, by sending messages of peace and love for their counterparts across the border. Helping the little ones in their endeavour are two Americans -- Mark Peters and John Silliphant -- who are leaving for Pakistan armed with a bagful of letters, cards and posters of peace made by Ahmedabad's students. Having collected about 3,000 cards from various schools already, the duo hope to do an encore in Pakistan, returning with an equal number of cards in about two weeks' time.

"Our visas are about to expire and we have to leave India to re-apply for fresh ones. In the meantime, we thought of taking these peace messages to Pakistan," says Silliphant. He describes himself and Peters as 'people with a life-long yearning to help others'. From promoting cleanliness, helping sick people and stray animals to installing dustbins on the roadside -- this duo has been doing "little things here and there" in Ahmedabad for the last six months. But what made them come to India? Silliphant claims that he has deep connections with the country, and has already visited India twice before. "At the age of 17, I was drawn to Indian spirituality and then slowly developed the urge to help others," says the Californian who left a stable job to satisfy his philanthropic nature. "All of us have the power to bring about positive changes. Some of us use this power, others don't," says Silliphant.

Peters, on his part, says, "Whenever I feel unhappy, I think of those who are less privileged than me. That motivates me to lend a helping hand to the needy. And don't worry, we are amply rewarded. I have so many brothers and sisters now, so many friends, and the ability to bring a smile to care-worn lips is reward enough." Fourteen-year-old Meena joins him and says in an awed voice, "Mark taught me to earn my own living and the importance of education. He also helped my sister, who was blinded by her husband, to stand on her own feet."

When they are not busy with their philanthropic activities, Peters and Silliphant love watching Hindi films. "The appeal of Bollywood transcends all barriers. I am a great fan of Indian film stars," says Peters. Even as they talk, a child comes up to Peters and shows him the poster he has made -- it states, "Hum Saab Ek Hain". Well, this little child's message to his counterparts on the other side of the border is certainly safe in these bearers' hands!

  hearts 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