Friendships Across Borders: Valentine’s Day Redefined

Exactly five years ago, on Valentine’s Day, I launched an initiative that goes by the name of Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein. The dream of nurturing cross-border friendships between Indians and Pakistanis continues to thrive in my heart, and it finds explicit as well as subtler manifestations in the work that I do under the broader umbrella of peace and human rights education.

Painting by my friend Ellie Cross, which later became the logo for FAB/ADK

I have been invited to facilitate workshops, give talks, offer trainings, create curriculum and participate in panel discussions in places such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Lucknow, Ranipet, Walajapet, Kolkata, Guwahati, Jodhpur, Pune, Chandigarh, Kanpur, Lahore, Islamabad, Kathmandu, Vermont, Washington DC, Riyadh, and more! Whatever I have been able to accomplish so far owes to the support, good wishes and blessings of many who have encouraged me. I have not been able to document as much as I would have liked to.

I am a bit of an itinerant, and my approach is somewhat like an artist, so I never got around to building an organization out of this. Standardization and scaling up are not my cup of tea. They require specific skill sets, and a mix of ambition and leadership, that I am unable to provide. On the happier side, I am able to pursue more organic connections. This has led me to find meaning in working with educational institutions on addressing hate speech, communal violence, misogyny, toxic masculinity and homophobia, which belong to the same family as jingoism does.

People who are interested in thought leaders with linear journeys and aha moments that can be neatly packaged may not be able to see how creative affronts to patriarchy are at the heart of all of this work. And so am I. You will rarely find me describing myself as a change maker because I think it is pompous to imagine that I am leading a life that is somehow dedicated to service. I serve my own creative instincts, and the call of my gut. The work that comes out of this enterprise happens to be valuable to others as well, and I rejoice in that. However, I am quite wary of being celebrated as a selfless do-gooder. I am aware that my efforts are geared towards things that interest me deeply. If they did not, I would stop working on them.

Artwork gifted to me at NLK Group of Schools’ Disha Literature Festival in Kanpur, February 2019

Anyway, I will not ramble any more. I reproduce here a blog post I wrote for the Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange on 14th February 2014, the day FAB aka ADK was born.

Writer, educator and researcher

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