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Marriage for Peace

20th June 1999      aiindex

June 19, 1999
(South Asians Against Nukes)

Marriage for Peace
By Amitava Kumar

Only a few hours before I met my in-laws for the first time on May 28,
two Indian fighter jets had been shot down by the Pakistan army.

I am Indian. My wife, Mona, is Pakistani. We got married in Toronto last
week where Mona's family now lives.

When I called my parents in India to tell them that I was going to marry
Mona, my mother asked, "What does her family think of the war that has

Mona's brothers and father have been waking up at five in the morning to
watch India and Pakistan battling it out -- on the cricket fields in
England, where the World Cup tournament is currently underway.

A day before our wedding, India had beaten Pakistan in the match in
Manchester. India is now out of the reckoning and Pakistan is the
favorite for winning the final on Sunday.

After the man conducting our wedding had declared us married, the
assembled guests joined their hands to pray. The bride's brother solemnly
intoned, "May Allah let Pakistan lift the World Cup...."

The next day, a writer in a Pakistani newspaper declared with much less
humor, "Whether in the playing fields or the battlefields, we cannot
accept Indian hegemony."

A younger cousin of mine, on hearing the news of my marriage, sent me an
email chain-letter calling for donations to aid the children of the
Indian pilot killed ("martyred") by the Pakistanis.

In the last few days, there have been growing reports of clashes along
the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.

The badly-mutilated bodies of six Indian soldiers were handed over by the
Pakistanis some days ago. Earlier today, the Indian army claimed to have
killed "several hundred invaders."

In this season of bloodshed -- from Kosovo to Kashmir -- am I calling for
more weddings rather than funerals?

During the India-Pakistan match in Manchester, one lone spectator had
held a sign "Cricket for Peace." I, too, could walk around with a placard
saying "Marriage for Peace."

The point, of course, is not marriage, but peace.

I like the way in which my neighborhood deli has changed the old slogan
"Make Love Not War." A large cloth banner, hung along the back of the
store, colorfully proclaims, "Make Soup Not War."

We need everything we can get to stop war. It needn't necessarily be
love. Soup will do too.

And marriage.

But, for this to happen, there have to be fewer restrictions on travel
and exchange between the peoples of India and Pakistan.

For such a large population, with deeply shared histories and passions,
it is nothing short of a tragedy that we allow only eleven men from both
countries to meet each other. Only to bowl a ball or to swing a bat.

(Amitava Kumar, currently a Fellow at Yale University, teaches English at
the University of Florida.)