Nǐ hǎo! Forgive me, for studying your language in my current semester seems to have turned me into a pretentious Bājīsītăni—which is actually only partly different to how we usually are. Beloved China, I believe our fates were intertwined even before our counties’ actual conception, by the two-thousand year Old Silk Route winding its way through our hearts to leave a deep-rooted, trench-like impression that would last for hundreds of generations to come.
My own generation also carries proud scars of this history and I felt rather than saw them emanating this aura throughout my life. My earliest and fondest memory of you is back when my entire flock of five siblings—four really, since my younger brother was practically only a dumpling then—used to flop ourselves on our three-seater-turned-five sofa on languorous Sunday evenings and wait on tenterhooks for our father to pop in the new DVD he had rented from the nearby media store (the one with the offensively large blow up of the most recent Bollywood blockbuster). But the movie itself was never a Bollywood flick, no. It was always, always of the actor whom we considered to be pretty much our very own paternal uncle; no other than Jackie Chan. Oh how we adored his miraculous escapades, his exasperatingly hilarious partners and their inevitable mortifying failures! He sprinted, somersaulted and karate-kicked himself into our hearts and no amount of lingual, racial or religious differences could prevent his entire country from tumbling in along with him.
That was the initial sowing of the seed of affection for you that started to bud as I advanced in life. Since my quaint little convent school was replete with a vast multitude of ethnicities, I never did develop the urge to ogle at every foreigner. One of your children, Danny, used to commute to and from school using the same van as me and my best friend’s. His mother ran the local parlour, “Alan’s” which was our entire sector’s saving grace when puberty sprouted uninhibited out of our upper lips. Now, if one has ever seen a Suzuki carry, or a ‘carry daba’ to sound more local, they would realise how preposterous it is to attempt to carry out a private conversation in it. Ones knees, feet and shoulders are almost always in contact with someone else’s, and only at times like those did I thank God for my elf-like stature, since our driver uncle used to simply pluck me straight out of the window like a kitten during my pre-primary years. This Dany was a tiny little thing as well, with slanting, cat-like eyes and a skin to make Tyra Banks envious. Four years our junior, it was a wonder how he understood the vain gossip that all teenage girls fall prey to, and his eyes would enlarge just a little when he listened with rapt attention at our astounding ability to discuss everything from our crush’s new haircut to the exact number of moles on my right leg. Nonetheless, he was an avid audience to our pointless banter, and there was a special kinship we had with him and his mother, who never failed to lavish us with an influx of discounts and coupons, thus instilling the thought of you, their home-country, being as magnanimous as them.
As I grew older, cricket tournaments, talks of restrained water supplies and the audible grumblings of elders carved the notion of an ever-present thorn digging into our country’s eastern side. “Control” is not a word friendly to second graders, and when I first heard of ‘The Line of Control’ in social studies, my childish heart inwardly squirmed in rebellious distaste. Conversely, the jagged peaks of the North beckoned to me like a wizened ancient, seemingly unapproachable at first but as innocuous as soft, untainted snow in actuality. Being prone to bouts of wanderlust, I always preferred Geography to its drier partner and took a strange pride in our North—for it wielded the second highest mountain of the world. So, upon hearing of your creation of the Karakoram Highway, it was no surprise that my eight-year old self considered you no less than our affable next-door neighbours, whose children’s feet pit-patted across their balcony to ours to save time. Within the thorn-like stinging from our east, constant unrest from our west and a general exudence of distrust worldwide, you, our upper-story neighbours, seemed like the friendly, giant-like Hagrid, embracing us with open arms and refusing to budge from our side even in times of mortal turmoil.
Your esteemed Confucius’ Golden Rule was to ‘not do onto others what you do not want for yourself’, which is profoundly similar to our beloved Prophet’s ‘love for your brother what you love for yourself’. Such semblances juxtaposed between variance is what makes our friendship so beautiful. We find it possible to amorously sing ‘Pak-Cheen dosti wang woye!’ because honesty, integrity and good virtues do not belong to one religion or sect or ethnicity at all. It is a collective aspect of humanity, ingrained within each and every one of us, waiting to be plucked and pruned and primed to perfection. One just needs the right person by them to do so.
Zhōngguó huíyì zài wǒ de xīng lǐ!
By Momina Arif
Department of Humanities