|We click: Two Pakistani students at a seminar in New Delhi
The field is ready for action. The Pakistanis have come, the Indians have welcomed them with open arms, and Indo-Pak friendship is all set to start a new chapter.
This is not a cricket stadium in Mohali we're talking about. For Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) has already done what the cricket bosses in post-Kargil India have just begun to warm up to' invite its Pakistani counterparts over.
Long before cricket was thought of by the powers-that-be to be the medium for lasting friendship, Delhi's LSR and Lahore's Kinnaird College had already realised that education brought nations together, too. Last fortnight, therefore, saw a host of smart, aged ladies, exchanging pleasantries and talking about the days of their lives at the sunny LSR lawns.
The ladies ' as a casual onlooker might have believed at first glance ' were not alumni of LSR. They were the Indian members of OAKS, or the Old Associates of Kinnaird Society, the alumni association of the Lahore women's college. Almost all the 50-odd members' who attended a special luncheon arranged for them ' had migrated to India post-Partition.
And a lunch is not all that is happening between the two colleges. LSR and Kinnaird have decided to start a unique exchange programme between their journalism departments. Four students of Kinnaird had been taking classes with LSR students last month. And if the teachers of the two colleges have their way, the students would see a lot more of that in the coming months.
'The exchange programme was proposed about six years ago. However, the Kargil War happened, and the project couldn't take off until this year,' says Rina Kashyap, head of the journalism department at LSR. Her Pakistani counterpart, Sameea Jamil, and Kinnaird's principal, Ira Hasan, flew down from Lahore to attend the luncheon, and see for themselves how their wards were doing in India.
'There is so much we have in common ' culture, family, quality of life, etc. ' that India is a very natural venue for us to have an exchange programme with,' says Jamil. Hasan, who became principal of Kinnaird just six months ago, says every time she comes to India, she realises how much she has in common with Indian women.
The OAKS, most of whom have lived their entire adult lives in India after their Lahore education, agree wholeheartedly with Hasan. Stories tumble out, about how pre-Independence Lahore didn't believe in women's education, and how Kinnaird broke such barriers and became a benchmark for higher quality education for women in the country.
Usha Bhagat, who had migrated to India in 1947, and later worked on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's staff, recalls how Kinnaird didn't teach science as women were thought unfit to study science subjects. 'We had a four-year-long course then, the first two years we called Intermediate, the last two, BA,' says Bhagat, who is in the process of penning down her memoirs for Penguin, especially about her years in the service of Indira Gandhi.
However, the fact that there were very few Muslim students in Kinnaird at that time is more than adequately compensated now, as Jamil says there are more and more opportunities for educated women in Pakistan now. 'This year, we have 22 new channels coming up in Pakistan, and many of them are 24-hour news channels,' she says, adding that many of Kinnaird's journalism ex-students already work for premier channels, newspapers and news-based web sites.
One of the advantages that Kinnaird has over LSR, and from which the latter hopes to benefit, is that the Lahore college has a masters degree in journalism and the students bring out their own newspaper.
'We have a bachelors degree course in journalism here, and our students can learn a lot from Kinnaird's masters level students. Also, a people-to-people exchange, I believe, will build in our students the
ability to empathise, and understand the differences and similarities between the two neighbouring cultures,' says Kashyap.
Jamil could not agree more. 'We could build up on our similarities. Both our societies are patriarchal, and our students are really concerned about women's issues. We've found that LSR students are more oriented towards taking up jobs. We hope our students would take a cue from them,' she says.
And so, the two colleges will send four to five of their students for a fortnight at a time all through the year. And the message is: hurrah for sisterhood!